Friday, June 28, 2013

The Nub of the Leaks Debate

Obligatory Edward Snowden pic:

I chose the one that makes him look like a bath salts abuser.

The leaks debate has been an interesting one, with lots of different opinions around the good guy/bad guy divide. There are Edward Snowden detractors on both the left and the right, as well as the usual hatchet jobs by the Beltway press corps behaving as the government stenographers they are.

There are exceptions to the rule, such as TPM's Josh Marshall's thoughtful contrarian view -- for a blogger from the left -- that we're members of the club called the U.S.A. and sometimes need to begrudgingly side with our fellow club members for better or for worse:
My reaction to Snowden isn’t tied to my being a journalist. If anything it’s in spite of it. It’s as part of this national community, as someone who buys into its basic structures, for all their problems. I’m a part of this club. And I try to keep that in mind whether I like what the club is doing at a given time or not. As I wrote in the first piece, I don’t like everything the US military does. But I do think there should be a US military. I also think it requires a significant amount of secrecy to operate. So I don’t think I can just wash my hands of it and say it has nothing to do with me just because I’m not part of the chain of command. When innocent civilians are killed in Pakistan or Yemen, I’m on the line for that just as I benefit from its protection in numerous ways.
I'm not with you on this one, Josh, even as you craft the most eloquent defense of our realpolitik. It's thoughtful, and I must say I'd rather be in your "club" than not. Except I prefer the rabble-rousing Glenn Greenwald's approach that says "you want some journalistic bright lines, I'll give you some bright lines and capitulating to beltway stenographers is contemptible. I'm not in that club, sir!"

Yeah, me neither. But, in the end, Josh Marshall's stance is a defensible one. But here's the rub. This ain't ping pong, or T-ball, or what-have-you. The government is smacking us around on this one, and it takes a keen mind to understand its ramifications. As in many cases, I found the nub of the debate over at digby's Hullabaloo, with two vital posts, one written by digby herself and the other by her fellow Hullabaloo writer, David Atkins. First Atkins:
The U.S. intelligence apparatus is selectively leaking material that it finds "appropriate," using secret judgments none of the rest of us are privy to, while condemning leaks from outside the system. That makes a mockery of the universal rule of the law. Either all leaks are OK, or none are. There's a debate to be had about that question, but intellectual consistency demands taking one side or the other. One simply cannot support these government-sanctioned leaks while opposing Snowden's without falling back on plainly totalitarian logic that justifies whatever the government does in the name of national security. There's no space here between the Peter King right and the pro-Administration pseudo-left if one does not roundly denounce the government's selective leaks.

If someone denounces Snowden and Greenwald but claims to be to the left of Peter King, they must also denounce the government's selective leaks and demand prosecution of those involved, or lose all credibility and claims to intellectual consistency. To selectively defend or extol lawbreaking behavior depending on who is in office and what issue is being defended, is the worst sort of political hackery and hypocrisy.
That's it, right there. You can stick your "rule of law" if that's the way you play the game. Now digby hits it from a slightly different angle, talking about Colorado senator Mark Udall and his anger at government leaks -- that show the government is a good light -- from a congressional study on the CIA that Udall can't make public:
With all the hoopla over Edward Snowden's narcissism and Glenn Greenwald's student loan debt, (as well as lots of handwringing about whether we are good citizens if we question the government's policies on matters pertaining to national security and surveillance of its own citizens) I cannot help but wonder why people who think that a grave injustice has been done to our country by these radicals "with an agenda" don't turn their wrath on this fellow: Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who has been raising hell about such things for years. [...]
Mark Udall is not some lowly blogger or nutty computer geek. He's a US Senator and he's he's saying outright that your government is lying to you. Worse, it is lying to your face through ongoing leaks, even as it has declared war on anyone who leaks in ways that are unflattering. [...]
I suppose it's always possible that they do believe that  Mark Udall is some kind of radical freak right along with that alleged fanatic Greenwald and looney-tunes Snowden. In fact, you pretty much have to believe that if you are willing to discount what he is saying here.

What we are dealing with is the fact that government believes leaks are just fine as long as they show the government in a good light. And that is what is otherwise known as propaganda:  people in this country should know only what the government wants it to know. And it is ruthlessly punishing anyone who deviates from prescribed authorized leaking. Is that really necessary to keep the nation secure from terrorists?
That's it, again, right there. The Obama administration can leak all it wants when it supports the government view, but they'll lock you up if you leak something negative. Sounds pretty fascistic to me.

Speaking of fascism, I flagged this story from David Atkins' Twitter feed. They hate us for our freedom, really? Oh, but maybe not in the U.S. Army:
The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday's Herald, but Armywide.
Presidio employees said the site had been blocked since The Guardian broke stories on data collection by the National Security Agency.
Those poor, itty-bitty soldiers. They want the truth? They can't handle the truth!

We'll censor your Internet and you'll like it, grunts!

I'll say this about Josh Marshall's view: I don't like what's happening to my club, and the leaks "debate" illustrates the problem in the starkest way. And that's why we'll have our Edward Snowdens and why we desperately need our Glenn Greenwalds. And, of course, digby.

Update. Apparently the censorship -- plus a mix of intimidation -- is broader. Read about it at firedoglake.

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