Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and the war on whistleblowers

Uncle Sam is waging all-out war on whistleblowers, while those managing the exposed systems walk away without a scratch

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Who at the NSA is responsible for overseeing federal contractors, and why does he or she still have a job? For that matter, how did Bradley Manning, a lowly PFC, manage to get his hands on such a vast number of classified documents without anyone noticing? Who were his superior officers, and their superiors? What happened to them?

The answer: Nothing happened to them. At least, not publicly. And it probably never will.

There are those who maintain that Manning and Snowden did grave damage to national security, that their actions gave aid and comfort to the enemy. I understand why they say that, but I don't really believe it. I think any terrorist who was still using Facebook, Twitter, and cellphones to hatch his evil schemes is a rank amateur. The ones who pose a real threat are much smarter than that. I think Manning's leak of 250,000 diplomatic cables produced more smoke than fire, though I do disagree with how they were handled by WikiLeaks.

It goes all the way to the top

But if you do believe that, if you think Snowden's and Manning's leaks were really that damaging, then Dr. Ralph Schrader, chairman and CEO of Booz Allen Hamilton, should have resigned two months ago. BAH should have had its $6 billion worth of DoD contracts immediately revoked. Manning's superior officers should be facing a court martial as well.

But that hasn't happened. And it probably never will.

Those in positions of power and privilege rarely pay for their own negligence. The furor over Snowden and Manning has less to do with damage to our country and more to do with the inconvenience of having to answer uncomfortable questions in public.

These guys (they are almost all men) aren't worried about national security, they're worried about job security -- their own. Thus, they focus the attention on the rogues and ignore the policies and procedures that allowed the leakers to operate with so little oversight. As usual in government, there's plenty of blame to go around, but no real accountability.

Should executives be held responsible when their organizations spring leaks? Weigh in below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and the war on whistleblowers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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