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Well, yes, the obvious. They revealed classified information and thereby discomfited portions of the US government. That has been discussed at length hereabouts and elsewhere.

The non-obvious and not-much discussed, though, is this:

Neither one of these men should have been cleared to the information they revealed, and it is the fault of movement conservatism and George W. Bush that they did have such access. That is, the very people most likely to call Snowden and Manning traitors are the people who made their "treason" possible.

More below the Orange Squiggle of Power.

First, the unfortunate Bradley Manning. I wrote about Manning in June of 2011:

Bradley Manning Should Never Have Been Sent to Iraq

You may read the diary, but a brief synopsis is that Manning showed numerous signs of mental instability prior to deployment. He should not have been a soldier, much less a soldier with access to sensitive information.

As for the Phantom of Moscow Airport, his clearance was not done properly. The government had outsourced this rather vital function in the name of saving money. And, of course, Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton rather than the USG - again, in the name of saving money.

The same Snowden who made $200K / year to work as a system administrator. If you are unclear about how that sort of pay scale saved money you are not alone.

How, then, is this the fault of the conservatives and Dubya? It's pretty simple: even in the one thing conservatives claim to believe government should do - national defense - they are unwilling to actually increase the size of government or raise taxes.

In Manning's case, it was rather obvious by the time he enlisted that the United States either needed to fish (get the hell out of Iraq) or cut bait (put in the number of troops the Pentagon originally said they needed to actually "win"). The first required the utterly depraved Bush to admit he had made a mistake. The second not only required said admission, but also would have required a much larger army, which in turn would have required a draft and increased government revenues.

Bush, being the coward and weakling that he is, stubbornly refused to chose either to quit or to attempt to win. That led to an incredible burden on the Army, which led to retention and recruitment problems, which led to a young man who got so upset prior to deployment that he actually wet himself in public being kept in the Army and sent overseas, and in the course of events being cleared. It also lead to the deaths and crippling injuries of thousands of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the strengthening of Iran, trillions of dollars in debt, higher oil prices and a drag on the world economy, and a few other bad things.

The case for Snowden is even clearer. Post 9-11 it was pretty clear that the US needed to collect more intelligence regarding Al Qaeda and possible terrorists, and to make better use of the intelligence we did collect. Note well that in no way do I intend to make the slightest defense of the Patriot Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, or any of the other things done to (allegedly) further that goal of better anti-terrorist intelligence. I simply note that 9-11 was a bad thing and that trying to prevent similar events was a legitimate function of the US government.

So, you would expect the government to actually hire some people to perform these intelligence collection and analysis functions. And they did hire some people - a fraction of those needed for the new tasks. The rest were contractors, such as Snowden. Because even when faced with the worst attack on US soil since the end of the Civil War, movement conservatives and GW Bush could not bring themselves to hire government employees (who might well be UNIONIZED) and increase the overall number of government employees. No, "shrinking government" was more important than performing a vital task well.

So, here we are. Two men, leaking information that conservatives would have preferred not be leaked, who would never have been able to do so had it not been for an anti-government conservatism so unhinged that it even attempts to privatize national security. And the sad thing is that the conservatives will never recognize it, nor would they admit it if you pointed it out to them. Nevertheless, Snowden and Manning are poster boys for the utter intellectual bankruptcy of anti-government conservatives.

Irony still lives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Metaphors (12+ / 0-)
    In Manning's case, it was rather obvious by the time he enlisted that the United States either needed to fish (get the hell out of Iraq) or cut bait (put in the number of troops the Pentagon originally said they needed to actually "win").
    I think the "shit or get off the pot" metaphor works better here... Did you know that in the origins of the "Fish or cut bait" expression, BOTH things needed to be done (cutting the bait into pieces is a critical part of fishing)... and the expression meant: "Choose your role in this operation already!"

    Anyway I digress.

