Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden Are Not Heroes

Mark Bowden explains why:

As an old reporter who has from time to time outed classified information, I have watched the cases of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden with professional interest.

What troubles me about them is not that they broke the oaths they swore when they took their classified government jobs, the thing that makes them liable to prosecution. Government finds all kinds of dubious reasons to keep secrets, sometimes nefarious reasons, and conscience can force one to break a promise. My problem is with the indiscriminate nature of their leaks.

These are young people at war with the concept of secrecy itself, which is just foolish. There are many legitimate reasons for governments to keep secrets, among them the need to preserve the element of surprise in military operations or criminal investigations, to permit leaders and diplomats to bargain candidly, and to protect the identities of those we ask to perform dangerous and difficult missions.

The most famous leakers in American history were motivated not by a general opposition to secrecy but by a desire to expose specific wrongdoing. Mark Felt, the “Deep Throat” who helped steer Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate reporting, understood that the Nixon Administration was energetically abusing the powers of the presidency. Daniel Ellsberg copied and leaked the Pentagon Papers because they showed that the White House and Pentagon had never really believed the lies they were telling about the Vietnam War.

In other words, they had good reasons. The reporters and editors who published their leaks weighed taking that step seriously, ultimately deciding that the public’s need to know trumped the principle of secrecy. They concluded that the government in these instances was abusing its power.

Manning and Snowden are wholesale leakers. I can’t know this for a fact, but I suspect they were not completely aware of all they carried off. It isn’t just that they didn’t completely understand what they were leaking; they literally did not know what all of it was. Computers enable individual operators to open floodgates. Out spills everything, the legitimate along with the illegitimate. It’s easy, and it’s irresponsible. It proceeds from a Julian Assange-influenced, comic-book vision  of the world where all governments are a part of an evil plot against humanity.

Well put. And of course, this means that the people who support Manning and Snowden are also "at war with the concept of secrecy itself," not to mention being  at war with the fact that the United States and other countries have every right to preserve and advance their national security interests--sometimes through the use of secrecy. As Bowden indicates, not everything that is secret is bad. Too bad that Manning, Snowden and their allies either don't understand that fact, or pretend not to understand it.

Let the Witch Trials Commence

For those who voted for President Obama: Did you ever imagine that you would read a story like this one?

In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.

Oh, there is quite a lot more. Read the whole thing. I imagine that within short order, a host of federal employees will be reporting that they saw Goody Osburn with the Devil. Or something like that.

Just remember that if a federal employee who is flagged by a flawed profiling examination floats in the water, he/she is made of wood. And therefore, a witch a leaker.


Well, this was something of a disaster, now wasn't it?   

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.

Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.

A source close to Panetta said Wednesday evening that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel.

“He has no idea who all is in the audience. He was told everyone got the requisite clearances,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

Panetta’s prepared speech was classified “secret,” according to the source. That may have led the CIA director to believe he could speak freely about the operation.

The leaked version of the report does not address whether Panetta knew Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1,300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to 
a CIA press release issued the following week.

The disclosure of the IG report could undermine the Obama administration’s claims that senior officials have not leaked classified information. Last spring, Republicans publicly attacked President Barack Obama and his top aides, alleging that the administration leaked national security secrets to burnish Obama’s standing for his reelection bid.

I respect Panetta, and I am sure that he did not mean to leak anything to anyone not authorized to have the information. Perhaps this was the product of bad staffwork in that Panetta was misinformed as to who would be in the audience. But it certainly does not look good. At minimum, Panetta's staff was careless, and Panetta needs to take responsibility for that carelessness. At maximum, this disclosure may well have been meant to burnish the administration's political standing. In either event, it is harder to prosecute Bradley Manning--who deserves prosecution--when the Obama administration shows that it cannot keep a secret.