Op-ed: WikiLeaks, the NSA, Ellen Sturtz, and the Case For Dissent

Activist movements weren't built on the shoulders of those who were best known for being polite.

BY Victoria A. Brownworth

June 11 2013 4:00 AM ET

Is dissent still allowed in America? 
 
Events of the last few weeks say no, not really. President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet. Dissenters will be punished, and the Obama administration's war on whistle-blowers continues to escalate. Out gay soldier Bradley Manning is on trial for his life for leaking 750,000 secret documents to WikiLeaks and several of the world’s top newspapers. 
 
Another leaker revealed information to gay journalist Glenn Greenwald, which led to a massive story last week on how Obama’s National Security Agency is spying on Americans, collecting metadata on anyone plugged into anything, from computers to phones to social media. It is being called the most important leak in U.S. history, eclipsing even the Manning leak.
 
This exposé has been followed by an inference that Greenwald himself might be investigated – calls for Greenwald to be tried for treason are all over social media. Greenwald responded that the U.S. has a constitution and the First Amendment protects the press.
 
Sunday, the leaker who gave information to Greenwald’s newspaper, The Guardian, as well as The Washington Post, revealed himself. Former CIA employee Edward Snowden, 29, said he has nothing to hide because he did nothing wrong. His rationale for leaking information on the NSA was not unlike Manning’s. He said, "I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things. ... I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under." 
 
However, just to be safe from the war on whistle-blowers, Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong. 
 
Members of Congress, led by Sen. Dianne Fienstein, are calling for investigations and others, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, are calling for Snowden to be tried for treason.
 
The NSA spying leak and the Wikileaks case are all about dissent. These are huge cases. Greenwald has said he has more to reveal in the coming days.
 
Massive exposés like Manning’s and Snowden’s are not the only voices of dissent out there, however. On June 4, Ellen Sturtz, a member of the LGBTQ civil rights organization GetEqual, was termed a "heckler" for raising questions to first lady Michelle Obama at a $10,000-per-person Washington fund-raiser for the Democratic Party. 
 
Sturtz’s actions were deemed "rude" by some and "racist" by others. (A notable number of columns on the matter made references to Sturtz and Obama's racial differences.)

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