Manning: Whistleblowing Versus Data Dump
The Bradley Manning case has become something that might be referred to as seminal or perhaps even changing history. The recent verdict, which found him not guilty of aiding the enemy but did find them repeatedly guilty of other charges related to his “contribution” to Wikileaks, sets a tone which appears to really scare some.
Specifically, the usual suspects from the EFF and such are on about how this will create a “massive chilling effect for whistleblowers and journalists”. They are certainly doing their best Chicken Little routine on this one, yet they seem to have really picked the wrong case to play this card on.
The issue of the Manning case is that he isn’t a whistleblower, at least not in any traditional sense. Wikipedia says “A whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization.”. Generally, whistleblowing is done to report a specific act or series of acts which together are some sort of wrongdoing – like the guy at the desk next to you stealing printer ink from the office. The most famous cases of whistleblowing might be those related to Watergate. While some, like Wikileaks leader Julian Assange, would like frame Mannings actions in a similar light, it just doesn’t seem to add up.
Manning released 700,000 documents. There is clearly no way that this guy read them, or even knew with any certainty what was in the documents. His goal wasn’t to reveal any specific wrong doing or to flag a specific case, rather it appears mostly to bring the highest amount of embarrassment to the US government because he generally does not agree with the way the US was operating. Through all the documents revealed, we learned a lot about the back room dealings and the various informants and inside information sources around the world, but not specific wrongdoing was exposed. The result is that there is no whistleblowing, just what looks like a political agenda play, where the goal was to disrupt US foreign policy as much possible – without any particular targets.
Edward Snowden is another guy who is trying to abuse the whistleblower concept, seemingly to further his political beliefs. He weedled his way into a job that gave him access to NSA documents, which he almost immediately set to downloading and collecting to “whistleblow” on the NSA in general. While some of the “revelations” have caused a bit of a political firestorm, outside of the usual shit kickers this one isn’t getting all that much play. Snowden is now apparently hiding out in Russia, on a one year asylum visa, too scared to face the US for what he has done. Yet, for all that he did, it’s pretty hard to see a specific target he was whistleblowing on, rather he just didn’t like what the NSA was doing in general, and decided to try to pull the covers off of all of it. Sadly, what he uncovered was mostly that what the NSA is doing isn’t very attractive of appealing, but not particularly illegal. Even with all of the complaining going on about collecting cellphone data, another court in the US has ruled that location data is “business information” and third party and thus can be given to the NSA or law enforcement without a warrant. Yet things like this were the big revelations from Snowden. He appears to have screwed his own life up for very little, except to make Assange look important again.
The capper of all of this has been the actions of Assange and his minions in this deal. Clearly, while Assange may not have done the hacking himself, he has positioned Wikileaks and it’s “team” on top of Snowden like a bad smell, even getting the Ecuador embassy in London to issue a document that let Snowden out of Hong Kong. That got Assange a strong dressing down from the Ecuador government, who rescinded the document while Snowden was en route to Russia, which is a big part of the reason he ended up trapped there. Assange’s team has been issuing “press releases” as if they were Snowden’s official spokesmen, which just goes to show that in the end, Snowden may not be anything more than another pawn in Julian Assange’s political games, just like poor Manning, who will likely rot in jail for much of the rest of his life just to make Julian more important.