Opinion: Accountability in Modern America: When to Blow the Whistle



Michael Long

Michael Long

Contact him at [email protected]

Two of the biggest news stories of 2013 addressed an issue that should be on the minds of all Americans. The trial of Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, and the U.S. attempt to extradite Edward Snowden both centered on whistleblowing, the practice of releasing information to make a case for uncovering misconduct or illegal behavior. The public should have the right to know what is going on in our government, but whistleblowing on a national scale does raise some concerns about how our government operates and what information is appropriate to be released, especially if it centers on our national security.

Pvt. Chelsea Manning came into the spotlight after she gave a slew of classified information now called the “Afghan War Diaries” to the infamous whistleblower website WikiLeaks which included a video documenting a 2007 air raid on Baghdad in which civilians were attacked.

By doing this, the public was given a peek of information about its government and what decisions are being made behind closed doors. The government keeps information like this classified for a reason, but on the other hand, the government needs to be transparent. We can’t live in a society that goes solely by word of mouth assurances from our elected officials. As citizens, we should actively pursue dialogue with them and make sure that they are not abusing their positions.

That’s what former NSA contractor Edward Snowden attempted, only he took it upon himself. He found evidence that the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency had been compiling the phone records of thousands of civilians. Now, this should come as a shock to the common man; the government intruding on the everyday lives of civilians, people like you and me. The line of “acceptable” surveillance of our citizens has become blurred in this information age, and although the NSA claimed innocence for this offense, they’re repeat offenders. There are cases of alleged wire-tapping from 2005 and reports of keeping civilian phone records from as early as 2007.

Are we supposed to stand by and let the NSA become “Big Brother?” No, but there are more constructive ways to go about resolving these issues, whether by enacting new legislation, voting in new people to take charge of these offices or establishing more guidelines to help keep their power in check.

Now that this information is out in the public eye, action needs to be taken and people held accountable. Manning apologized for her actions after her conviction, saying in a letter to President Obama, “I understand that my actions violated the law. I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.” She will now head to prison for her actions, showing that whistleblowing is not always a bad thing but it comes at a cost.