(Article changed on June 14, 2013 at 19:55)
When whistleblowers - such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden - reveal that Washington has been lying about what U.S. public officials have been doing for years, officialdom along with some pundits have declared it "treason" and demanded blood, both metaphorically and literally.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, for example, has accused Snowden of "treason." Right-wing pundits like Jonah Goldberg have openly asked why Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange has not been assassinated by the CIA.
Apparently, telling the American people the truth can get you killed. This is the message these august leaders are proclaiming and busily realizing in concrete fact.
What these political elites are claiming is that the American people "can't handle the truth." Telling the American people what their leaders have been doing and revealing that the American people have been lied to systematically for years by Obama on down, that is what Snowden and Manning are being pilloried for.
What is the penalty for revealing the truth? Manning was tortured for years and faces a possible death sentence and Snowden confronts a similar fate.
What are the consequences, on the other hand, for lying to the American people and causing grave damage to the nation, its people and the world? These particular consequences are not penalties but rewards: the American presidency, Congressional seats, speaking tours, cushy privileges, and immediate access to fawning media outlets that treat your every pronouncements with high regard.
As Mark Twain put it, "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native criminal class except Congress." To which we would have to add to Twain's comment about Congress: the American Presidency and prominent punditry posts.
Let's ask the central question here: what is it that al-Qaeda did not already know or had to assume to be true about U.S. surveillance that has been revealed by Snowden and Manning?
Rep. Mike Rogers, Chair of the House Intelligence Committee claimed yesterday that "America's enemies" have already altered their behavior due to Snowden's dramatic whistleblowing.
"Rogers said there are "changes we can already see being made by the folks who wish to do us harm, and our allies harm' and that the revelations might also "make it harder to track bad guys trying to harm U.S. citizens in the United States.'"
He provided no details to support this claim.
What anti-state terrorists are so stupid that they didn't already treat their cell phones, landlines, and email as insecure? We know from none other than the CIA that in the hunt for bin Laden that al-Qaeda communicated with bin Laden through courier and not through cell phones, email, or landline phones because they already knew the U.S. was monitoring electronic communications. As the Wall Street Journal reported in 2008, for example, "Bin Laden was known not to use phones after 1998, when the U.S. had launched missile strikes against his bases in Afghanistan and Sudan in August (Operation Infinite Reach) by tracking an associate's satellite phone."
Wikileaks published material allegedly from Bradley Manning in 2010. Snowden, of course, revealed details about NSA's spying last week. How did Bin Laden know back in 1998 what was only released by Manning in 2010 and Snowden in 2013? Did he have a time machine?
How many people, upon thinking about this for more than a few moments, actually believe that al-Qaeda opened up last week's Washington Post and the Guardian and slapped themselves from shock when they found out - for the first time! -- that the U.S. government was tracking their -- and everyone else's electronic communications? Do you imagine that they said to themselves: "What?! Our cell phones are bugged? They're watching us with drones and satellites? They've got a spy network, electronic and human? What?! Verizon can't be trusted? You mean that guy with the glasses in those Verizon commercials, when he says "Can you hear me now?" he means the NSA?!'"
Let's be clear as we examine these issues closely: The lies that authorities have been telling us are not small lies or inadvertently misleading comments. These are Big Lies told by those at our society's very highest levels of authority. These are the people who make public policy, who order soldiers into war and decide whether people will be killed by missiles shot from drones. These particular lies have been used to justify the most important and consequential policies of our times, including the deaths of hundreds of thousands in these wars, the justification for and use of torture, for the evisceration of fundamental civil liberties, and the spending of trillions of dollars to, among other things, commit war crimes.