Tonawanda News — I find less sympathy for Snowden, though his name invokes a literary reference that so neatly encapsulates our present quandary the first time I heard it I thought it was made up. (In Joseph Heller’s razor-sharp military satire “Catch-22” a soldier named Snowden dies, prompting the book’s protagonist to thwart his commanders’ orders and save his own hide.)
I’ll stop short of the most extreme elements in the argument over national security and state secrets. I don’t think Manning or Snowden (the non-fictional one, at least) are heroes. They aren’t martyrs. They knew what they were doing was illegal if not immoral and that it would put more American lives at risk.
There’s a reason things like videos of bombing raids are generally kept classified for many years — so it doesn’t hand a recruiting tool to our enemies.
In Manning’s case, the question is whether the U.S. military and diplomatic corps has been as forthcoming as it should be in describing why and how we wage war. One wonders if a Pfc. Manning had come along prior to the Iraqi invasion and released information contradicting the drum beat to war whether we would have averted a tragic and costly blunder.
In Snowden’s case, it isn’t about the information that’s been collected but whether it ever should have been collected in the first place given Americans never knew the full details on our government’s domestic spying programs.
My essential take is this: Manning’s WikiLeaks case served the greater good in opening Americans’ eyes to how we wage war. Make no mistake: His actions had real-world consequences that endangered men and women serving in various capacities and publication of those documents probably resulted in setbacks fighting terrorists. As far as the overall impact I think the former outweighs the latter.