Sunday, June 9, 2013

You can't handle the truth

What does the face of a 21st-century hero look like?

Here are four, for starters.

Back in April, The Nation's Tim Shorrock reported that "the United States has created a police state with few parallels in history," according to what he'd learned from interviewing former NSA whistleblower William Binney. "It's better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had," Binney said.

Shorrock continued: "He compared the situation to the Weimar Republic, a brief period of liberal democracy that preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany. 'We're just waiting to turn the key,' he said."
This past week, we got a glimpse into just how bad things really are, as U.K. paper The Guardian dropped a series of bombshells. Glenn Greenwald first reported from an unnamed source that the National Security Agency is collecting information on every single one of the millions of phone calls Verizon customers make, every day. This is being done without warrants and without probable cause.

A day later, Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill revealed another NSA program called PRISM, under which the agency has "direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple, and other U.S. Internet giants." PRISM, it is said, "allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers, and live chats."

Next came word that Barack Obama has ordered a list of foreign targets for military cyber-attacks "to advance U.S. national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging." Read that again. He didn't OK cyber-attacks in self-defense against nations attacking us. He decided this could be done whenever it served U.S. interests, with no further rationale. Obama also "authorized the use of offensive cyber-attacks in foreign nations without their government's consent whenever 'U.S. national interests and equities' require such nonconsensual attacks. It expressly reserves the right to use cyber tactics as part of what it calls 'anticipatory action taken against imminent threats.'" The most frightening part of all: "The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the U.S., though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency." And we know the president will never abuse that kind of power.

And finally, it was revealed that the NSA is undertaking a massive data-mining operation around the entire planet, in a program known as Boundless Informant. The program collected 97 billion pieces of electronic intelligence from around the world in March alone, including nearly 3 billion from the United States. That revelation put the lie to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's denial -- also in March -- when Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon asked him, "Does the NSA doesn't collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" The data collected included individual IP addresses.

After all that, the source of the leaks chose to identify himself.

Edward Snowden, 29 years old, has worked for both the CIA and the NSA. He came forward because "I can't in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom, and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."

"The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to," he said. "There is no public oversight."

Further, he hopes that the secrets he revealed will begin a debate "among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in."

"My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he added.

Snowden joined the service to fight in Iraq, believing he should help liberate oppressed people. But as he soon found out, "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone."

After breaking both legs in an accident during his training, he was given a discharge. That's when his involvement with the CIA and NSA began. And when he started working in IT security for the CIA, he started to question the things he was seeing:
He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says. "I realized that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."
Things didn't get any better when he began contracting for the NSA: "[T]hey are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them." Coupled with seeing Obama further "the very policies that I thought would be reined in," he eventually knew he had to do something.

In a Q&A with The Guardian, Snowden gave a taste of what he saw when he was working for the NSA:
The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

[ ... ]

You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.
In short, you have no privacy, and you can't escape from being spied on in the United States. In essence, your every move is being watched. Suddenly, 1984 seems like an innocent nursery rhyme.

In a video interview also included in the Guardian story, Snowden explained in further, chilling detail why everyone should care about this surveillance program:
Because even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
The initial government reaction to the leaks wasn't surprising. Rather than admit the government went way too far in collecting Americans' phone and Internet records, the Department of "Justice" pledged to investigate where the leak came from. Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, likewise decried our "culture of leaks" and called for an investigation into who was shining the light of truth on the government.

Greenwald had this to say in regard to people like Feinstein:
I think Dianne Feinstein may be the most Orwellian political official in Washington. It is hard to imagine having a government more secretive than the United States. Virtually everything that government does, of any significance, is conducted behind an extreme wall of secrecy. The very few leaks that we've had over the last decade are basically the only ways that we've had to learn what our government is doing.

But look, what she's doing is simply channeling the way that Washington likes to threaten the people over whom they exercise power, which is, if you expose what it is that we're doing, if you inform your fellow citizens about all the things that we're doing in the dark, we will destroy you. This is what their spate of prosecutions of whistleblowers have been about. It's what trying to threaten journalists, to criminalize what they do, is about. It's to create a climate of fear so that nobody will bring accountability to them.

It's not going to work.
Perhaps the worst part of all is that after the leaks began coming out, most Americans either hadn't heard the news, were unsurprised because they're so used to violations like this, or didn't care because they "have nothing to hide" -- the motto of liberty-killers everywhere. Amazingly, nearly half of Americans polled actually trust the government with their private data.

That would include people like psychopath Sen. Lindsey Graham. This nutcase, just to review, applauded NDAA for turning the entire globe into a battlefield and allowing for indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. He wishes there would have been some drones flying around Boston during the bombing incident. He said the Boston bombing suspect, an American citizen, should not be read his rights and should be held as an enemy combatant. And he once said that free speech was a "great idea" but might need some Congressional restrictions because "we're in a war." And now he says he's "glad" the NSA is spying on Americans.

Better yet was Obama's false-dichotomy response to the spying:
I think it’s important to recognize that you can't have 100% security and also then have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience.
Well, sorry, Mein Fuhrer, but unlike most of the sheep in this country, I'm not willing to sacrifice liberty for security. Nor do I don't want "100% security" from the government, because achieving that goal would require a society with no personal freedoms whatsoever. It's not your job to "protect" me, Barack. It's your job to protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution, and you're doing a mighty poor job of it. With traitors like Graham and Obama sitting on Capitol Hill, it's no wonder freedom is dying and tyranny is flourishing. 

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things," Snowden told The Guardian. "I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

I agree with him completely -- hence the name of this blog.

Revealing the inner workings of our government was so important to Snowden that he gave up everything in his life. He was living in Hawaii with his girlfriend and was making $200,000 a year. Now he knows he'll probably never see his friends and family again and can only hope that a sympathetic nation will grant him asylum.

He knows he's going to be hunted, and that his loved ones will be harassed and threatened. He knows he could be extradited, tried, and imprisoned. Or even worse. One reporter overheard a conversation at Dulles Airport in which U.S. intelligence officials said that the leaker and the reporter in this incident should be "disappeared."

Clearly, the mafia has nothing on the United States government.

"I do not expect to see home again," Snowden said.

Nonetheless, he stands by what he did.

"I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.

Neither did political prisoner Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old Army private whose trial has finally begun, after being held in a cage, often in solitary and often naked, for three years awaiting trial.

A UN investigator found that his situation while awaiting trial constituted "at a minimum cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in violation of article 16 of the convention against torture."

And for what? Because Manning exposed the military's war crimes in Iraq by releasing data to WikiLeaks. The military, in essence, wants to shoot the messenger. If uncovering war crimes is "aiding the enemy," when it should be seen as an act of heroism -- a catalyst for cleaning up our act as a nation -- then there is truly no hope left. If anything, the war crimes themselves aided the enemy, by fomenting further hatred against the United States.

Make no mistake: This case is not about the danger Manning allegedly created. It's about the embarrassment he created. And the embarrassed parties want retribution for having their misdeeds exposed. This is about vengeance by an out-of-control, tyrannical government obsessed with keeping its misdeeds secret, and nothing more.

Indeed, as The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf argues, the secrecy has reached such a degree that it prevents the government from working as it was originally meant to:
Congress cannot act as a check on the executive branch in the way the Framers intended when hugely consequential policies it is overseeing are treated as state secrets. The Senate, intended as a deliberative body, cannot deliberate when only the folks on the right committees are fully briefed, and the Ron Wyden types among them think what's happening is horribly wrong, but can't tell anyone why because it's illegal just to air the basic facts.

Our senators have literally been reduced to giving dark hints.
Wyden, along with Mark Udall of Colorado, sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. For years both senators have been dropping hints about what classified information they've been privy to, and how concerned they've been about those things -- but they're prohibited from speaking about any of it. Udall, for his part, did warn that "[t]he intelligence community can target individuals who have no connection to terrorist organizations" and "can collect business records on law-abiding Americans."

"I only wish the administration had been the first to tell the American people about this program," the Democrat said of Obama, following Snowden's NSA leaks.

Doesn't seem too much to ask from the man who promised to run the most transparent administration in history.

"The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," Obama wrote in 2009

Tell that to Bradley Manning.

A three-time candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize since his arrest, Manning quickly found out that he didn't fit in with the American killing machine. After being sent to Iraq, he described himself as being stuck "in the desert, with a bunch of hyper-masculine trigger happy ignorant rednecks." After seeing a family of Iraqi civilians getting caught up in a roadside bomb that hit an Army convoy, Manning seemed to be the only one affected by what he'd witnessed. He decided that the American people needed to see what he was seeing, hoping that it might change popular attitudes about the war.

