The US attorney general vows not to prosecute journalists, but his criminalisation of whistleblowers undermines that assurance
I should note that I consider both Glenn and Laura friends, as we all sit on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) together. But the reason this should concern not only me and the FPF, but everyone in the US, is not because of any specific people; we must look at these assaults from a broader perspective.
We care about the individual journalists under attack – Greenwald, Poitras, Appelbaum, Miranda, Julian Assange, James Risen – and the whistleblowers themselves – Snowden, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, Julia Davis, Russ Tice – in all these fights. But it’s not just the risk and courage of the individuals that inspire and call us to action.
We recognize that when the individual rights are being violated, that means my rights, our rights, are being violated too. What happens to individuals in the US happens to the first amendment. Our politicians must have forgotten the basics we all learned in high school civics class.
That’s what the FPF was founded for: we needed a movement protecting the first amendment in its broadest reach.
As FPF co-founder and iconic whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told me last week:
I’ve been waiting 40 years for Edward Snowden, and his revelations are the most important in US history, including the Pentagon Papers.
Despite the importance of his revelations, the US purposefully stranded Snowden in Russia by canceling his passport while he was in transit from Hong Kong to Russia, essentially forcing him into exile.
We already know the government will attempt to intimidate and crush whistleblowers who challenge national security state orthodoxy. Genuflect and get in line – or pay the heavy cost. Look no further than Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, and J Kirk Wiebe, three NSA whistleblowers whose homes were raided and lives were destroyed for the cardinal sin of informing the American public about crimes committed by their government.
It’s hard to blame Snowden for not wanting to come back and rot in a US jail. Chelsea Manning spent three years in jail awaiting trial, nearly a year of it in torturous conditions. She has now been sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaks exposing war crimes, which have been almost universally acknowledged as having caused no real harm to the US, while those recorded in the “Collateral Murder” video have gone uncharged.