Whistleblowing is becoming quite popular these days, especially in defense circles. From Bradley Manning to Julian Assange and now Eric Snowden, the latest in what seems to be an increasing amount of young people willing to spill the beans about perceived illegal or immoral activities perpetrated by their employers or other entities. My whole problem with not only Snowden but also Manning and Assange is that each of them wants and appears more than ready to take the kudos and acclaim for their actions but none of them seems willing to take their lumps.
As the motivations of Snowden are weighed along with the debate over the evaporation of our privacy, we need to look at this growing trend. For those who are involved with, employed by or are members of the military or defense contractors, care must be taken as we consider the punishment necessary when people begin to talk out of turn. For those serving directly in the military, it becomes a question of honor as well as the law, since anyone who’s served in the armed forces knows of the oath of allegiance you take. For all others, particularly defense contractors, it’s more a problem of morality and truthfulness but still is a question that requires a legal answer.
And punishment is necessary in all of the presented cases, make no mistake. Each individual has broken the laws of either, our government or the branch of it that they chose to serve. Each knew full well the consequences of their actions yet went ahead and did their deeds anyway. It’s only after the crimes have been committed that they seek to have their activities expunged through the court of public opinion. But while Joe public can and should be involved in the privacy debate, he or she has no standing on whether or not a crime has occurred and what the punishment for those actions should be. That has to remain up to the injured party; in this case, the federal government.
And what should we think? For me at least and maybe it’s a baby-boomer thing but that our government is spying on us did not come as a surprise. I can’t seem to get up a head of steam and register the outrage that seems to be coming from many in the country. We’ve had the technology at least since 9/11 (remember, there was the occasional debate/question concerning whether or not surveillance programs existed) and as the war on terror raged on in that infamous date’s aftermath, I was almost certain that if they did indeed have such expertise, they were certainly going to utilize it. But of course, there’s surveillance and then there’s spying.
Black Nationalists and others deemed “subversive” were spied on during the 60’s and 70’s. The current program does not rise to that extreme, I don’t think. While it blankets our entire population, it doesn’t necessarily target specific domestic members, or ordinary citizens, as they did back then. Anyway, I’d prefer to have the NSA listening in on my phone conversations rather than listening in on my bedroom conversations. And as hearings are held concerning the benefit that the program has garnered, we must consider the good that’s happened because of it; i.e. foiled terror attacks along with the arrest of those involved.
We should also reflect about what we would think if any of the disrupted plots were allowed to come to fruition. If, say for instance, the NYSE was bombed (a foiled plot), we’d wonder why, in this day of satellite communications, there was nothing that we could’ve done to prevent such a catastrophe. I can hear it now; “Wasn’t anyone listening?” Well, now we know that someone is and maybe, just maybe, we need to be thankful that they are. And along with giving thanks, we should deliberate and accept the fact that those individuals leaking secrets are most times in fact, criminals who have broken the law and should be held accountable. Continue the debate but don’t excuse illegality while doing so.