Friday, July 26, 2013

Observations from the Coffee Shop 7.26

Peter Muhly for AFP
Maybe you should call this 'Observations: The Prisoner Edition.' It may seem like a strange topic but I've just gotten sick of hearing about a pair of great Americans, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden.  I don't want to take the time to get into their backgrounds because they both have huge Wikipedia  articles for you to read if somehow you don't know who either one of them is (see ManningSnowden). I had planned on writing a paragraph about each but when I started I realized I'd just be repeating myself so I'll just throw them together. I also want to say from the start that I'm not commenting on what they did as much as how it's portrayed. I just don't look at either men and see a persecuted great American.

Closing arguments began yesterday in the Manning trial and some commentary on that trial is what finally set me off. A lot is being made of what the 'persecution' of the two men will do to investigative journalism in the internet age. I even saw where someone wrote that Watergate couldn't happen today. I just don't understand how stealing documents and throwing them at journalists or organizations constitutes investigative journalism. I'm not saying what they did was right or wrong I'm just saying they stole the documents, that's a simple fact. I at least give Manning credit for staying and facing the consequences, than again in his case fleeing would have constituted desertion in wartime.  Even though Snowden started a discussion that needed to be started his flights around the globe have made him personally more of a story than the documents he released and thus taint the whole discussion. To me pretending he is safer in the Tsar's Russia than in front of an American jury is just a pathetic way of saying "look at me." If all he wanted was to help his country he could have easily released the documents anonymously and let Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian run with them.

During Watergate Mark Felt, an FBI agent who was the source Deep Throat, passed information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that confirmed information they already had or steered their investigation over the course of two years. That is investigative journalism, not being handed thousands of documents than writing about and publishing them. The identity of Deep Throat wasn't revealed for over thirty years.

This all brings me to who America's real political prisoners are, the ones that really matter in my opinion. Those are the 166 inmates who call the tiny Guantanamo Bay prison home. Talk to people around the world and you find that Gitmo has done more damage to what America stands for than anything else that has happened since 9/11. More than the war in Iraq, more than the torture. While terrible those actions can at least be loosely blamed on a terrified nation run by fanatics. Both are in the past and await the verdicts of history.

Gitmo just goes on and on like the slow motion train wreck it is.

notes - A common thread through the Manning and Snowden stories is Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. My personal opinion of Assange is that he is an attention whore on a level that would have given Paris Hilton a run for her money back when anybody cared.

According to the Department of Defense the cost of running Gitmo last year was $454 million or $2.7 million per prisoner. As of now 46 of the detainees, we don't call them prisoners, are on a force feeding list due to hunger strikes. Just a few days ago The National Review called closing Gitmo a terrible idea because, you know, terrorists.