Skip to content

Security By Exposure

An interesting defense for a whistleblower.

Wikileaks has again rushed in where more circumspect journalistic institutions fear to tread, alleging, with documentation, more scandalous military activity, in this case turning a blind eye to torture in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq. The army, predictably enough, has raised the alarm of national security. This is not, army spokesmen insist, a case of the army seeking to hide career-destroying material behind a fig leaf of official secrets. No, no, perish the thought. Why, the leak doesn’t even really jeopardize any extant operations, according to army spokesmen; Hillary Clinton, speaking for the State Department, is merely worried that the leak might endanger American lives in some unspecified manner.

You can believe that if you want to, but I can’t help noticing that is a curiously specific and curiously convenient degree of threat: just enough to justify the whistle-blower’s crucifixion under the PATRIOT Act and sequestering all relevant evidence, but not enough to require a change of doctrine, justify a change of strategy to safeguard the American lives now presumably endangered, nor to qualify as a criminal breach of security on the part of personnel who allowed the information to get out. I mean, it’s not like the US military doesn’t have a history of hiding war crimes and other embarrassments in the “state secrets” box. Were I in Wikileaks’ place, I’d just call bullshit.

But they aren’t. Instead, they’re playing along with the army’s claims to be concerned only for American lives. If that’s the case, Wikileaks asks, how many whistle-blowers would have been necessary to prevent the terrorist bombings of 9/11? How many whistle-blowers would have been necessary to make the case for invading Iraq at all politically untenable? If we’re measuring leaks only by the threat to American lives, isn’t there considerable cause to see a lot more transparency? And, given that the Obama administration has reneged on its promise of more transparency, and given that our established journalistic sources have virtually abandoned their role as watchdogs, where is the American public to turn for government accountability but whistle-blowers? Even if we care nothing for budgetary waste, abuse of power, and even treason, even if we care for nothing but the lives of American citizens, shouldn’t whistle-blowers be protected with fanatic zeal as effective, perhaps the best, perhaps even our only remaining safeguard?

It’s a highly intriguing riposte, and I’m eager to see whether it gets any traction.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *