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Democracy needs whistle-blowers


James Sheffield, Knoxville

As I write this, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is on trial in Fort Meade, Md., facing a slew of charges pertaining to his role in a massive leak of classified government documents. More than 8,000 miles away, former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden faces the possibility of extradition to the United States from Hong Kong, where he sought refuge earlier this month after pulling off one of the most significant leaks of government secrets in U.S. history.

Thanks to Snowden’s noble actions, we now know that President Barack Obama’s administration (and that of George W. Bush’s before him) has sanctioned the widespread surveillance of U.S. citizens under a secret NSA program known as PRISM, whereby companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Verizon have been ordered to turn over information regarding their customers to the intelligence community.

People across the political spectrum are outraged, and rightfully so. Conservatives have unintentionally joined forces with those on the far left (yes, it’s true) and many liberals in chastising the Obama administration for what amounts to one of the worst instances of governmental abuse of power — at least on the domestic front — in many years.

Needless to say, none of these things would have been exposed had it not been for those brave souls who risked spending the rest of their lives in prison so that we could know what our government is up to. In light of this, we should praise these individuals as heroes, not vilify them as traitors. Everyone who is alarmed by executive overreach should be paying close attention to what happens to Manning and others like him and should be praying to whatever god they pray to that our government doesn’t succeed in silencing all future whistle-blowers. We need them, for democracy — if that is in fact what we have — cannot function otherwise.

via Letter: Democracy needs whistle-blowers » Knoxville News Sentinel.

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