When Criminals Walk Free and Those Who Expose Them Go to Jail

Shining a light on the darkness of government secrecy.

Earlier today I moderated a panel hosted by the Courage Foundation, covering the US government’s effort to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange from the UK. He has been imprisoned there for two and a half years, before which he was given asylum for seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, wants to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act for the 2010 Wikileaks publication of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, State Department cables and Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs.

You might say, “Well, doesn’t the government have the right to secrecy in their official communications?” It’s a legitimate question, of course, but when such published documents include exposure of war crimes, torture, official corruption and thousands of previously unknown civilian casualties, the answer is a resounding, “NO!” The idea that government and military officials have the right to undue secrecy is a direct assault on the people’s right to know. In fact, it’s a propagandistic ruse that allows the military industrial complex to behave however it chooses in order to protect their own power and money, with no exposure to inconvenient questioning or protest from those pesky US citizens.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” While no one would doubt the right of the military as well as high levels of government officials to keep secrets that truly do protect the security of the United States, what is happening in the case of whistleblowers and journalists such as Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Daniel Hale and others, is that the true criminals are walking free while those who exposed their crimes are going to jail.

We’ve discussed before how we’re all exhausted, we’re all on catastrophe fatigue, we feel we don’t have the bandwidth to hear even one more story of official malfeasance or injustice. It’s like every day there’s another tale of how we have to protect someone or something - immigrants, our earth, even our democracy itself. But you know what? We do. And trying to keep ourselves walled off from what’s happening in the world will ultimately create even more anxiety than showing up for what’s going on, better to understand it in order to change it.

I hope you’ll check out the panel below. There were amazing guests with diverse experiences within the military, foreign policy, and law enforcement establishments. All of them said things that all of us need to hear…

Danny Sjursen is a retired U.S. Army Major who served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and as an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy. He's the author of three books, including Patriotic Dissent and A True History of the United States, and he's also the Director of the Eisenhower Media Network, a group of military, intelligence, and national security officials who provide independent analysis of U.S. foreign policy in the hopes of rethinking our policies to make the U.S. -- and the world -- safer. Maj. Danny Sjursen

Coleen Rowley is a retired Special Agent with FBI Intelligence. She served 24 years in the Bureau and her actions as a whistleblower about the FBI's pre-9/11 failures led to her being chosen as one of Time magazine's 2002 Persons of the Year as well as the 2002 Sam Adams Award, which is given to an intelligence professional who takes a stand for integrity and ethics. Spec. Agent Coleen Rowley

Matthew Hoh is a retired, 100% disabled, U.S. Marine Corps Captain who served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Marines, the Department of Defense, and the State Department. When he wasn't deployed, Matthew worked on Afghanistan and Iraq war police and operations at the Pentagon and State Department. He resigned in protest in 2009 over the escalation of the Afghan War, and has been a Senior Fellow with the Center for International Policy since 2010. Capt. Matthew Hoh

The conversation on the panel today went way beyond the case of Julian Assange, or even the general plight of the whistleblower. It touched on how all of our collective problems, from racial injustice to our environmental crisis to an inadequate health care system to military imperialism, all derive from the same sociopathic factors: lack of empathy, lack of remorse, and lack of love.

All. of. which. we. can. change.