If anyone still believes in Obama’s campaign promises and executive order for a more transparent government, they should read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent column on the case of Bradley Manning and Wikileaks. I am accumulating background, but certainly not with Greenwald’s diligence. In fact, the Obama administration is proving particularly vicious in going after leakers.
It’s not just another broken campaign promise; this promise has been terminated with extreme prejudice. I quote from Greenwald’s column, including an excerpt from a chatlog between Manning, who purportedly “leak[ed] to WikiLeaks the now famous Apache Helicopter attack video, a yet-to-be-published video of a civilian-killing air attack in Afghanistan, and ‘hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records.'” and Adrian Lamo, who seems to have betrayed him to the authorities, here:
And he explained why the thought of selling this classified information he was leaking to a foreign power never entered his mind:
Manning: i mean what if i were someone more malicious- i could’ve sold to russia or china, and made bank?
Lamo: why didn’t you?
Manning: because it’s public data
Lamo: i mean, the cables
Manning: it belongs in the public domain -information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open… it should be a public good.
That’s a whistleblower in the purest form: discovering government secrets of criminal and corrupt acts and then publicizing them to the world not for profit, not to give other nations an edge, but to trigger “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” That’s the person that Adrian Lamo informed on and risked sending to prison for an extremely long time.
Making Lamo’s conduct even worse is that it appears he reported Manning for no reason other than a desire for some trivial media attention. Jacob Appelbaum, a well-known hacker of the Tor Project who has known Lamo for years, said that Lamo’s “only concern” has always been “getting publicity for Adrian.” Indeed, Lamo’s modus operandi as a hacker was primitive hacking aimed at high-profile companies that he’d then use Poulsen to publicize. As Appelbaum put it: “if this situation really fell into Adrian’s lap, his first and only thought would have been: how can I turn this to my advantage? He basically destroyed a 22-year-old’s life in order to get his name mentioned on the Wired.com blog.”
The video which lies at the beginning of this saga is on YouTube, here:
And the text of Obama’s executive order on transparency:
Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies
SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.
Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.
Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperateamong themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.
I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.