Even the Washington Post gets it. In its article on the criminal charges brought against Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning, the sub-headline to the article reads:
U.S. TAKING TOUGH LINE ON LEAKS
The opening paragraph states that the military charging Bradley Manning
is likely to further deter would-be whistleblowers.
I don't care if it's Bush or Obama at the helm. The biggest crimes of our generation--torture, warrantless wiretapping, and extraordinary rendition--would not have come to light but for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. For the hand-wringing "but we can't willy-nilly reveal classified information" crowd, do you think Abu Ghraib wasn't classified?
We are told (though there has been not a shred of evidence other than the government saying this, and even the charges do not reflect this number) that Manning gave some 250,000 classified State Department cables to Wikileaks.org. All we really KNOW is that the website published a horrific video of an American helicopter massacring unarmed Iraqi civilians, including children, and the shooters cheering on each other as if it were a video game.
And the former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake? The party line is that he "leaked" classified material to a newspaper. If you read the indictment, he has really been indicted under the Espionage Act, a 93-year-old law meant to catch spies, for allegedly "retaining" classified information. What the government is really mad about is that an article appeared in the Baltimore Sun describing how and why the NSA opted for an billion-dollar, failed invasive surveillance program called "Trailblazer" over one that could more adequately collect intelligence information without violating people's privacy.
Short of killing someone (think Karen Silkwood, and more recently, of the "worldwide manhunt" for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange launched by the Pentagon), this is the worst, and increasingly popular, form of retaliation that can be taken against a whistleblower: criminal prosecution for revealing the truth--which in both the Manning and Drake cases did no harm to national security, but instead committed the far worse "crime" of embarrassing the government. In fact, both these men were trying to expose conduct they thought, and that was, illegal.
The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.