    Great observations on how both Manning and Snowden were positioned by people and policies that "disagree" with them.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 12:58:56 PM PDT

  •  What Manning and Snowden have in common: (10+ / 0-)

    One's in prison in the US, and the other is in prison in a Russian airport.

    Sorry, I couldn't resist.

    Now, to your greater point, it is in fact the privatization of government, and especially intelligence gathering, that has indeed led to this.

    I have a friend who has worked for Raytheon with government contracts so long he is now retired with an old-fashioned pension. He told me the current atmosphere is totally untenable if any administration would like to keep secrets.

    I resent that. I demand snark, and overly so -- Markos Moulitsas.

    by commonmass on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 01:03:52 PM PDT

  •  I've pointed this out a couple times today (7+ / 0-)

    but the amount of information collected is also an issue. It is clear that the NSA, their employees, and contractors really don't have a grasp on how to delicately handle this massive data.

    We have two whistleblowers who instead of only taking the documents they needed, also snuck every file cabinet out of the building because that was the only way to get that one file past the front door.

    Just imagine a whistle blower 20 years ago trying to take the same amount of information...  

  •  this is a spot on observation (5+ / 0-)
    the very people most likely to call Snowden and Manning traitors are the people who made their "treason" possible
    Good diary, thought provoking and timely.
  •  Agreed! (3+ / 0-)

    Privatizing National Security is a bad idea and not even a moneysaver.
    But there's another aspect to this as well.
    In every spy thriller you read, they talk about compartmentalizing info, "Need to know", "Your Eyes Only"...
    How is it possible for a relatively low level operator, deployed to Iraq, to have access to high level State Department memos? How does a contractor to NSA have access to all he said he had (though I must say, it's turning out that a lot of his story is lies and exaggerations)?
    Has something major broken down in our Intel apparatus? Have they forgotten all they learned in the Cold War?

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 01:39:15 PM PDT

  •  Well said. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark

    Particularly the Snowden as contractor aspect.  If it is indeed ever truly necessary for the government to read my data, let it at least be THE GOVERNMENT, not a for-profit entity and their employees.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 01:43:34 PM PDT

  •  Do you even touch on the subject (0+ / 0-)

    of the economy at all? I looked, but I wasn't seeing it...because it's possible that's something else those two have in common.  

    Would someone so...how did you say it, "mentally unstable"? --like Bradley Manning even join the military if he had other options? Serious question--I don't know his history beyond this trial, as you seem to, so I'm asking. A lot of young people in our military right now are there because there is nothing better for them in terms of "job prospects".

    We already know Edward Snowden was a contractor . And yeah, obviously he wasn't vetted very well. I guess when your management skills decree that you must hire a contractor, you don't think about things like "verifying their Loyalty to the State".

    Yep. Your tax dollars at work. And mine...and you're all worried about making these two guys look bad for pointing out actual criminal wrongdoing?

    Wow. Priorities. You haz 'em...

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 01:47:36 PM PDT

    •  The diarist did (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue aardvark, mikidee, trumpeter

      He discussed how movement conservatives hate to increase the size of government and raise taxes to pay for all the things they want

      •  That explains Snowden (0+ / 0-)

        but it doesn't explain why someone supposedly "mentally unstable" joined the freakin' military.

        This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

        by lunachickie on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:11:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  He joined because he could and because (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trumpeter, blue aardvark

          nothing else was working for him. Like a lot of bright kids his age, he was pretty fucking lost. He got in because he probably did well on his apptitude tests and the military needed more smart people.

          No mystery here. Lots of bright, lost people join the military. Some of them are fucked up. Most of them aren't.

          Out with the gloomage - in with the plumage!

          by mikidee on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:58:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly my point (0+ / 0-)
            nothing else was working for him
            Thanks for reinforcing it!  

