The Partisanship of Whistleblowers: The Perceived Difference Between Truth Tellers

In the aftermath of “Ukraine-gate”, the latest snafus perpetrated by President Donald Trump and his confederacy of dunces, media figures have been outwardly defensive and downright reverential when regarding the whistleblower who started it all.

Said whistleblower is now being compared to the likes of Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post in 1971 which exposed decades of government lies about the war in Vietnam and myriad war crimes committed by the United States during the era. Ellsberg’s whistleblowing in large part brought down the Nixon administration. Such a comparison would set today’s unidentified whistleblower at the height of exaltation in the eyes of legacy journalists and House Democrats.

Other comparisons with our mystery whistleblower include Mark Felt — better known as “Deep Throat” — of the Watergate saga, as well as William Binney and Tomas Drake who blew the whistle on the NSA’s failure to adequately prevent the 9/11 attacks. Each of these individuals provided the American public and politic with vital information, yet the media is not always so keen on defending whistleblowers. 

In 2010, former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of classified documents through WikiLeaks, the go-to publisher serving whistleblowers. Included in these was the now widely circulated “Collateral Murder” video, which depicts American helicopter pilots opening fire on civilians including two Reuters journalists, then circling back to fire on medical first responders. Manning was prosecuted under the WWI Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison to a largely indifferent media response. 

Similarly, in 2013, NSA private contractor Edward Snowden drew ire from media and political figures after he blew the whistle on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping programs, ultimately releasing thousands of documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald to publish in The Guardian. Snowden now lives in exile at an undisclosed location in Russia, and there remains to this day an open argument that he is a traitor to the United States rather than a patriot. 

So, what separates Manning and Snowden from this new mystery whistleblower in the Trump-Ukraine affair in the eyes of the media? And, no. It isn’t because the unnamed patriot went through “proper channels” this time. First, this person is being compared favorably to Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked his documents to The Washington Post, and has more in common with Snowden than our dear friend from the CIA. Second, Snowden tried to contact no less than 10 officials about the unconstitutional behavior at the NSA before going to the press. It turns out the Agency heads who authorized illegal spying and warrantless wiretapping don’t tend to act on whistleblower reports. 

The thing that separates a Snowden from this new whistleblower comes down to one word: consensus. The whistleblower at play here has revealed politically damning information politically damaging to Donald Trump based on his personal behavior. Thus it is fair game for the Democrats to drum up a big stink. The reason Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were universally sold down river was that the criminal behavior they exposed was agreed to by all sides of the American political establishment. Warrantless wiretapping started under George W. Bush, then was carried on unaltered by liberal sensation Barack Obama. The same can be said of the criminal war in Iraq. The crimes that Snowden and Manning leaked exposed both political parties. Spying on Americans and killing civilians on oil-drenched battlefields are the kinds of things that fall under that most coveted of terms: bipartisan. 

Luckily, today our mystery whistler is receiving protection from their government and praise in the press for disclosing information that should be public. I hope, someday, that privilege is expanded to all the brave souls who risk their careers and liberties to serve the public good instead of just those whose disclosures are politically advantageous. 

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