obama’s hard line on leakers and whistleblowers

On Bradley Manning, the leaker/whistleblower who released military intell secrets, with emphasis added.

Private Manning, 25, is accused of the largest leak of classified information in United States history, and there is no public record that a military court has ever heard a case involving the aiding-the-enemy charge. His trial has illustrated the extent to which the Obama administration has cracked down on people accused of leaking documents or other information to news organizations, in both military and civilian courts.

These aren’t good times for leakers or whistleblowers, and at this point I wouldn’t trust any protections afforded by whistleblower laws, at least in the context of whistleblowing on any state or federal government agency (whistleblowing on corporations might be safer).

Bruce Schneier has a TED talk on security (article, video) (and a quick note on leaks, which he generally supports). Regarding security, he differentiates the feeling of security with the reality, and uses the phrase “security theater” to refer to measures that are meant to make us feel safe but that don’t really enhance security (the TSA is a common target of his). He describes security in terms of a trade-off, i.e., the opportunity cost associated with the security, as opposed to focusing on whether something “makes us safer.” The NSA’s mass surveillance programs might make us marginally safer, but at a high cost, and only transparency (or data leakers) reveal the extent or even existence of such programs.

The leak is the best thing that could happen to national security, because it gives us a chance at fixing these genuine threats.

I largely agree. We need to put government agencies on a shorter leash and give responsible whistleblowers greater protections.

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