The Important Difference Between “Whistle-blowers” and “Leakers”

In an excellent LA Times Opinion piece by Jesselyn Radack concerning the indictment of Thomas Drake for providing information to a then Baltimore Sun reporter, Siobhan Gorman, now with the Wall Street Journal (and my favorite reporter on national security issues), there is a short explanation of the difference between whistle-blowers and leakers as well as a point we should notice about how the government tends to treat them equally despite laws distinguishing them.  See:,0,754088.story

“Unfortunately, the terms “leaking” and “whistle-blowing” are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety. But far too often, whistle-blowers are retaliated against, with criminal prosecution being one of the sharpest weapons in the government’s arsenal.”

Telling a reporter about the waste of billions by the NSA is not revealing anything that negatively effects national security; it is the waste itself, a good subject for investigation, not the whistle-blower.


Mideast Peace: Is it achievable and how important is it to the US

In today’s preview of the May/June 2010 issue of Foreign Policy is an article by Aaron David Miller on why he is no longer a believer in what he calls “The False Religion of Mideast Peace.”  It is lengthy and challenges almost all that US administrations and, I would guess Americans generally, have long believed about both the objective and our role in reaching it.  I urge you to read it.

What if what we want to do is impossible to do?

The US aims in Iraq and Afghanistan always seem to have as a bottom line the establishment of a functioning democracy.  In Afghanistan there is also an added objective that frees women from previous customs of abuse and provides secular education for the citizenry.  We also seek to avoid “nation-building” for a variety of reasons of which the most politically compelling is the desire to avoid long-term involvements similar to those we undertook in Europe after World War II.  Our aims seem obviously desirable to us, beyond dispute.

But what if the people of Afghanistan and in some part, the people of Iraq, find them disputable and at odds with their deeply held beliefs and traditions?  Presumably we would continue or re-institute the fight in either or both countries if we had not achieved our aims or they proved quickly abandoned after we left.  And, if we did that, we would be involved in “nation-building” again, perhaps on a larger scale and for a longer time than in Europe.

My point is that our aims may be contradictory; without “nation-building” democracy, women’s rights, universal secular education may be unachievable.  We may have set ourselves up to fail, independent of any action by Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Iran’s interest.

We have involved ourselves in two traditional societies:  Iraq is less so but the influence of religious affiliations in both Iraq and Afghanistan pervades many areas of public policy and that influence is long-standing.  Our influence has been transient, however powerful.  Both countries look forward to our leaving.  It is difficult to avoid thinking that among the leaders, that eagerness for our departure is not so they can get back to doing things the way they have done before we forced them to do them our way.

Addendum:  Today, April 23, 2010, the Washington Post carried this story that could hardly crystallize my point better: