Whether Edward Snowden or Pfc. Bradley Manning are Traitors or Patriots for disclosing highly classified information to Wikileaks is either a matter of motives on their part or perspectives on the part of those casting judgment.
To put things into proper perspective our founding fathers are considered the epitome of Patriots in our history books. They believed that they were being wronged by the British Crown for excessive taxes and other grievances and after attempting unsuccessfully to reason with the Crown risked it all by declared their independence. Had the British not been embroiled in a major war in Europe which was sapping it of valuable financial and military resources our brave Patriots might have been defeated and rightfully hung by the British Crown for treason as Traitors. They were after all citizens of Great Britain and subject to its laws. British history books would have made brief reference to them as rebel Traitors instead of heroic Patriots and we might be speaking with British accents and calling the hood of a car a bonnet and driving on the left side of the road.
I feel that both Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning saw what they considered great inequities hidden in classified documents about our government and tried through conventional means to address their grievances to authorities without success. So out of frustration they disclosed the classified documents to Wikileak and consequently to the world in the hopes that the American public would help address their grievances. I feel they did this out of altruistic motives at great risk to themselves. One may judge them as misguided or foolish but the fact that they did it knowing of the risks to themselves is evidence of their sincerity. They did not view themselves as traitors but rather as having been betrayed by their government. I make no judgement as to the validity of their claims or whether their actions justified the perceived inequities but only use them as an illustration of my point.
One of the reasons this happened is that there is no whistleblower law or procedure to address inequities in government as in the private sector (see Whistle Blowing). Thus many inequities, wrongdoings, and much wastefulness continues unabated. People witnessing such inadequacies in our government have the choice of going to the proper authorities who often are the source of the problem, keeping their mouths shut, or taking their case to the public at great risk to their careers and otherwise. In the vast majority of cases they keep their mouths shut. To say these closed mouth people are more patriotic than whistleblowers is to greatly oversimplify the scenarios. There are those who feel so appalled by what they see that they risk it all by exposing the inequities to the public out of frustration. History has shown that such people more often than not actually lose it all. They have no legal protections or effective avenues of redress. In the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning he has been court marshaled and is serving hard time in military prison. As for the fate of Edward Snowden he has found temporary refuge in Russia but his long-term fate still hangs in the air, not much consolation for his actions. It just doesn’t seem right that those who want most to do right get punished or suffer the most.
There is actually much similarity between the actions of our founding fathers and these two modern-day whistleblowers. They all had grievances they felt very strongly about which their governments repeatedly refused to address. Out of frustration they took actions at great risk to themselves in trying to right the wrongs. The winners become heroic Patriots and the looser punished Traitors according to the history books. On rare occasions history reverses itself but almost never are the later to be heroes tangibly rewarded or compensated for their suffering.
The government and media have made Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning a whistleblowing and betrayal of classified information issue but in truth this should be more about our government betraying our trust and the revelation of that betrayal. This conversation should really be about a government that does not have adequate checks and balances within its many offices and departments to keep it honest, efficient, effective, and transparent for the overall benefit of its citizens.
Sadly, as long as we refuse to verify and correct reported inequities in our government they will continue to fester and grow and the government will become less and less effective when it could have become much better. So cover ups, inefficiencies, and wastefulness will continue unabated and the government will continue to be less transparent and representative of the people for which it governs. Instead of the president discouraging whistleblowers he should be examining the reasons behind such actions and correcting them if found true. After all no Patriot believes that our government is running as efficiently and effectively as it could or should. That is left to the fools who are the real traitors.
Related Article: Whistle Blowing