Op Ed: Manning and Snowden Play Russian Roulette


manningsnowdenBy Hank Plante
Special to Calbuzz

The only person more upset than Army Pfc. Bradley* Manning this week, other than Manning himself, is probably fellow leaker Edward Snowden.

Manning’s 35-year-sentence and dishonorable discharge is a clear signal to Snowden that he faces a similar fate if he returns home from Russia.

That’s the same Russia where Snowden has fled to maintain his “freedom,” after a stop along the way in that other bastion of human rights — China, in the guise of Hong Kong.

How ironic that Snowden’s mouthpiece, “journalist” Glenn Greenwald, can’t visit his famous source in homophobic Russia without some trepidation.  After all, gay men like Greenwald and Bradley Manning, who is also openly gay, are hardly welcome in Russia these days.

glenn_greenwaldI call Greenwald a “journalist” in quotes because I know of no other legitimate reporter who would react the way Greenwald did this week to his partner being questioned by authorities in Great Britain.

Greenwald told Brazil’s Globo TV, “I am going to publish many more documents now.  I am going to publish a lot about England, too. I have a lot of documents about the espionage system in England. Now my focus is going to be that as well.”

After my 40 years as a working journalist, forgive me if I didn’t know that was a reporter’s role:  to avenge spouses whom we perceive were mistreated.  (My own partner will be thrilled at my new purpose in life.)

But it’s typical of the blurred lines that we’ve seen in these cases, as Snowden and Manning continue to look less like whistleblowers and more like what Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid called Snowden in the Reno Gazette-Journal this week:  “a traitor.”

Did Snowden do America any good by leaking state secrets and stating the obvious:  that the National Security Agency is engaged in spying?  What exactly do people think the N.S.A. does, anyway?  Do people think those satellite dishes on its roof are just there to collect rainwater?

But that’s not the point.  As The New Yorker’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote this week, “This is all because a thirty-year-old self-appointed arbiter of propriety decided to break the law and disclose what he had sworn to protect. That judgment—in my view—was not Snowden’s to make.”

osamaThe fact is the world has changed since 9/11. There are extremists who are trying to kill us. That’s why reluctant supporters of the government’s surveillance program have come to the same conclusion as liberal Bill Maher, who said on his HBO show in June, “We live in a world of nuclear weapons.  And there are religious fanatics who would love to get one and set it off here.”

Snowden’s leaks have already hurt America in that battle. ABC News reported in late June, “The intelligence community is already seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based on what they’re reading about our surveillance programs in the media.”

And yes, our enemies do pay attention to what’s leaked.

At Bradley Manning’s espionage trial it was revealed that documents he sent to WikiLeaks were found in Osama bin Laden’s hideout when he was killed.

Yet there are still efforts to portray Snowden and Manning as heroes. This past June, San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade leaders tried to honor Manning as a parade Grand Marshal, until backlash against the move stopped it.

Many wondered why the Pride Board didn’t choose to give the “Grand Marshal” honor to more obvious heroes, like the plaintiffs and lawyers who had just won the landmark Prop. 8 gay marriage case, but they didn’t.

As for Edward Snowden, he seems to be losing the public relations battle here at home, with a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll finding more than half of Americans believing he should face criminal charges.

HankPlanteAnd his “journalist” spokesman has definitely lost the battle in Russia, where polls show 74% of the citizens think homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

So much for personal freedom.

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning reporter who spent three decades covering politics for the CBS TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He lives in Palm Springs where he masquerades as Calbuzz Bureau Chief.

*This piece was written and posted before Pfc. Manning released this statement: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.” For the full story see Truthout.

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There are 13 comments for this post

  1. avatar lvpokerpro says:

    I want to vomit after reading this trash article. Time and time again we see/hear the media and the author of this article call these people traitors, but the real traitors are the people in Washington. They are traitors to the constitution. I don’t see you writing an article on James Clapper, who lied under oath to congress. And calling out Greenwald for being gay? You are a pathetic excuse for a “journalist”, but I’m sure after reading this article you have a job lined up at the White House coming your way.

    • avatar RobertJMolnar says:

      umm…Hank Plante is gay. And a real journalist. Greenwald is trying to profit from illegally obtained classified information. The fact that Greenwald used his boyfriend as a mule to transport this illegally obtained classified information makes Greenwald a total coward. Manning broke the law, found guilty, sent to jail. Snowden broke the law, fled to two countries that are our clear geo-political adversaries, and committed treason in the process.

      For anybody that is in the intel community, whether themselves or family or friends, this whole saga is a disgusting display of ego and self interest. Greenwald wants to make a name for himself and make money off of all of this (book deals and exclusive interviews for 7 figures?), and Snowden and Manning and even boyfriend Miranda are just pawns of Greenwalds.

      Rumor has it that the sealed indictment is ready for Greenwald, btw.

      Have a nice day.

  2. avatar Eric Sommer says:

    Hi there, This column is a slander and a lie. I use these words with care. Anyone paying attention knows that Snowden did *not* flee to Russia; he was simply passing through the airport when the U.S. cancelation of his visa, and subsequent intimidation of most of the possible asylum granting countries succumbed to U.S. gov pressure, not to mention the take down of the president of Bolivias’ plane on the ‘possibility’ that Snowden might be on board. He is in Russia because, as Putin himself pointed out, the U.S. put him there. Snowden has never defended the human rights records of Russia or China; he is simply trying to stay free and alive, just like you and me.

