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The Press Lumps Ed Snowden And Chelsea Manning In With Mass Murderers, Actual Spies

from the all-the-same dept

Many in the press still seem to have difficulty recognizing that a whistleblower, even one disliked by the government, isn't somehow an automatic pariah to society. Instead, they like to lump them in with actual law breakers. Here are two recent examples. First up is the Washingtonian, who seems to think that Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning should be viewed in the same light as actual spies -- people who famously chose to sell secrets to our enemies or to help those enemies against the US. Lumping Manning and Snowden in with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Benedict Arnold, Aldrich Ames, John Walker Lindh and others suggests a profound misunderstanding of what Snowden and Manning did: releasing evidence of significant wrongdoing by the US government to the press. You would think if anyone could understand it, it should be the press.
Still, I can understand how some confused people still want to argue that there's at least a continuum between some of those folks and Manning and Snowden -- even if I disagree wholeheartedly -- simply because of the releasing of classified information. I think it's very different to give that info to the press, which is then able to go through it and report on the stories (as both Snowden and Manning did) than giving it to a foreign power, but some people don't seem to get that distinction.

Either way, even if you think the above chart is okay, the following one is simply outrageous. As pointed out by the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer, Time Magazine has put together a graphic comparing Snowden and Manning to mass murderers Nidal Hasan and Aaron Alexis.
Yes, the argument they're making is that these are all examples of "missed signals in our government-clearance system." And we've certainly discussed how terrible the process is for getting top secret clearance these days. But, even so, lumping those four together is crazy. There's nothing about what Manning or Snowden did that should have set off alarm bells during the clearance process. They were people who loved America and then realized that the government was secretly doing things that they believed to be fundamentally anti-American, and they set out to try to fix that by alerting the public. That's pretty damn different than going someplace and shooting it up.

These are both subtle ways in which the press is trying to smear Snowden and Manning, by lumping them in with crimes of which they are not guilty.

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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 25 Sep 2013 @ 10:23am


    It is useful to consider the very real possibility that "Slipping through the cracks" is nothing more than pointing out deficiencies in background checks in advance of receiving a security clearance.

    Yes, that's clearly what they're saying *as we said in the post*. But I'm curious how you consider giving Manning and Snowden clearance an example of problems "slipping through the cracks" or how they can be compared to the two mass murderers?

    As for the "whistleblowers" and the release of information to foreign governments, the fact many of these documents are published is a release of information to foreign governments.

    No, it's a release to the public. Yes, foreign governments can also read it, but the focus is on the public. You do understand the difference, right?

    Much has been made here that some kind of a vetting process is being applied before information is published. Likely so, but then again it must be asked what particular expertise and insight the vetters have enabling them to determine what is OK to publish and what is not?

    Really? Just a warning: you don't want to go down the path you're starting now, because you're going to look even more ridiculous than you usually do. Because you appear to be starting to argue that the press shouldn't be allowed to report on secret government programs unless they have secret clearance themselves. If you had even the slightest experience with these matters, you'd know what a ridiculous suggestion that is. I know that you're a government apologist, but really, this takes your apologism to new levels.

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