Will a Wave of Leakers Undercut America’s National Security?

Summary: Will hordes of Americans working for security services become leakers, undercutting the government’s wall of secrecy and endangering national security? Many national security experts worry about this. Before we attempt an answer, let’s examine why people become leakers — and who becomes leakers.

Why become a leaker?

Two of the most prominent recent leakers are of Generation X: Bradley Manning (born 1987) and Edward Snowden (born 1983). They grew up hearing stories about the civil disobedience of the 1960s and 1970s. That turned out well for many of the perps.

  • Angela Davis became a Professor at UC Santa Clara
  • Bill Ayers became Professor of Education at U-IL Chicago.
  • Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Ellsberg became famous
  • Mark Felt (aka Deep Throat) had a successful career in the FBI (eventually busted for violating civil rights)

To many people growing up with these stories, they are heroes. And they (many of them) escaped with few ill consequences. But these Generation X misunderstand this history. These deeds were done byBoomers against the Greatest Generation. In famous trials, such as the Chicago Seven (18 February 1970), juries of the Greatest Generation showed them mercy and understanding.

But the Gen X goes up against hanging juries of the Boomers, who show neither mercy or understanding — but only deference to the government, no matter how outlandish the lies. Bradley Manning was abused in jail for two years before his court martial, and can expect a long sentence. Boomer President Obama has dusted off the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute leakers, who he fiercely prosecutes.

Considering the trend, the increasing efforts to locate and severely punish leakers, the romance associated with this form of civil disobedience will soon wear off. Only the bravest will risk it.

Given the massive crackdowns by our security services on the Occupy Movement, I suspect that mass civil disobedience will remain a needless fear of our governing classes — until some future day when the embers of liberty find suitable tinder.

Update: Daniel Ellsberg has a similar view of now vs then: “Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S.“, op-ed in the Washington Post, 7 July 2013

Who leaks?

Outcast, oddities. Hence the fascination with the personal lives of Manning and Snowden. And the incessant mockery of them by courtiers like Michael Cohen and Steven Metz. Why don’t dozens, hundreds, or thousands of nice stable organization men throw away their families and careers to illegally release vital information to an uncaring American public?

It a mystery of our time, pondered by fools.

Meanwhile government lackies focus our attention on the personal eccentricities of the brave but often somewhat strange people who sacrifice themselves to bring us knowledge.

This piece is cross-posted from Fabius Maximus with permission. 

2 Responses to "Will a Wave of Leakers Undercut America’s National Security?"

  1. Rod Armstrong   July 16, 2013 at 3:31 am

    The Manning leaks were confined to materials classified no higher than "Secret." So all that was revealed was a bunch of diplomatic chit-chat. (The media winnowed out military stuff that might have had some utility to the bad guys.) Many were surprised that the American diplomats could write so well. Since anything really sneaky carries higher classifications and is subject to distribution restrictions, the readers were left with the impression of a rather sophisticated conduct of a foreign policy that is reasonably idealistic.

    As for Snowdon's revelations, the NSA/contractor empire-building has little to do with the realities of American security. Our security against terrorism is dependent on good police work. The quality of the police work is dependent on live people with the intelligence to make often obscure connections. In the case of the Boston bombers, when the warning came in from the Russians, some money spent on educating people in the Boston Office of the FBI about Chechnya would have trumped millions spent by NSA on "data mining."

  2. Bob Patterson   July 16, 2013 at 11:43 am

    It may be that these leaks actually enhance security. If the "bad guys" think everything they do will get intercepted and monitored, their paranoria may slow them down or stop them.