That's when the leaks began. He turned to WikiLeaks after The Washington Post and The New York Times both ignored him, utterly failing in their responsibility to keep the public informed.

Now Manning has been charged with "aiding the enemy" and faces life in prison. Among the things his leaks revealed:
  • "[T]thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture ... filed against the Iraqi Security Forces. Medical evidence detailed how prisoners had been whipped with heavy cables across the feet, hung from ceiling hooks, suffered holes being bored into their legs with electric drills, urinated upon, and sexually assaulted. These logs also revealed the existence of 'Frago 242,' an order implemented in 2004 not to investigate allegations of abuse against the Iraqi government. ... According to the State Department's own reports, the U.S. government was already aware that the Iraqi Security Forces engaged in torture."
  • "DynCorp -- a powerful defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from U.S. tax dollars -- threw a party for Afghan security recruits featuring boys purchased from child traffickers for entertainment. DynCorp had already faced human trafficking charges before this incident took place. According to the cables, Afghan Interior minister Hanif Atmar urged the assistant U.S. ambassador to 'quash' the story."
  • "Even though the Bush and Obama administrations maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs showed that this claim was false. Between 2004 and 2009, the U.S. government counted a total of 109,000 deaths in Iraq, with 66,081 classified as non-combatants. This means that for every Iraqi death that is classified as a combatant, two innocent men, women, or children are also killed."
  • "The 'Collateral Murder' video released by WikiLeaks depicted the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad, including two journalists working for Reuters. The Reuters news organization has repeatedly been denied in its attempts to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters photographer and his rescuers. Two young children who were present in the attempted rescue were also seriously wounded."

    As for the wounded children, one of the soldiers is heard saying, dismissively, "It's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle."
  • "Since December 2009, President Obama has authorized a secret drone bombing campaign in Yemen. A year later, WikiLeaks revealed that Yemen's President Saleh had agreed that his regime would 'continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.' These drone strikes have killed large numbers of civilians. One of the strikes that occurred shortly before the cable in question was written had killed 55 people, 41 of whom were classified as civilians (21 of these were children) according to a report by Amnesty International."
It was also revealed that:
  • Egypitan torturers received FBI training at Quantico.
  • Hillary Clinton's State Department authorized the theft of DNA samples, credit card information, and passwords from officials and representatives at the United Nations. 
  • The State Department also persuaded Haitian officials to oppose a minimum-wage increase for factory workers -- at the behest of corporations that had moved their production to Haiti to exploit the cheap labor pool. The U.S. Embassy monitored those who were protesting in favor of the increase. And what outrageous salary were the Haitians asking for as a minimum wage, you wonder? Five dollars a day. Not a raise of five dollars a day -- five dollars total. (And don't think for a minute that corporate behemoths don't wield this same kind of power and influence over our own government.)
  • The U.S. Embassy in Paris pushed Washington to engage in "a military-style trade war" against any EU member nation opposed to genetically modified crops. According to Slate, our diplomats were "effectively working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto." 
  • Also from Slate: "U.S. officials were revealed to have pressured Spanish prosecutors to dissuade them from investigating U.S. torture allegations, secret 'extraordinary rendition' flights, and the killing of a Spanish journalist by U.S. troops in Iraq." Just one of many examples of how the U.S. government is like the big bully on the block, threatening the weaker kids and harming them if they don't play along.
  • The U.S. government knew how corrupt the Tunisian government was but supported it anyway, fearing the rise of a worse alternative. Revolts ensued when word got out, setting the stage for the Arab Spring that followed. 
Amy Goodman reported on another leak in 2011 that "exposed details of an alleged 2006 massacre by U.S. troops in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi, north of Baghdad." She continued:
Eleven people were killed, and the cable described eyewitness accounts in which the group, including five children and four women, was handcuffed, then executed with bullets to the head. The U.S. military then bombed the house, allegedly to cover up the incident. Citing attacks like these, the Iraqi government said it would no longer grant immunity to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. President Barack Obama responded by announcing he would pull the troops out of Iraq. Like a modern-day Ellsberg, if Manning is guilty of what the Pentagon claims, he helped end the war in Iraq.
Among the people executed in that atrocity were a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old baby. Shot in the head, by our military.

