Skip to main content

There's a great Op-Ed in today's New York Times by Floyd Abrams and Yochai Benkler called "Death to Whistle-Blowers?" It stands in marked contrast to Bill Keller's Op-Ed on Sunday.

Both deal with Pfc. Bradley Manning and whistleblowers generally.

But while Keller's piece--dripping with disdain--describes a "nervous, troubled, angry young Army private" (Manning) giving "stolen...pilfered documents" (the scoop of the century) to "Internet insurgents...[and] antisecrecy guerrillas" (WikiLeaks)," the Abrams/Benkler piece looks at the larger ramifications of how

national security leaks may subject leakers to a capital prosecution or at least life imprisonment.

I'm not going to deconstruct Keller's sanctimonious, cruel piece because others have already done so brilliantly (Kevin Gosztola, Falguni Sheth, Nathan Fuller, Greg Mitchell). Rather, I'm going to speak to Abrams' and Benkler's other points, which I've already made, but cannot be repeated enough:

Anyone who holds freedom of the press dear should shudder at the threat that the [Manning] prosecution's theory presents to journalists, their sources and the public that relies on them.
I have been saying for years, ever since the 2010 indictment of my client, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, that the war on whistleblowers is a war on journalists. Abrams and Benkler put aside the Manning/WikiLeaks explosivity to focus on the big picture:
You don't have to think that WikiLeaks is the future of media, or Private Manning a paragon of heroic whistle-blowing, to understand the threat.
But actually, you do. Because everyone in independent media, alternative media, and the blogosphere who have been making these connections are often Manning and WikiLeaks sympathizers--or at least not overtly hostile to them.

It's been an exercise in exasperation to get journalists to understand that if whistleblowers are chilled by selective, vindictive, overcharged Espionage Act prosecutions (and journalists can be found in all 6 Espionage Act indictments of whistleblowers), then their sources will dry up.  Abrams and Benkler get this:

What could be more destructive to an informed citizenry than the threat of the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole for whistleblowers?
If whistleblowers are prosecuted, then journalists are next. This can already be seen in the third subpoena of New York Times reporter Jim Risen in the case of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, and in Manning's prosecutors' broad assertions that if published material ends up in the hands of a terrorist, the source/author/publisher has indirectly "aided the enemy." The potential for whistleblower prosecutions littering the press landscape with dangerous precedent is high. In CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou's case, the Judge issued an opinion creating a distinction between a government employee and a lobbyist in terms of the Espionage Act's requirement that a source be attempting to harm the United States or benefit a foreign nation. Manning's judge has also ruled that his intent (grafted onto the Espionage Act by Judge Ellis to keep this ambiguous, outdated law Constitutional) does not matter.

While I find it a bit frustrating for the mainstream media to parrot my (and other alternative journalists') points about 1) the chilling effect of whistleblower prosecutions on the media, 2) the dangerous government theory in Manning that if you publish something on the Internet, and it ends up in the hands of a terrorist, you've aided the enemy, and 3) the government sees the New York Times and WikiLeaks as one and the same--at least maybe now people will listen.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site