It’s the case, too, that the press will sometimes print classified material even when warned of dire consequences to public safety. Supreme Court rulings on First Amendment rights have made it close to impossible to stop initial publication or broadcast on most subjects, and there are difficulties as well in prosecution after the fact. While I hardly think the press is always warranted in what it puts on the record, I am also concerned that governmental messing with news poses an enormous threat to our democracy and basic freedoms.
Still, if nothing in our system ever says a meaningful “no” to leakers, there is an end to secrecy and to much safety, especially in a blabbermouth nation like our own. Heaven knows what damage was caused because of Bradley Manning’s divulgence of 700,000 classified files — far too many for him to have been discriminating — to WikiLeaks, a deeply confused, radical, anti-American, morally decrepit outfit pretending to nobility.
Manning is a military guy who seems to have badly betrayed his country. If there is a fair trial that leaves him in prison as a traitor for the rest of his life, that’s fine with me.
I don’t put Snowden in quite the same camp as Manning, although keep in mind that there were legal means of pressing for public disclosure without his tell-all trip to China and that his further accusation of U.S. hacking of Chinese computers was inexcusable disloyalty of the Manning kind.
There are fakes and there are heroes, and I don’t figure Snowden’s the latter, although there is a way he can make that case for himself: Come home and accept whatever punishment he may get for his civil disobedience.
Jay Ambrose is a columnist living in Colorado. Email SpeaktoJay@aol.com.