A pattern of panic has become evident in Washington since 9/11: punish the messenger and do so using the maximum possible force while avoiding the issue.
Democracy rests on the foundation of transparency in government; transparency is the worst enemy of politicians trying to get away with something. Transparency relies on three defenders: citizens demanding release of classified information, journalists, and whistle-blowers.
Supporting the jailing of Yemeni reporters exposing Washington’s misdeeds, depicting Manning and Snowden as traitors in order to avoid publicly debating the issues they exposed, chasing Assange all over the globe as though he were a terrorist threat, and running Government officials who criticize abuses of power (e.g., Bunnatine Greenhouse, Brooksley Born, and Elizabeth Warren) out of town are three tactics that form part of the same overall strategy of punishing the messenger.
In foreign affairs, arrogant and panic-stricken Washington officials employ maximum force against all adversaries where a more confident leadership would differentiate between serious threats (e.g., Hitler in 1939) and difficult adversaries that can be handled calmly over time (e.g., Iran, the Israeli right wing), and nuisance adversaries that can be ignored or perhaps used as an excuse to take difficult but necessary reform steps (e.g., Assange, Manning, Snowden, Greenhouse, Born, Warren). Washington officials, however, lump all critics together, seeing them all as mortal enemies who must be destroyed because they lack the humility and confidence to accept criticism and engage in rational debate with dissenters. The minimum Washington will accept is the marginalization and humiliation of all who express disagreement with the official line, but what Washington now really wants is the physical liquidation of all opposition: Sunni are the same as Shi’a, domestic Taliban guerrillas are the same as international jihadis, a private gang like al Qua’ida is the same as an enemy state, a state that attacks the U.S. is the same as a state that offers an alternative image of international relations (e.g., Iran), a Pentagon official following the law and exposing contract fraud (Greenhouse) is the same as a person who leaks classified information: all must be crushed.
Nowhere is there room for disagreement and debate. Government personnel cannot demand that U.S. law be obeyed by high officials; other countries cannot offer an alternative concept of how to run the international system (Iran) or even how to run their own countries (Taliban). We cannot survive if Iran is allowed to advocate an international coalition opposed to U.S. leadership. We cannot survive if a few corrupt Wall St. casinos pretending to be banks are allowed to collapse under the weight of their own mismanagement (something that would have been the normal operation of capitalism, by the way). The sky is falling. Our way of life and the system as we know it are fatally threatened. The only answer is to jail reporters, condemn whistle-blowers to 100 years in jail, bomb societies into the stone age, and implement emergency regime change.
“Regime change?!?” Hmmm…
When laws are written by an elite to conceal its behavior and that behavior becomes the abuse of power, then citizens have two options: revolt or break the law by peacefully exposing said abuses of power by shining on them the brilliant light of transparency. The latter is the democratic way.