The United States' war on transparency is making it an outlier in the international community. Just this week, a high-level European human rights body "urged" the United States to allow NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to return home and be given a meaningful chance to defend himself.
International human rights law has been clear for decades: anyone engaged in exposing gross abuses through whistleblowing and publishing is entitled to protection. Yet, the Obama administration has waged war on transparency, prosecuting more people for disclosing information to the press than Richard Nixon and all other U.S. presidents combined.
Not a single one of those prosecuted has been allowed to argue that their actions served the public good. Chelsea Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, exposed human rights abuses worldwide and opened an unprecedented window into global politics. Her disclosures are to this day cited regularly by the media and courts. Thomas Drake exposed massive NSA waste, while John Kiriakou exposed waterboarding later admitted to be torture in the recent Senate CIA Torture Report. The story of Edward Snowden's disclosures of widespread NSA surveillance recently won an Oscar.
Whistleblowers cannot argue that their actions had positive effects, known as a "public interest defense." The United States treats disclosures to the press as acts of spying -- no matter what good they lead to. In response, European and international human rights bodies are urging the United States to adopt better protections for whistleblowers.