This is what Glenn Greenwald, columnist and blogger for the Guardian, tweeted yesterday:
Instead of criticizing Snowden for trying to stay out of US prisons, we should ask why whistleblowers in the US feel compelled to flee— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 10, 2013
This is indeed a just question and probably an answer as well to Edward Snowden’s immediate escape to Hong Kong.
Previous whistleblowers in the history of the United States haven’t fared that well after disclosing their identities or leaking information. People expect something similar to happen to Snowden, ex-CIA agent who provided the top secret documents to news organizations like the Guardian and the Washington Post regarding the existence of a data-mining program codenamed PRISM.
The leaks have exposed some really important facts and realities about U.S. secret surveillance which may turn out to be acts of espionage by the American government. And the U.S. Justice Department on Monday said that was in the initial stages of a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of secret information following leaks that revealed the extent of U.S. surveillance.
And in order to escape criminal prosecution, soon after the secret information was made public Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and shortly after that he went ‘missing’ and later on it was reported that he went into hiding.
And Snowden is expected to remain that way for the time being. And it’s exactly what U.S. whistleblowers eventually do (or want to do), if we keep earlier examples into consideration.
Daniel Ellsberg was a U.S. military analyst who passed on top secret information, Pentagon Papers, regarding the Vietnam War to The New York Times. The leaks caused a lot of ‘political embarrassment’ for the then U.S. government’s policies which resulted in Ellsberg’s “mistrial” sentencing him for 105 years in prison. He was released afterwards but was arrested on different occasions in the following years for his political activism.
W. Mark Felt
Probably one of the greatest whistleblowers ever, W. Mark Felt aka “Deep Throat” was an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The information he passed on to investigative journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein brought down the government of President Richard Nixon. Felt in 1981 was convicted in a criminal trial in 1981. Though he was released eventually, Felt went into hiding in his own country for almost 30 years and in 2005 finally revealed that he was the source who leaked information from the FBI. He died three years later.
Joe Darby was a U.S. Army Reservist who leaked photos and proof of U.S. military abuse at Abu Gharaib Prison during the Iraq war in 2004. He gave that information to Seymour Hersh, a journalist and the CBS News TV show, 60 Minutes II.
Though Darby’s leak helped in the conviction of the military personnel involved in the abuse of Iraqi prisoner, the whistleblower’s family was moved to a new town and he expressed his ‘fears’ in a CBS interview saying, “I worry about the one guy who wants to get even with me.”
What Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq, did was probably the most extensive leak in the U.S. history. He used his security clearance to release THREE QURTERS of a million secret documents to a website called Wikileaks. He was arrested in 2010 and charged with 22 offenses and his last trial was held on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if found guilty. While many consider him as a hero who revealed important information that probably helped dethrone dictators like Hosni Mobarak in Egypt and Gaddafi in Libya, some call him ‘an embittered traitor.’
Julian Assange is an Australian editor, publisher and activist and founder of Wikileaks, the controversial website which publicly disclosed the top secret information provided by Bradley Manning. Assange has been under house arrest in Ecuador’s embassy in London since he faces a possible death penalty on separate charges for publishing sensitive U.S. military and political data. Though he wasn’t a true U.S. whistleblower, he was majorly involved with Manning and was partly responsible for all that followed after the publication of the leaks.
What we see is that almost all the whistleblowers who dared to go against U.S. government policies were never important after the leak of information. Their careers were more or less finished off and their trials and convictions mostly eclipsed the work they had done. Not much is left for them in their own country after the disclosures and somehow Glenn Greenwald’s question is answered, if not fully, to some extent, but yes, it is answered.
And now the world is waiting to see what happens to Edward Snowden who has unveiled such sensitive information that might put Obama’s democratic government in danger, or at least, in a fix.