            This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

            by lunachickie on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 03:29:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No - not true. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              joe from Lowell, blue aardvark

              He'd had a job and lost it due to performance/personality issues. That's the diarist's point - he was fucked up and probably shouldn't have been accepted into the military much less given a TS/SI clearance. [That's what it was called when I had the top clearance back in the 70s.]

              Find a bear that's there - it's not the economy in this case.

              Out with the gloomage - in with the plumage!

              by mikidee on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 03:58:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  I think you should read my Manning diary (4+ / 0-)

      You'll find I am not without sympathy for the man.

      If you feel that the ends ALWAYS justify the means, then go your way, we've got nothing to talk about.

      I suspect, though, that you aren't that sort - you're smarter than that, and more capable of nuance (although you missed my intent in the comment regarding Zimmerman). So the question then becomes, as regards Manning and Snowden, if they used appropriate means to achieve their ends.

      My take is that Manning was not appropriate, and I reserve judgement on Snowden but am so far giving him the benefit of the doubt. Manning relied upon other people to do his vetting for him to avoid national security disclosures, and in the end the entire thing was revealed. That's not a responsible way to go about revealing wrongdoing. He didn't know what was in there. There are levels of secure information, and revealing, e.g., what our ambassador thinks of one of their counterparts in the nation where they are stationed may not be classified but it sure as hell doesn't help the United States to let the counterpart read that the ambassador thinks he is a doofus with his morning coffee.

      And getting back to Zimmerman, I never meant that you thought he was a hero. I thought you'd connect the dots and realize that I was contrasting the obvious fact that he killed a kid for no good reason with the legal conclusion that he was not provably guilty of murder.

      Similarly, Manning may not be provably guilty of aiding and abetting the enemy, but that does not mean that, e.g., the Pakistani IIS didn't go through the Wikileaks dump with a fine-toothed comb and obtain useful information.

      And what the Chinese learned I don't like to think. They are very good at this whole spying business, and they have raised the technique they call "a thousand grains of rice" to a high art. Unlike our government, they are willing to hire lots and lots of people to perform analysis.

      Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

      by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:27:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Snowden worked for the CIA for 2 years. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark, Garrett, FG

    I assume that means he underwent a full background investigation and polygraphing, both of which he passed, especially since he then went on to work for contractors for NSA for the next four years.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:28:13 PM PDT

    •  My understanding is that he was not (1+ / 0-)

      a high-ranking person.

      The CIA has levels of access and clearance, just like other agencies.

      Economics is a social *science*. Can we base future economic decisions on math?

      by blue aardvark on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:29:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I worked in military signals intelligence (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Garrett, blue aardvark

        (which is under the operational control of the NSA), nobody worked in military signals intelligence or for the NSA without a full background investigation.  As a military person, I escaped the polygraph, but all the civilians working for NSA had to undergo it.  And I have read that the same is true for all officers of the CIA.

        If this is true for everybody, I assume it would be all the more true for an IT administrator.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:33:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I used to agree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blue aardvark

          When I got my clearances, I had a full background check.  But that was under Carter.  

          The tight budget/loose integrity stance of the Reagan/Bush/Bush presidencies make me think that they cut corners on such things later on.

          I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

          by trumpeter on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 03:42:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  All federal agencies hire contractors to do most (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, blue aardvark

    of their IT work.  That's their way to offer competitive salaries to people doing IT work.  If they had to offer mere civil service salaries, they would not get competent people.

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:35:36 PM PDT

  •  What Manning and Snowden (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lysias, flevitan

    ...have in common is that folks think that that a couple of smart personnel moves (not sending Manning to Iraq or doing a better job of vetting Snowden) would have save the public from knowing what their government is doing.

    Is that really a good thing?

    Maybe the real failure is what the US government was doing.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 03:43:27 PM PDT

    •  Precisely! (0+ / 0-)

      I hope that we have some national security staff with consciences and the courage to speak out or leak - otherwise we are in even bigger trouble!  Dan Ellsberg certainly recognizes that in Manning and Snowden.

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