"Tweeter," a New Social Game
Most of us have grown up thinking that to be a fink or a snitch or a tattletale is dishonorable or disloyal. It can be; but more often it is not. It’s a matter of ethics, always moot. Without the “informant,” law enforcement in this country would be pretty hopeless, especially given our current leniency whereby defendant rights are excessively liberal. It’s a wonder to me that anyone gets convicted. Also, without “leaks” the shenanigans of government would be even more obfuscatory than they are.
“Whistleblower” is the usual term to describe someone’s revealing damaging evidence against an employer. I first encountered the term in the early sixties when an intrepid army colonel had the audacity to reveal some unseemly military skullduggery in Vietnam. As a reward he was reassigned from an important staff position to manager of a bowling alley in Saigon. Such is the fate of whistleblowers. Don’t mess with management, incompetent or corrupt as it may be.
Now that privacy, thanks to the Internet, has vanished, we should expect more sympathy for the whistleblower, and yet fear of retribution remains. How often do you hear/read: “An informed source, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity…” Balderdash! Give the name or don’t bother with the insinuation. For this reason I bear some respect for Julian Assange and his Wikileaks. Will he pay a price? Great Britain has approved his extradition to Sweden to be tried for some unrelated, trumped-up sexual misconduct. However, given the confusion of local not to mention international legal wrangling I think Julian has a good shot at staying free. How long did it take for the court of international criminal justice to convict the patently guilty Charles Taylor-one of few defendants who didn’t die before a decision was reached? Answer: about two decades.
Pfc Bradley Manning was a 24 year old United States Army intelligence analyst who had access to classified (Shh!) information regarding the Mesopotamian mess. He was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed such information to Wikileaks. Along with some video clips, he was accused of providing 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq and Afghan War logs. Good for him! But who has time to read, let alone write all that rubbish? I even found an accusation that Manning abetted the “Arab Spring.” Oh sure, but is that a crime? And what would you expect of someone who refused to chant the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid? Last I heard Bradley was languishing in some army prison while the barristers busied themselves with briefs.
The Economist recently published an article on “government transparency.” Our current president has always been staunchly behind this. In fact, as the article points out, Mr. Obama accepted last year “an award honoring his administration’s commitment to transparency.” Curiously, the ceremony was closed to reporters and photographers, and was not announced on the president’s public schedule. As seems to be de rigueur in our government, commitment doesn’t appear to translate into accomplishment.
Hardly had the president taken office when he issued his Open Government Directive and created yet another bureaucracy, the National Declassification Centre (NDC). This was intended to sharpen the teeth of the old (1966) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Public access is now extended even to inter-agency e-mail, and a surer cure for insomnia can hardly be imagined. There’s just too much data out there!
From The Economist article: “Yet perhaps none of Mr. Obama’s transparency promises has rung hollower than his vow to protect whistleblowers. Thomas Drake, who worked at the National Security Agency, was threatened with life imprisonment for leaking to the Baltimore Sun unclassified details of a wasteful programme that also impinged on privacy. The case against him, prosecuted under the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917, failed.” Again, it’s almost impossible to convict anybody of anything! However, Mr. Drake ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “exceeding authorized use of a computer” and was, of course, harried out of his job.
Whistle blowing is a good thing. In 2010 77% of the $3.1 billion that America won in fraud-related judgments and settlements came from suits initiated by whistleblowers. True, that’s barely enough money to get the presidential candidates through the primaries and far short of the funds required to wage a little war, but it’s not nothing.
As the great state of Maine is belatedly recognizing, in states with strong FOIA laws politicians are less likely to be corrupt, and those that are corrupt are more likely to be caught. Therefore, snitch away, and never fear that the accused will be, what’s the word, “vindictive.” Even if he is, you will never be convicted.
One last thought: “exceeding authorized use of a computer” is a misdemeanor? Why I believe I’m guilty of that one just about every day! You’re not going to blow the whistle on me are you?