The right of the people to know, and the ability to hold government accountable, rests on an open and transparent government and a free press.
Congress has largely abdicated its oversight responsibility. Instead, journalists, advocates and muckrakers must dig for the truth, using the Freedom of Information Act and state and local Public Records laws to liberate government documents. Whistleblowers play a vital role exposing government wrong-doing and ineptitude, but are often prosecuted. In recent years, the war on transparency has escalated as more government workers are prohibited from speaking with the media, and retaliation against whistleblowers gets ever more vicious.
The rule of law has been turned on its head, when crimes are made public (such as the war crimes exposed by Chelsea Manning, the CIA torture program exposed by John Kiriakou, or the NSA/FBI mass surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden), it is the whistleblower, not the war criminals and torturers who are prosecuted.
The juxtaposition of Petraeus with whistleblowers like Jeffrey Sterling, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou illustrates a massive double standard: if you leak information for the public good then you are a traitor, but if you leak information out of pure negligence from a position of power then you can be the next secretary of state.
On Monday, November 21, Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons introduced an ordinance to require transparency and oversight of police surveillance technology.
We can’t count on Congress to be a check on a gross overreach of Executive Branch powers. But we can look to our own local governments. We can draw a line in the sand around our towns, cities, counties and even a few states. The wall of resistance starts at home.