Saturday, August 24, 2013

Heroes, Traitors, And Common Criminals

With Chelsea Manning's * conviction this week in the Wikileaks case, some pretty harsh lines have been drawn as to whether one believes her a hero or a traitor.  Similar in many respects to the discussions among those on the left about Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, there seems to be little room to breathe.  One either support Manning and Snowden and is therefore a full member of the left, or one does not support them and one is at the very least an Obama Apologist, or worse, a defender of the National Security & Surveillance State.

Had Manning (a) leaked only the video and information about the killing of journalists by the US Army and the subsequent cover up; (b) and done so to a reputable news source in the United States, I would say she was a whistleblower who acted in the best interests of openness.  What she did, though, is hand over 700,000 documents without going through them to a foreign national whose only concern was personal publicity.  While I don't consider her a traitor - she gave no direct aid and comfort to enemies of the United States, nor did she do so according to the testimony of two separate witnesses - neither is she "a hero".

What, precisely, was someone with her known issues - she was clear about her gender dysphoria with superiors prior to the leak - doing with the kind of security clearance she had?  This is not to say that people with mental illness (depression resulting from extreme gender dysphoria was part of her defense) are ipso facto a security risk; it is to suggest that the specifics of this case should have been at least a matter of concern for those who review security clearances.

As for Snowden/Greenwald and the revelations about PRISM, all I can say is . . . ugh.  None of this was new.  I wrote about it six years ago.  Anyone naive enough to believe that a new President would just give up a particular executive power because of his party deserves to be angry.  At themselves.  Since private corporations keep and store all sorts of data on us; since the federal, state, and local governments keep and store all sorts of data on us; since millions of us use social media to advertise everything from what we had for dinner to scurrilous attacks on those we've dumped or who dumped us, complaining that the feds have a database of our phone calls and the IP addresses of our emails is kind of silly.  Snowden and Greenwald conspired to commit a crime - Snowden contacted Greenwald and offered to take the job he had in order to steal the documents in question in order to leak them to Greenwald, making him at the very least guilty of fraud on his job application - then Snowden ran first to China then to Russia, neither of which could be described as having American interests at heart.  Recently Greenwald had the audacity to say that, for Snowden, Russia is preferable to the United States where he faces possible prosecution.  Considering Greenwald's possible reception were he to travel to Russia given the enactment of recent anti-gay laws there, this statement crosses from farcical to insulting.**

We can and should have a discussion about the over-classification of information; we can and should have a discussion of the continuation of the National Security State and our on-going surveillance state.  Neither discussion has been helped by either of these cases or the people involved.  They are neither heroes nor traitors.  They are common criminals, and deserve to  be considered such.

*I really don't want to get in to a discussion of Manning's gender dysphoria and its possible relationship to this case.  I recognize it was part of his/her defense, but to me it is a totally separate issue, as is the question of whether she receives hormone treatments in prison.

**When Greenwald's partner was detained earlier this week at Heathrow Airport, there was much hand-wringing.  Simply put - the guy was acting as a mule, and authorities in London had every reason to suspect he carried stolen classified documents.  That he was detained for a long period of time is pretty standard procedure.  That Greenwald was discomfited by the event, while understandable - who wants to see their loved one in police custody? - ignores the fact that he sent the guy to carry stolen classified information and bring it back to Rio.  And, no, I do not consider Greenwald a "journalist" anymore than I consider myself an architect.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Our Horrible Fellow Americans

I wish I had more time to delve through the unfettered racist id of my fellow citizens.  The racist freak-flag, once hidden behind layers of froth and coded language, flies free for all to see.  Whether it's a Colorado state representative (a Republican but we knew that without looking) carrying on about how "the black race" is poor because they eat chicken, the states of North Carolina, Texas, and Ohio instituting measures designed to suppress minority voting, or the right-wing press exploiting the senseless murder of a college student in Oklahoma to make some kind of point, we can at least rest easy that the bigots among us no longer feel compelled to hide.

I do so hope Art comes along and either demands I "prove" racism or at least explain what the hell his fellow righties are on about with the murder in Oklahoma.  Because that would be true to form, at least.

I am only slightly mollified by the thought that this kind of thing creates the illusion of huge numbers of people who think this way.  One is too many.

Virtual Tin Cup

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