Whistleblower Chelsea Manning wrote a timely and important op-ed in the New York Times this weekend. From jail, Chelsea warns that excessive secrecy has kept Americans in the dark about Iraq’s fragility and press censorship during the war mislead Americans and policymakers into believing our own propaganda.
If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.Chelsea’s op-ed details how the military’s embedded press embed program encourages reporters to write uncritical and favorable stories the U.S. military or face expulsion or blacklisting from the program.
Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.
Journalists have an important role to play in calling for reforms to the embedding system. The favorability of a journalist’s previous reporting should not be a factor. Transparency, guaranteed by a body not under the control of public affairs officials, should govern the credentialing process. An independent board made up of military staff members, veterans, Pentagon civilians and journalists could balance the public’s need for information with the military’s need for operational security.Chelsea’s letter from jail and call for an end to government secrecy, like John Kiriakou’s “Letters from Loretto” and Edward Snowden’s continued appearances from Russia, show that despite solitary confinement, jail, and exile whistleblowers cannot be silenced. Government secrecy and cover-ups make national security whistleblowers essential for holding our leaders accountable. Despite the war on whistleblowers they have managed to find a voice and we are much better off because of it.