What's truly frightening about these revelations, as Greenwald pointed out back in 2010, when WikiLeaks began releasing the information Manning had shared:
[D]espite how much corruption and wrongdoing and impropriety and criminality it has revealed, this is really the lowest level of secrecy that the United States government has. The truly awful things exist on a far higher level of secrecy, at the top-secret level or even above.
One can only imagine the evils hidden in the top-secret files of our government, if shooting a 5-month-old baby in the head is among the information kept in the "lowest level of secrecy."

The outcome of Manning's trial, naturally, is a foregone conclusion. Manning's conviction will be the 21st century's equivalent of a head on a pike, warning all future whistleblowers of what to expect if they try to ferret out the truth about what their government is up to.

Truthout's Michael Ratner sums up the conditions in the kangaroo court that's trying Manning:
In a telling sign of just how fair of a trial Manning will get, the military judge already ruled that almost all questions and evidence the defense can raise about Manning's intentions for acting are irrelevant to the trial. The judge has also stated that two dozen prosecution witnesses will testify behind closed doors.

[ ... ]

The military judge has also determined that court documents and transcripts, even of her own rulings, will continue to be unavailable to reporters and the general public. Manning's supporters crowd-funded stenographers to make up for the lack of transcripts, but last week the court denied them press passes. Yesterday, one of the stenographers was able to get in after the Bradley Manning Support Network gave up their pass for the day. There is no guarantee any stenographers will be allowed on future dates, and the same goes for most of the 370 media organizations that have requested access, most of whom did not get it.
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, himself has been targeted for his work in exposing the truth to the world. That's why he remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador granted asylum last year to the man who wants to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual allegations that he denies. His fear, naturally, is that Sweden might in turn might hand him over to the U.S. to face charges for leaking the data he received from Manning. He risks being arrested if he ever leaves the embassy, which police have kept surrounded.

In regard to Manning, he echoed much of what Ratner said:
It is fair to call what is happening to Bradley Manning a "show trial." Those invested in what is called the "US military justice system" feel obliged to defend what is going on, but the rest of us are free to describe this travesty for what it is. No serious commentator has any confidence in a benign outcome. The pretrial hearings have comprehensively eliminated any meaningful uncertainty, inflicting pre-emptive bans on every defense argument that had any chance of success.

Bradley Manning may not give evidence as to his stated intent (exposing war crimes and their context), nor may he present any witness or document that shows that no harm resulted from his actions. Imagine you were put on trial for murder. In Bradley Manning’s court, you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned. You would not be able to show that the "victim" is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.

But of course. Did you forget whose show it is?

The government has prepared for a good show. The trial is to proceed for twelve straight weeks: a fully choreographed extravaganza, with a 141-strong cast of prosecution witnesses. The defense was denied permission to call all but a handful of witnesses. Three weeks ago, in closed session, the court actually held a rehearsal. Even experts on military law have called this unprecedented.

Bradley Manning’s conviction is already written into the script. The commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, Barack Obama, spoiled the plot for all of us when he pronounced Bradley Manning guilty two years ago. "He broke the law," President Obama stated, when asked on camera at a fundraiser about his position on Mr. Manning. In a civilized society, such a prejudicial statement alone would have resulted in a mistrial.

To convict Bradley Manning, it will be necessary for the US government to conceal crucial parts of his trial. Key portions of the trial are to be conducted in secrecy: 24 prosecution witnesses will give secret testimony in closed session, permitting the judge to claim that secret evidence justifies her decision. But closed justice is no justice at all.

What cannot be shrouded in secrecy will be hidden through obfuscation. The remote situation of the courtroom, the arbitrary and discretionary restrictions on access for journalists, and the deliberate complexity and scale of the case are all designed to drive fact-hungry reporters into the arms of official military PR men, who mill around the Fort Meade press room like over-eager sales assistants. The management of Bradley Manning's case will not stop at the limits of the courtroom. It has already been revealed that the Pentagon is closely monitoring press coverage and social media discussions on the case.

This is not justice; never could this be justice. The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.
One of the biggest concerns here is whether freedom of speech and the press still exists, as the Obama administration, in its zealous pursuit of whistleblowers and journalists, seeks to silence any view that threatens the status quo. If sharing information with WikiLeaks amounts to "aiding the enemy," then journalists everywhere can be accused of doing the same as they gather sensitive information from their sources. One of the prosecutors in Manning's case has even admitted as much.

