from the say-that-again? dept
Not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers. Gen. David Petraeus, for instance, provided his illicit lover and favorable biographer information so secret it defied classification, including the names of covert operatives and the president’s private thoughts on matters of strategic concern. Petraeus was not charged with a felony, as the Justice Department had initially recommended, but was instead permitted to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Had an enlisted soldier of modest rank pulled out a stack of highly classified notebooks and handed them to his girlfriend to secure so much as a smile, he’d be looking at many decades in prison, not a pile of character references from a Who’s Who of the Deep State.That's a pretty good summary of the "high court" situation that lets powerful people like Petraeus get away with passing on such information that could have legitimately put people at risk.
So, it was interesting, just days later, to see a long interview in the Financial Times with David Petraeus, in which he's asked about Snowden (warning: the link may be paywalled). The interview covers many subjects, and the comment on Snowden is quite brief:
Should Edward Snowden be prosecuted, I ask? “Unquestionably,” he replies. “If Snowden had wanted to help that debate he could have very easily been a whistleblower who could have gone to the appropriate organisation and offered his views. He didn’t.”This is bullshit on so many levels. First, it's bullshit because Petreaus himself got off with barely a wrist slap for his own activity, which had nothing to do with whistleblowing and appeared to be much more dangerous than what Snowden did. Second, as Petreaus absolutely knows, the intelligence community does not treat whistleblowers well. Previous whistleblowers, including Thomas Drake, basically had their lives destroyed as punishment for using the "appropriate" channels for whistleblowing. Hell, just last week, we wrote about yet another case of an intelligence community whistleblower, who used the "appropriate" channels, suddenly having her home raided and her career in shambles.
Third, it's bullshit because even in using the "appropriate" channels, as an NSA contractor, Snowden was not protected from direct retaliation for whistleblowing. Fourth, it's bullshit because the "proper channels" would just be to run it up the line of people who thought it was hunky dory to lie to the American public to reinterpret the PATRIOT Act to enable them to spy on everyone's communications data. That wouldn't have done anything. Fifth, it's bullshit because once the information actually did get out through the press -- which never would have happened through "appropriate channels," it has set in motion a number of changes, among companies, individuals, Congress and the intelligence community. That's the point of whistleblowing, to actually change the behavior through alerting more people to what's going on.
But, really, it seems especially idiotic that someone in Petreaus' position would weigh in so hypocritically on Snowden's situation.