This week on the Listening Post, we feature a special edition of the show.
On August 21, Bradley Manning, the US soldier convicted of leaking a trove of secret government documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison having been convicted in July of 20 charges against him, including espionage.
This is one of the latest developments in the ongoing story of secrecy and surveillance in Barack Obama’s America.
When we first took an extended look at the White House’s war on whistleblowers a year ago, little did we know that there was another figure waiting in the wings, about to make political history.
Edward Snowden took the stage in June 2013, revealing the sweeping extent of the NSA's surveillance programme. He has gone down as one of US' most important whistleblowers of all time, becoming the seventh person to be charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act, more than double the number of prosecutions of all previous presidential administrations combined.
For the most part, coverage of this story by the US mainstream media has been interesting, to say the least.
At the beginning of Manning’s trial, many mainstream organisations did not even bother turning up. And across the airwaves, both Manning and Snowden had their characters assassinated, their pasts smeared and their motives pathologised.
Then the journalist who broke the Edward Snowden story, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, became the subject of a hostile media reception himself, something that the other messenger, Julian Assange, can relate to.
And in an ironic twist, the US media establishment has not been immune to government surveillance itself, as news outlets like The Associated Press and Fox News, discovered the government was eavesdropping on some of their own reporting on national security issues.
Facing mounting pressure, President Obama acknowledged that his government needs to be more transparent about surveillance. He has pledged to carry out a review of the Patriot Act to see what changes need to be made to protect privacy and civil liberties. This is a story journalists and citizens in the US and around the world will be watching closely.
Taking us through the debate are Michael Ratner, the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Ed Pilkington, a chief reporter for the American edition of The Guardian newspaper; Chase Madar, the author of The Passion Of Bradley Manning; Michael German, a former FBI agent and member of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Jeffrey D Gordon, former Defense department spokesman.
In the second half of the show we speak to Matthew Miller, a defender of the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers and a former director of Public Affairs at the Department of Justice. He has also served as Attorney General Eric Holder’s spokesman during Obama’s first two years in office.
Early last year, he wrote a piece in The Daily Beast, defending the administration’s approach to those who leak classified information. “Some things are secret for a reason,” he argued, “and when government employees violate the law, to disclose information that undermines our national security, there must be consequences.”
Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.
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