Of course, it's OK when Obama himself publicly reveals information about the capture of Osama bin Laden that could threaten the safety of special-ops forces. That's not "aiding the enemy." He's above the law. To him, Manning and other truth-tellers are merely bugs to be squashed. As a recent Huffington Post commenter put it very well: "The more brazenly criminal our overlords behave, the more paranoid they become; thus more and more secrecy and draconian laws are required to maintain control." Like spying on the phone calls and Internet activity of millions of Americans, regardless of whether they're suspected of any wrongdoing. Or criticizing the previous administration for denying too many Freedom of Information Act requests -- and then denying more requests than the previous administration did.

Looking back on a week that included the start of the Manning trial and the exposing of the NSA spy programs, AlterNet's David Talbot expresses in plain terms the severity of the situation we face:
There is a growing sense that this is a critical moment for American democracy. A national security state engorged by war-on-terror spending has encroached so deeply on our civil liberties that unless we fight back now, those cherished freedoms might be lost forever. 
As Chris Hedges puts the current state of affairs:
Well, I find, you know, all of these measures to essentially shut down the freedom of information, including the persecution of Assange and Manning, as symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state, one where anyone who challenges the official narrative, who digs out cases of torture, war crimes -- which is, of course, what Manning and Assange presented to the American public -- is going to be ruthlessly silenced.
In the end it is not Bradley Manning who is on trial. His trial ended long ago. The defendent now, and for the next 12 weeks, is the United States. A runaway military, whose misdeeds have been laid bare, and a secretive government at war with the public. They sit in the docks. We are called to serve as jurists. We must not turn away.
Conor Friedersdorf concurs that it is up to all of us to stop this:
Other democracies have degraded into quasi-authoritarian states; they didn't expect that to happen until it was too late to stop. We have safeguards to prevent us from following in their footstep. Stop casting them off because you fear al-Qaeda.  
From Norman Solomon at Common Dreams:
Let's be candid about the most clear and present danger to our country's democratic values. The poisonous danger is spewing from arrogance of power in the highest places. The antidotes depend on transparency of sunlight that only whistleblowers, a free press, and an engaged citizenry can bring.
The Guardian's Gary Younge:
[I]t's not just about Manning. It's about a government, obsessed with secrecy, that has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. And it's about wars in which the resistance to, and exposure of, crimes and abuses has been criminalized while the criminals and abusers go free. If Manning is an enemy of the state then so too is truth.
And Truthout's Ratner:
Truth is a condition for government accountability. Bradley Manning is facing the most severe punishment for a journalistic source in this country's history because truth itself has become an enemy of our state. Exposing the truth about government misconduct does not make one a traitor; turning your back on truth-tellers like Manning does.
The truth was an early casualty in post-9/11 America. One wonders if it will ever come back. After all, in the words of a recently retired statesman ...
Truth is treason in the empire of lies.

Ron Paul knew how corrupt our system has become. That's why he never had a chance of becoming president. After the WikiLeaks story broke, Dr. Paul asked on the floor of the House:
If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the First Amendment and the independence of the Internet?

Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on WikiLeaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death, and corruption?

Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?
These are questions that need to be debated. Instead, they're ignored, by a media and a governing class that take their marching orders from their corporate masters.

Indeed, as Matt Taibbi said in an excellent Rolling Stone article: "The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names," because what we're dealing with here is no less than "the character of the society we've all created," and it does no good to sweep it under the rug and blame the person pointing it out.

After all, if you're Bradley Manning and you come across something like the "Collateral Murder" video, "you either become part of a campaign of torture and murder by saying nothing, or you have to make it public. Morally, there's no option." And more to the point: "If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal."
Indeed. When reporting a crime has itself become a crime, we know we've gone far astray as a society that once respected the rule of law.

I'll give Bruce Schneier at The Atlantic the final word. In many ways, he sums up everything that's been said here:
The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal -- or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law -- but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we're living in a police state.

[ ... ]

The Obama Administration's actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of "aiding the enemy" demonstrate how far it's willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers -- as well as the journalists who talk to them.
But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It's necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power. 

[ ... ]

Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power.

[ ... ]

Our government is putting its own self-interest ahead of the interests of the country. That needs to change. 
Bradley Manning has done nothing wrong, yet he'll never walk free again. When his faux-trial is over, the criminals in our military, government, and corporations will face no punishment, and the ones in the military will be cheered as heroes.

There will be no justice for Bradley Manning.

And there will be no justice for the truth.

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