By BENJIE OLIVEROS
International alternative news websites are populated by feature stories about whistleblowers exposing irregularities in the US government, most especially among the intelligence agencies. The latest whistleblower to come out in the open and be persecuted for it is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant of the CIA and employee of a National Security Agency contractor, who is now on the run in Hong Kong for exposing the massive snooping being done by US intelligence agencies over the internet.
Alternet reposted an article from The Guardian, which identified the most prominent whistle blowers. Aside from Snowden there is Bradley Manning who, in 2009, provided Wikileaks with diplomatic cables one of which was about the cozy relationship of US officials with the former president of Tunisia, who was ostentatiously corrupt. Also among the things he leaked to the media was a video showing US troops in a helicopter shooting at people on the ground, including two Reuters employees in Iraq. Another whistleblower mentioned in the article is Jeremy Hammond who hacked into the email database of Texas-based intelligence contractor Strategic Forecasting Inc., which resulted in the expose’ of Stratfor’s close links with big business and the US government, and the Obama administration’s spying operations against activist movements such as Occupy, Wikileaks, PETA, among others. Then there is Thomas Drake, a former senior official of the US National Security Agency, who, in 2010, challenged the Trailblazer Project for squandering millions of dollars to spy on internet, e-mail, and cell phone communications. And of course, the most prominent is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who is charged with violating the espionage act on six counts.
All of the aforementioned whistleblowers, as well as others more, were arrested and are facing or have faced federal charges. In the case of Manning, he is facing a court martial. According to the article The National Security State and the Whistleblower by Melvin A. Goodman, which was published by Counterpunch, US President Barack Obama has pursued more leak investigations than all previous US presidents combined. An article appeared today on Interaksyon.com about the furtive seizure by the US government of phone records of the Associated Press in an apparent leak investigation.
Why is Obama running after whistleblowers?
Well, for one, since Obama became president, the CIA has conducted nearly 320 drone attacks in Pakistan alone, killing more than 3,000, 900 of whom are civilians, including at least 176 children. This, according to another Counterpunch article, is two times more than the drone attacks under all other US presidents combined.
Also consider that half of Americans are living in poverty and the number is creeping upward. According to data from the Economic Policy Institute, between 1979 to 2008, average incomes in America grew by $10,401. But the richest 10 percent cornered it all. In fact, the income of the bottom 90 percent even declined. It is even worse now as low-wage contractual jobs replaced “secure middle income positions.” According to an OECD report on inequality and poverty Splitting the Bill “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve.”
In other words, Obama is merely continuing, nay intensifying, the programs that were implemented by his highly unpopular predecessor George W. Bush. All that is left going for Obama is his image of change and hope, but reality is starting to chip away at this. That is why whistleblowers are a curse to him.
Moving closer to home, I have written a number of articles about how President Benigno Aquino III has been doing the same things his predecessor did despite his promises of change and boasts about the ‘reforms’ he instituted.
Just recently, President Aquino boasted about the ‘reforms’ his government has purportedly ‘begun,’ specifically naming the CCT and the boosting of tourism to generate jobs. Well, the CCT dole out program was first implemented by the previous Arroyo administration. It is the only social program that is acceptable under neoliberalism and is being prescribed by the IMF-WB. Projects to boost tourism have been implemented by previous administrations. The first official act to boost tourism in the country was the creation of the Board of Travel and Tourist Industry by Congress in 1956. The current Department of Tourism was created by the Marcos dictatorship in 1973. To hinge job generation to tourism – as well as to labor export and foreign investments – is essentially pimping our people and natural resources to foreigners.
In terms of human rights, impunity still reigns. And the violations are rapidly increasing with the Aquino government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which, much like the US, brands activists as terrorists and subjects them to harassment and surveillance. Those who protest against the government’s policies that bring hardships to the Filipino people, and those who resist the intrusion and aggression of mining corporations and other big foreign corporations and their local partners are likewise branded as terrorists. It is not surprising though, as Oplan Bayanihan was patterned after, or rather copied from, the US counterinsurgency guide of 2009.
Much like Obama, Aquino has no affinity to whistleblowers. Look at what happened to Jun Lozada, who spilled the beans on the involvement of the Arroyo couple on the NBN-ZTE scam. From being the whistleblower, he is now being persecuted by the Office of the Ombudsman for graft charges.
Because much like Obama, the only thing still propping up the Aquino administration is his image of change, but reality is also chipping away at this image of his. Obama and Aquino is in a much similar situation that one could not help but think that either Aquino is mimicking the actions of Obama or he is merely following the latter’s instructions.