Will Barack Obama pardon Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, ask any stories about how whistleblowers have been treated in the past. The answer is almost certainly no, even if people agree that the Espionage Act is ill-fitted to current realities and that, in the case of Manning at least, her imprisonment is inhumane (as the United Nations' chief torture investigator concluded).
Not only has the administration convicted more people under the Espionage Act than all previous ones combined, Obama has been on the butt end of revelations that made a mockery of his arrogant and false boast that we would have the "most transparent administration" ever. Yes, that came from the guy who extended George W. Bush's massive power grab and even created an extra-judicial "kill list" that had American citizens on it. Due process, it turns out, was for the little people.
And, as Michael Sainato lays out in a blistering New York Observer column, the outgoing president also worked with and protected an incredible number of highly placed liars and cheats.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper committed perjury in 2013 when he lied under oath to Congress by saying that the National Security Agency (NSA) did not conduct mass surveillance on the public. NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowdenrevealed the extent of this highly unethical government program, which President Obama has vociferously defended. Obama's Administration called the telephone surveillance program a "critical tool" in the war against terrorism. However, six months later The Washington Post reported that an independent review board ruled that there was not a single instance in which the program made a difference in counter-terrorism efforts.
CIA Director John Brennan lied about CIA officials hacking the computer servers of congressional staff from the Senate Intelligence Committee when the committee was investigating the CIA's interrogation and detention program....
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was granted impunity from circumventing Freedom of Information Act laws in her unauthorized use of a private email serverduring her service. Attorney General Loretta Lynch suspiciously met with Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac in Phoenix days before the FBI concluded their investigation into Hillary. Neither Clinton nor Lynch suffered any consequences for their actions.
In 2015, after overtly mishandling classified information, General David Petraeus received a slap on the wrist, while lower ranking individuals were prosecuted, jailed, and vilified.
Double standards shielding the powerful hardly stop there. As renowned journalist James Risen put it after being on the receiving end of state actions over his reporting, Obama's White House "has been the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation." IRS abuses add more to the pile and so did obstruction to independent investigations. How bad did it get? In 2014, the "lack of transparency [was] so severe that 47 of Mr. Obama's 73 inspectors general signed an open letter in 2014 decrying the administration's stonewalling of their investigations."
Given all that, I don't expect Obama to pardon Snowden or commute Manning's sentence. But here's hoping. One good thing about the media's newfound zeal for being a watchdog rather than a lapdog now the President-elect Trump is just days away from taking office is that the federal government might actually be held to a real standard for transparency and honesty. Sure, it's motivated by partisanship and ideological contempt (which bring with them their own problems), but it's better than the opposite.
Barack Obama was a master of presentation, argues Todd Krainin in this exceptional 2014 Reason TV documentary, "Reality Show President: Inside the White House PR Machine." He was so good, in fact, that most of the time we had no idea just how much he was stage-managing virtually every image of him we encountered.