    P.S. The deceit in this column is seemingly endless; the NSA is *not* just an anti-spying, anti-terrorist organization. It has stolen untold millions of text messages from China Mobile, hacked into Chinas’ main university and research IT backbone, gathered billions of U.S. citizens online communications, et al.

  3. avatar Jacob says:

    The central point of this hysterical article tries is that the omnipresent terrorist threat means we should be basically unconcerned about our civil rights. Here are some figures:

    Deaths from all terrorist attacks in the U.S., 1970-present: ~3500
    Deaths of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan: ~6700
    Annual motor vehicle deaths, U.S.: ~32000 (2011 total)

    Anybody who claims that terrorism is worth giving up our privacy for — and moreso, that we don’t even deserve to know how it’s happening — is either deluding themselves or trying to delude you.

    • avatar RobertJMolnar says:

      yours is a trite argument. I can assure you, at a 100% confidence level, that the evil government is not watching you play xbox in your moms basement.

    • avatar willibro says:

      And I can assure you, at a 100% confidence, that a police-state apologist like RoberJMolnar wouldn’t tell if you the government *were* surveilling you. He (and the author of this idiotic editorial) would consider it a “disgusting display of ego and self-interest” (as opposed to pretending that this whole matter is trivial, which is in the NSA’s professional interest).

  4. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    These days, if whistleblowers and journalists don’t tell us what governments are doing in “our” name, we don’t have many other ways to find out. The governments sure aren’t going to tell us. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal–that bastion of liberal journalism–published an article indicating that the NSA has access to some 75% of American email traffic. The New York Times says the FISA court admonished the NSA for doing this–two years ago! And told them to stop. As nearly as I can tell, they haven’t.

    Yes, both Manning and Snowden broke laws. No, I don’t find Greenwald’s threats in the best tradition of journalism. But I also don’t like being lied to by “my” government. I don’t like it breaking the law and getting away with it. I happen to like the Fourth Amendment. And the First.

    In short, any pretense we had in this country to the rule of law has long since gone out the window. While Russia and China are certainly worse, the latest revelations make it clear that they’re not a lot worse. And, with Southern states now making it illegal again to vote while black or make medical decisions while female, we don’t have a lot to brag about on the human-rights front. Though Abu Graib and Guantanamo sort of exposed us there some years back anyway.

    I’m glad Mr. Plante still lives under the illusion that whistleblowers are protected, that “our” government obeys the laws it passes, and the US is some sort of beacon to the world on human rights. Unfortunately, I don’t happen to share that rosy view. And I thank the people who have exposed the truth about all this. Because only by knowing the truth do we have any hope of correcting the excesses and illegal behavior of “our” government.

  5. avatar cbarney says:

    i don’t know why calbuzz decided to poke this hornets’ nest with such a clearly provocative article, which adds little to the discussion over the propriety of what chelsea manning and edward snowden did. lots of opinion but kind of short on facts. the indictment of snowden is pathetic: a faceless “community” is seeing “implications” that terrorist groups are “attempting to change” their “communications behaviors” based on what snowden revealed. i bet that has the nsa quaking in its boots. as for manning, bin laden himself read the material that was released to the whole world. doesn’t seem to have done him much good, though.

    however flawed their personalities, snowden, manning, and greenwald have done us all a favor; and despite the casual accusations copied out by mr. plante, many of us are grateful, as the response to this article clearly indicates: 5-2 against, counting this one and excluding mr. molnar’s gnomic contribution.

  6. avatar JohnF says:

    Hello Hank,

    Not fond of this post, You are making the claim that because Glenn wants to defend his partner, he is not acting as a journalist. Glenn for reasons not completely clear to me, but ones that a surmise (openly gay and even worse opinionated on the left side of conventional wisdom) makes him unpopular. But wait, here is a mainstream middle of the road journalist making a far worse statement, on similar but slightly different subject, Julian Assange. The quote from Salon’s web site,

    Time’s Michael Grunwald, however, with a lack of both professionalism and humanity (and seeming self-awareness) sent out a nasty Tweet Saturday night, essentially calling for Assange’s extrajudicial murder. “I can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange,”

    I think maybe Rodney Kings statement of “Why cannot we all get along.” applies here. Hated of poor old Glenn and his partner is not a pretty sight, Even if Glenn is argumentative and a bit nasty.

  7. avatar GeoHagop says:


    Ah, c’mon. What are you, carrying water for the fascist police state now? That’s pathetic. It’s not funny, it’s poorly informed and it’s just plain irritating. I hope CalBuzz can drum up some better talent.

  8. avatar zauche says:

    David Carr in the NY Times addressed this journalist v. journalist issue today. The conclusion:

    “’There has been a tendency for people used to a more decorous world to bristle at the characters who have acquired prominence in this new world.’”

    “The reflex is understandable, but by dwelling on who precisely deserves to be called a journalist and legally protected as such, critics within the press are giving the current administration a justification for their focus on the ethics of disclosure rather than the morality of government behavior.”

    “’I think the people in our business who are suspicious of Glenn Greenwald and critical of David Miranda are not really thinking this through,” said Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of The Guardian. “The governments are conflating journalism with terrorism and using national security to engage in mass surveillance. The implications just in terms of how journalism is practiced are enormous.’”


    • avatar Manus says:

      The Greenwalds, the Mirandas, and the Carr’s could care less that we are a Country at war. “Journalism” does not exist in a vacuum, and irresponsible revealing of secrets methods of obtaining information that affect our National Security, should be construed as criminal. The cute little game these “journalists” are playing is wearing very thin….

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