On Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden…

It’s not for me to judge so I guess that only time will tell if Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are traitors or heroes but you have to wonder why these two young men would risk their freedom and future to do what they did.

I think Manning’s case in particular is far more complex than it first appears. He wears the country’s uniform and thus his allegiance and responsibility to the nation perhaps carries far more weight than that of an ‘ordinary’ citizen and as such he is expected to follow orders without question. After all, an army whose members all do their own thing based on their personal feeling is little more than a rabble. Just look at the various factions fighting in the middle east. However one could also argue that ‘just following orders’ is no defense either. One does not have to go back too far in time to hear that very excuse being used as a defense by guards at various concentration camps.

What’s really interesting though is that no one (other than the US government)actually seems to care too much about the actual content that he released. After all, have YOU heard of anything really ‘explosive’ or revealing coming out of the over seven hundred thousand documents he is reported to have leaked. So far as I can tell most of it is little more than day to day stuff with very little, if any at all, real ‘meat’.

Even though Edward Snowden was not employed directly by the government, I am sure that even as a contractor he would have had to sign various documents guaranteeing his silence in matters of ‘national security’. In spite of that he revealed a dirty, sneaky, underhand and quite possibly illegal (regardless of what the government says) data mining program related to  the nations phone use. Is such a program warranted and does it invade civil liberties? Who knows? Perhaps a topic for another post but so far as I can tell the governments main complaint is that they actually got caught doing this.

What really worries me though is not that these events occurred but the extent to which the government is actively pursuing two relatively minor people with the sort of effort reserved for the capture of Bin Laden, and I have to wonder, why?

The only reason that I can come up with is to instil fear into other like minded individuals that might consider taking a ‘whistle blower’ stance and exposing the hidden goings on in the government. Let’s face it, Manning is probably looking at a substantial prison term and in a military prison at that, and Snowden will probably never be able to return to the US or to see his family again on any sort of regular basis.

I also suspect that the Russian government is enjoying being able to stick it to the US government by granting Snowden even temporary asylum, but I also hope that Snowden manages to find some sort of peace somewhere in the world. After all, rightly or wrongly (and governments can ‘always’ justify their actions and find ways to ‘legalize’ them) Snowden did what he did because he believed that the government was abusing it’s power over the people. It is after all, supposed to be ‘by the people, for the people’.  In his own way he was trying to protect us from a possibly over zealous government that appears to find it very easy to justify such actions.

In the end though, I think that very little will really change in the long run. These men will fade into obscurity, the government will find other ways to collect the same data and other ways to justify and legalize that action and we the people will just carry on as always, pretty much oblivious to it all until men come knocking on doors in the night.

My advice to Mr Snowden any time he is thinking about coming back to the US is to take a long hard look at whatever happens Mr Manning because I am pretty sure that should Mr Snowden come back to the US, he will find himself in a very similar cell for a very similar length of time.

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