According to President Obama in a recent press conference, Edward Snowden should have pursued other avenues instead of going public with sensitive data. His argument was that if Snowden had voiced his concerns through authentic internal channels, the outcome would have been better. Well, the case of Gina Gray goes on to show why Snowden had to opt for the ‘other’ way.
Obama, after coming to power, had pledged transparency and mentioned of his ‘admiration for government workers who expose abuses’. His admiration can be seen from the fact that during his two tenures, Espionage Act-based cases outnumber such prosecutions by all other administrations combined.
Snowden and the Russian smear campaign
Gray’s case shows how futile internal channels can be when they are not serving the interests of the ‘higher ups’. Take the recent spin that has been given to the Snowden case into consideration. A large segment of the online population considered what he did as being heroic. His revelations on privacy of the public being abused earned him a lot of praise.
However, his online reputation is being affected by a series of writings and opinions that paint him as a traitor. The stance that is being taken is that Russia has offered asylum to him on the account that he would share NSA secrets with the Russian government. Comparisons are being made to the beginnings of the Cold War which involved number of double agents trading information.
It is possible for figures like Snowden to dissipate their negative reputations online. There are different service providers out there who will work to alleviate the burden of negative press. For example, Brand.com reviews and searches for effective ways to save face online. Through search engine monitoring, autocomplete searches, review moderation and social media tools, experts in the field can remove negative search results about any political personality or company. However, it is important to choose a company with legit reviews as there are numerous individuals trying to sell reputation management services, yet they can’t control their own negative image.
In the case of Snowden, the actual purpose is highlighting privacy abuse and malpractices of NSA. Smear campaigns like this ‘Russian’ argument are taking the focus away from it. So the notion of reputation management becomes very important in this regard.
The same holds true for political personalities whose online reputations are damaged through smear campaigns. They need to rely on alternates in order to uphold the right thing they stand by.
Gina Gray and the pursuit of ‘authentic’ channels
Gina Gray didn’t receive the same media limelight as Snowden or Manning did. However, her case is pretty relevant. The Defense Department whistleblower was an army civilian worker, and exposed wrongdoings at the Arlington National Cemetery. There were issues of misplaced graves, mishandling of remains of soldiers and also financial mismanagement.
Now, the case of Gray is different from Manning and Snowden in the sense that she pursued the ‘internal’ channels that Obama talked about. For her efforts to mediate corrective action, she was rewarded by being fired from her job.
A legal spin was given to the events highlighted by Gray and the Army Secretary rejected the case on the account that Gray was on probationary status at the time of her termination.
Based upon the predicaments that figures like Snowden and Gray have received at the hand of the Obama administration, it is clear that the state self-serving interest takes precedence over the public demand. Internal procedure or no procedure, whistleblowers would always be persecuted during Obama’s reign.
Photo by Georgia Popplewell under Creative Commons license