Not the David Brooks of the NY Times, but the fearless* David Brooks of Mexico's La Jornada. Here is a translation of some of what he has to say in his column American Curios about the treatment Snowden and some people we don't hear about often in the US press -- people who have also sought to bring attention to the abuses of the NSA. President Obama said there were other ways Snowden could have brought attention to problems he saw. I'm not so sure. The translation is mine.
The Dissidents by David Brooks, August 5, 2013
Almost everyone spoke about how they believed the official rhetoric of their country, in the mission of the United States as the world guardian of democracy, as a beacon of the hope for liberation, as an example for humanity.
Almost all remember that because of this, they added to the ranks of intelligence agencies, the armed forces, the Department of State, and the FBI. And they remember when, with this noble dedication,they denounced and revealed what looked like abuse, corruption or the violation of those ideals so often repeated by the representatives and leaders of the country. And they were expelled from their worlds and some were condemned as traitors.
Seven of them have been or are accused by the government of Barack Obama under the Law of Espionage and other laws for divulging "official secrets through the the media, more than twice the number of cases under all previous presidents combined. The government asserts that all these cases are strictly legal matters, not political, and reject the idea that the accused might be 'denouncers' or 'dissidents'. The government maintains that they are simple criminals who violated not only laws, but "public confidance". In effect, they are traitors.
Two of them are in headlines around the world: the soldier Bradley Manning, whose court martial is being held to determine criminal conviction for various charges, including five under the Law of Espionage. The other, Edward Snowden, who was just given political asylum in Russia, has so far managed to escape US authorities and charges under the same law.
Among the other five whistle blowers is Thomas Drake, a high ranking analyst with the NSA who expressed concerns to his superiors about the violations of the privacy of Americans on the part of the agency and later talked to a reporter about abuses and bad administrative practices in the NSA. In spite of the fact that the criminal case against him, under the Law of Espionage, was dismissed, he has been blacklisted....The former member of the Air Force and CIA analyst is now working in an Apple store.
John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent, was condemned to two and a half years in jail because he spoke to journalists, including one from the New York Times, giving them the names of two former colleagues who had employed torture tactics in interrogations. Stephen Jin-Woo, a State Department contractor, faced charges of leaking information to the journalist James Rosen, of Fox News (who, it was later revealed, was spied on by the FBI). Shamai Leibowitz, former FBI translater, leaked transcripts of telephone [interventions] of the Israeli Embassy in Washington in efforts to influence American public opinion. Jeffrey Sterling, former CIA agent was declared not guilty of leaking information about US plans to sabotage a nuclear plant in Iran to James Risen of the New York Times. Risen has refused to identify his source, and Obama's government has succeeded in getting a court to order him to do it or face prison.
Although authorities insist that they are only applying the law, critics suspect that it is really an effort to suppress the freedoms of expression and the press, and especially to suppress dissidence within official ranks.
Many remember that this Law of Espionage was employed initially as a political weapon against dissidents when it was passed in 1917, when the US entered World War I. It was used against socialists, anarchists, and pacifists that opposed the war, including among others Eugene Debs (who spent five years in jail).....and it was used to deport Emma Goldman and hundreds of foreigners who criticized war policy.
Perhaps for some in government, the biggest worry is if expressions such as the following multiply, resulting in "secrets" revealed:
"I have served in the military industrial complex for ten years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor. When I entered, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, naive and I was deceived. It has been shown that the narrative given by the State, which the mainstream media echoes, is false and criminal. We have become that which we thought we were fighting. Recent revelations by valiant journaalists about war crimes, including the dirty counterinsurgency wars, terrorism by drones, the suspension of due process, torture, massive surveillance... have shed light on the true nature of the US government... Some will say I am being irresponsible, impractical and irresponsible. Others will say I'm crazy. I have come to believe that the true craziness is not to do anything. While we are sitting in comfort, blind before the injustices of the world, nothing will change.... I was only a soldier, and now I am a low level administrator. However, I've always believed that if every soldier through down his rifle, war would end. Consequently, I throw down mine." This is the letter of resignation of Brandon Toy, administrator of a combat artillery vehicles project for a division of General Dynamics, one of the principle Pentagon contractors.
'Those who can give up an essential freedom for a bit of temporary security deserve neither security or freedom.' -- Benjamin Franklin
What I find compelling about this column is that it really makes me think about what would be a real threat to US security; what freedom of speech and the press really should entitle us to. I was a child in the 1950s and I remember my parents being truly frightened by McCarthyism. I am very glad they taught me that freedoms were most important for those who weren't in the complacent (or not complacent) mainstream.
*I call David Brooks fearless because he writes columns about what he perceives as problems in the US while working in the US.