You may have heard of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and US army private Chelsea (formerly known as Bradley) Manning, who both leaked large amounts of secret US government information, and wondered what all the fuss was about. Well, not much, if you ask Australian attorney-general Mark Dreyfus.
Dreyfus told a Security in Government conference in Canberra on August 13 that Snowden and Manning “should not be regarded as whistleblowers as the information they made public did not expose government wrongdoing,” the Guardian.com reported.
And he does have a point. After all, if we put to one side the revelations of a huge, unprecedented spying operation in violation of the US constitution and international law targeting US citizens, foreign governments and people all over the world, and giant internet service providing corporations systematically abusing their customers rights, there wasn't really much wrongdoing exposed by Snowden at all.
And what did Manning actually expose asides from hidden US military war crimes, complicity in huge torture programs in many countries, government cover-ups of serious crimes including child trafficking by a military contractor in Afghanistan, a secret bombing program in Yemen, the illegal collection of the DNA of top UN officials, and secret warnings about the potential nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima that neither US nor Japanese officials heeded so that now the damaged Fukushima plant is pumping radioactive water into the Pacific, endangering marine life and fishing industries across the world?
Well, OK, actually a fair bit, including pressure on Haiti not to raise the minimum wage for workers in US corporate-owned sweatshops and attempts by US authorities to subvert and overthrow progressive governments in Latin America. But no one is perfect and it is important to keep a sense of perspective.
After all, judge not lest you be judged, as they say. Who among us can honestly say we haven't gotten drunk and accidentally covered up the odd serious war crime, collaborated in an occasional torture program or tried to overthrow an elected left-wing government or two, before waking up the next day with a pounding head and records of the world's email correspondence by the side of the bed.
No, Snowden and Manning don't deserve to be called whistleblowers as they have revealed no serious wrongdoings. You only have to look at the response of the US authorities to get how unimportant these revelations truly are. They couldn't care less. “Yeah, whatever,” pretty much sums up the administration's response.
Really, they only bothered to arrest and imprison Manning for more than three years before any court found her guilty — including a long period in solitary confinement in conditions a UN official denounced as “torture” — and then sentenced her to 35 years in jail more as a matter of routine than anything else. It was all just a bit simpler as far as the paperwork was concerned.
And sure, if they could get their hands on Snowden, they might charge him under espionage laws, but they are not really overly fussed either way.
It is not like history will record Manning and Snowden as brave heroes, risking their lives and freedom to expose serious state crimes. They will soon be forgotten — not like Mark Dreyfus, whose commitment to truth and justice during his world-renowned stint as Australian attorney-general will see his name live forever in the hearts of all who hate oppression and yearn for liberty.
[Carlo Sands is performing a Green Left Weekly fundraising show called “The Yucky Country: Just make Clive Palmer PM” at the Brisbane Fringe Comedy Festival. It is on September 3 and 5, starting at 9.30pm, at the Loft Bar, West End. Tickets are $10 and can be bought at www.stickytickets.com.au or at the door.]