Courtesy of Brandon Pahnish

The whistleblower hypocrisy

Honesty is the best policy unless you expose United States war crimes and mass surveillance.

As Democratic Party leadership praise the whistleblower—“leakers”—that sparked the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, their position on whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden reveal their partisanship and fealty to the American empire. 

In September 2019, a whistleblower complaint surfaced claiming Trump asked the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Former-Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company collecting $50,000 a month, while Vice President Biden led a 2014 anti-corruption effort in Ukraine.

Democrats and former national security officials expressed their support of the whistleblower, and they have done so on purely partisan lines. 

The fate of the whistleblower is unclear, but what is certain is the reception from Democrats at least rhetorically have been preferential in comparison to the vilification of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. If Democratic leadership is going to hail the Whistle blower as a hero, they need to also recognize Snowden and Manning’s courage. 

Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, leaked classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010 exposing war crimes the U.S. committed at the peak of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. One of the most infamous disclosures was a video of a U.S. helicopter indiscriminately killing a dozen people, including two Reuters employees. 

The leaks received bipartisan condemnation and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it “an attack on America” and a “tear at the fabric” of responsible government. Republicans, of course, lost their minds.

The Obama Administration swiftly charged Manning under the Espionage Act of 1917— – a draconic law with a range of statutes including releasing classified documents— and sentenced her to 35 years in prison. Her sentence would later be commuted by Obama, freeing her seven years into her sentence, but Obama’s gesture came after presiding over one of the most unprecedented attacks on leaks and journalist’s sources, charging more people under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined.

Manning was one of the first whistleblowers the Obama Administration charged under the act, and she exposed the realities of war that the national-security state would rather keep secret. She did not receive the warm reception the Trump whistleblower is receiving now. Manning went after the war machine and that just won’t do.

It doesn’t stop there, The Trump Administration, in an effort to build a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, subpoenaed Manning in early 2019 to testify before a Grand Jury. Manning refused to testify, calling the Grand Jury “a secret process that I morally object to” and claiming it is “historically used to entrap and persecute activists for protected political speech.”

The judge ruling over the case, in response, sent Manning to jail and imposed a $1,000 per day fine until she agreed to testify. Manning is still in jail today, and Democratic leadership is as silent as the solitary confinement Manning was being subjected to daily.

Another prominent whistleblower that received the ire of established powers is Edward Snowden, a former CIA subcontractor that leaked NSA documents in 2014, confirming what many believed was true: Big Brother’s watching you.

The NSA collected large amounts of online metadata and phone records from Verizon customers, bugged the offices of the European Union in New York and were authorized to spy on 193 different countries and their citizens. These are just some of the gross invasions of privacy that fell under the purview of the NSA. Needless to say, Democratic leadership was angry, especially Obama who said in a press conference “No I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot.”

Obama was wrong. Snowden’s action uncovered an egregious invasion of privacy, not just of American citizens but also the citizens of our allies, infringing on their fourth amendment right against search and seizure. Snowden immediately left for Hong Kong after he leaked the documents and spent 40 days in a Russian terminal before Russia agreed to let him stay as a political refugee.

Snowden, who recently released a new memoir, has expressed interest in returning to the U.S. to face trial but fears he will not receive a fair trial because under the espionage act he will not be able to defend himself and the documents he disclosed in front of a jury.

According to Paige Kreisman, an Army veteran running for Oregon House of Representatives, the differences between the Trump whistleblower and Edward Snowden are that “Manning and others challenged U.S. imperialism, and that is punished bipartisanly in this country.”

“You cannot respect and honor the Trump whistleblowers while not acknowledging and respecting the heroic sacrifice of others,” Kresiman stated. 

Unfortunately, the precedent has been set and the Trump Administration picked up where Obama left off in his war against whistleblowers. The administration has already prosecuted their eighth under the Espionage Act since the beginning of Trumps’ presidency, including Reality Winner, who disclosed documents showing Russia attempted to hack into U.S. electoral systems.

We must protect all whistleblowers, not when it is convenient or politically expedient, but also when it challenges our leaders to behave unethically, so they think twice about committing another heinous act or unethical search in our name, under the guise of “national security.”