Dysfunction of the Washington D.C. Brain
NATIONAL security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, resign on Monday night. He was caught lying about whether he discussed sanctions in a December telephone call with a Russian diplomat.
We learned about Flynn’s lie because of a whistleblower(s). Someone inside the U.S. government committed a criminal act. They leaked the contents of Flynn’s “intercepted communications”, classified SIGINT information, “captured by routine U.S. eavesdropping targeting the Russian diplomats.” This is a crime.
Who will demand that the leaker(s) step forward to “face the music”, criminal prosecution? It will not be the Democrats. They will claim that officials leaking this information acted justifiably, despite the fact they violated the law. Their version will probably be supported by the network news, the mainstream media and Hollywood.
It will be the Republicans. Those that are promising investigations to find the leakers. Their noise will be amplified by Fox News and right-wing radio hosts, like Laura Ingraham, who are demanding to know why the leakers weren’t being hunted.
The truth is that the leaks revealed that a high government official, Gen. Flynn, blatantly lied to the public about his conversations with a Russian diplomat. The public has the right to know this.
Is it justified? The fact that the whistleblowing is illegal should not be used a reason to conceal information from the public. Many laws prohibit just acts. The revealing of this information is a just act. The only way to educate the public of powerful officials wrongful or deceitful actions is through information.
Lying to the public is a common practice in Washington. In D.C. lying is not viewed as a sin but it’s seen more as a job requirement. So, we should celebrate an illegal leak such as this. Whistleblowers should be protected so that we will be informed about “the work” of those who wield the greatest power.
Trump-supporting Republicans are insisting that the only thing that matters is rooting out the criminal leakers. Trump himself has echoed the Obama-era Democrats. He claims that “the real story” isn’t the lies told by his national security adviser but rather the fact that someone leaked information exposing them.
In the past month, with Trump as president, leaks have achieved some good. Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power because they want to hide evidence of their own wrongdoing. The ability to lie to the public with impunity and without detection is not something new.
Where have you been for the past eight years when President Obama was very vindictive and aggressive on prosecuting whistleblowers. As Leonard Downie, the Washington Post claimed that, “The [Obama] administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration.”
Those that choose whistleblowing put themselves at great risk. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Tom Drake, were all Obama-era leakers. They were put in jail or forced to live in exile for leaking sensitive, classified information.
A similar case involving a government official happened during the Obama administration. President Obama’s top national security official, James Clapper, lied to the public and to Congress about a domestic surveillance program that courts ruled was illegal. Lying to Congress is a felony, but Clapper kept his job until the very last day of the Obama presidency.
The motive here, with General Flynn, is probably vindictive rather than noble but any leak that results in the exposure of high-level wrongdoing should be praised and not scorned or punished. It appears that this action is the intelligence community’s “shot across the bow” of the Trumps Presidency.
Some Washington politicians understand the powers and politics of the “deep state” more than they understand their own jobs. This was clearly demonstrated when Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer warned Trump that he was being “really dumb” to criticize the intelligence community because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” Ah, yes JFK lost that battle.
Those in power regard leaks as a crime, while those out of power regard them as righteous. Democrats have suddenly re-discovered the virtues of illegal leaking, while Trump’s people believe them to be criminal.
People often take opposite views based exclusively on whether it helps or hurts their party or their leaders. Thus, the very same Democrats who three months ago viewed illegal leaking as a sin today view it as an act of merit. Morals and principles should not change based upon which political party controls the White House.
- Much of this is taken from Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept