Sandra Coliver writes: Is Edward Snowden, the national security consultant turned leaker, a heroic whistleblower or a traitor? The question has fueled a storm of punditry this month, even as America’s other most famous deep throat source, Bradley Manning, is on trial for sending 700,000 classified documents to Wikileaks two years ago.
The Defence Department is throwing the book at Manning. The Justice Department is likely to do the same to Snowden. The rush to prosecute, or applaud, shows us one big thing: that Americans are deeply divided over the tension between the public’s right to know, and the government’s efforts to keep us safe from potential external, or internal, threats.
It might be worth pausing to take a look across the Atlantic to see how our allies handle similar questions. In the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest military and intelligence ally, the maximum penalty for public disclosure of intelligence or security information is two years. Since Britain’s Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1989 entered into force, 10 public servants with authorized access to confidential information have been prosecuted under the act. [Continue reading…]