Fallacies on Whistleblowing

by BINOY KAMPMARK

It did not take long for the critics to pounce on the shootings at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. on September 16 as the product not so much of a disturbed mind but one who had not been sufficiently policed and excluded. 13 people were left dead, one of them being the assailant himself.

According to his employer, The Experts Inc. , Aaron Alexis had a “secret clearance”. The link in this chain is that the company in question is a subcontractor assisting Hewlett-Packard service the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

Alexis had been working as a computer contractor, though that also entitled him to have access to a card granting him entry into the Navy Yard and various other facilities. Such are the joys of the privatised military state that Alexis could move about at will with his Common Access Card (CAC). CEO of The Experts, Inc. Thomas Hoshko has apparently substantiated the claim.

Speculation arises that Alexis entered the base on Monday using another individual’s identification card, though reports on this are sketchy at best. Once in the compound, he headed for Building 197, a monster of a structure housing the headquarters of the Navy Sea Systems Command. Heavily armed – a handgun, a shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle – Alexis apparently made his way to the fourth floor. Then came the carnage, the blood, the bodies.

What is perturbing in the narrative here is that pro-security tendency to conflate security “breaches”. Of interest here is how, incongruously, Snowden has appeared in the same company as the deceased gunman. Greta Van Susteren, in a Fox News delight with Sean Hannity, could not resist the temptation of likening one deviant contractor with the other. “Snowden didn’t have much of a security check as a government contractor, what in the world are we doing with these government contractors that seem to have so much access to information and abilities?”

Dennis M. Crowley of CNS News draws a parallel as well. “Edward Snowden, an IT specialist, and former CIA- and NSA-employee, is accused of leaking information from several top-secret U.S and British-government intelligence programs.” Then, the search for the comparative voice – and inculpating suggestion. “Both Snowden and Alexis were employed in the IT field through private contractors and were able to get federal government security clearances. Both men also had never graduated from college.”

The comparison between Alexis and Snowden is tantamount to finding similarities between apples and oranges, though the security experts tend to see broader descriptions of rotten fruit. Snowden exposes the vestiges of a corrupt surveillance regime with global access; Alexis allegedly goes on a rampage for motives as yet unknown. Are these people different? No, screams the Fox News crew with its Hurrah Harries.

John Hamre, former deputy of defence and chairman of the Defence Policy Board is in a similar boat to Hannity and company, seeing complete, unvaried similarities. For The Washington Post (Sep 19), Hamre would write that, “The murders by Alexis and the betrayal by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden both underscore a problem with our security clearance process.”

Naturally, is it imperative that the enemy of suspicion is painted with a damning brush, with loud colour schemes suggesting impropriety and bad behaviour. The Big Bad Wolf here is painted as Alexis, though one is left in graver doubts who the bigger one is. He had a past littered with “misconduct issues”, for which he had been honourably discharged in 2011. He was arrested in 2010 and charged with firing a bullet through the floor of his upstairs neighbour’s apartment in Forth Worth, Texas. In 2004, he was charged with firing three shots into a car parked near his Seattle house in what has been described as a “blackout”.

And so, we have the fallacious comparison, a “stand-off” in symbolic imagery between the maligned whistleblower (Snowden, one who did not go the full yards with university, with “discrepancies on his resume”) and Alexis, allegedly responsible for shooting twelve people dead.

Such suggestions are not merely the stuff of idiocy, but indicate a state of pervasive blindness. If there is anything correct at all in the assertions of the Fox Network, it is that the privatised military state is the problem, with its diffuse connections spanning civilian and military operations. It takes a Snowden to remind the establishment of that particular condition: the privatised military state has been gnawing away at our freedoms since the arms complex got into bed with the constitution.

The first instinct of Snowden’s detractors, as with those against other whistleblowers, is to discredit the activity as the outcome of a diseased mind, one warped by bad graces and insufficient understanding. How could you do this to your country? Alexis, after all, supposedly killed people in haze of lunacy, a suspension of sanity. Truth be known, it is the very exposure of that disease that warrants the extreme reaction.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He ran for the Australian Senate with Julian Assange for the WikiLeaks Party.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal