If we answer this question with a tentative yes, we uncover a deeper problem for liberal democracy. Exasperated by politics, the political process, and society’s failure to change the political system, the three men acted in their respective ways to “blow the whistle” on the United States government. Through a deed, a public act, they would alert the public to what they believed were the government’s illegal and immoral acts. Their deeds and their words connect them as each justified his act by claiming to serve a higher good, either the public interest, their conscience, or both. They acted because the government was either criminal, (Tsarnaev) or it was misleading the public (Manning and Snowden).
How they justified their acts helps us to consider whether they should be called whistleblowers and if they engaged in an act of civil disobedience. On the surface, the difference is stark Tsarnaev and his brother were [alleged] killers.** They [are alleged to have] used bombs made from pressure cookers to kill and maim people in revenge for the United State government’s murder of Muslims. Despite their apparent differences their acts share a common theme. Even though only Snowden and Manning appear to fit the definition of whistleblower, I will argue that Tsarnaev, when compared to the others shares an important similarity. In that similarity, though, we find that they are not whistleblowers. What connects them at a deeper level is that they engaged in propaganda by the deed, instead of whistle blowing or civil disobedience. To understand this argument, we need to consider their motives and what they mean for America.
Chelsea Manning: can an individual decide the public is wrong?
Chelsea Manning justified her act as being necessary for telling the American public what was being done in their name. She believed that if the public knew what she knew, then it would change the public debate on the Iraq war because they would either stop or modify the government’s policy. When the mainstream media failed to take an interest, she turned to the Wikileaks Organisation. They published the information about an alleged war crime and the larger amount of documents that revealed details of America’s diplomacy. Her statement to the court set out her motive and intent.
j. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan. I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.
The public had to be told because the political process did not reflect what she knew. The democratic process that delegates responsibility through a representative government, from the public to the government and on to its agents such as the military, was flawed. It was flawed because the public could not want the outcomes she saw on the ground. She assumed at the time of disclosure that more information would change the public’s view. The unasked question before disclosure, though, is whether the public wanted those outcomes and chose them with knowledge and intent. After her sentencing, when she accepted that she broke the law she explained the information she disclosed could justify the war, which negates her claim of being a whistle blower. Edward Snowden has a similar approach, in that he wants to inform the public so they can make better choices, which undermines his label as a whistleblower.
Edward Snowden: what would replace comfortable self-preservation?
Edward Snowden has also been described as a whistleblower because he appeared to reveal illegal and immoral acts by the government. Snowden, like Manning, wants the American public to be better informed because he believes that if they have the information, they will make a better choice. They would awaken from their slumber and change the government’s policies. Like Manning, he seems unaware of or indifferent to the political process of representative government as it works through an administrative state. Unlike Manning, though, he has a political goal beyond telling the public. He wants to change American society and change the regime. Despite their similarities, Snowden agenda is more radical.
“But at the same time you have to make a determination about what it is that’s important to you. And if living unfreely but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it’s the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows.”
“But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied.“ [Emphasis added in bold]
Snowden’s statement, near the middle of his interview, at 6:27 of the 12:34 interview, shows he wants to rescue the United States from its slumber of comfortable self-preservation. He seems unaware that the regime is founded to achieve comfortable self-preservation. He wants to change the American regime and, by extension, reform the American public. His call to act is like a sermon, a jeremiad. Like a preacher, he is calling the people back to the path of righteousness. They must reject the false pursuit of comfortable self-preservation because it has culminated in an architecture of oppression. Unless Americans change their ways, a turnkey tyranny through a technologically enabled surveillance programme will be their future. We are never told or shown how the American people are oppressed. We are told to overlook the system’s intent and design and to look only at its potential as a tool of oppression. We must accept that its existence is by default oppressive. What is implied, but unsaid, is that any government programme, by its existence, is a tool of oppression. The census, social security, even the postal system have the potential to be a tool of oppression. We must accept that America is no longer a democracy, with the rule of law, where the government serves the people. Instead America is becoming or has become a technological tyranny where the individual is losing or has lost (Snowden never clarifies) his autonomy.
Snowden, though, faces more unasked questions than Manning. What remains unasked is whether Americans want their comfortable self-preservation. When did the government stop being the people’s protector and become its oppressor. If comfortable self preservation is our ruin, what is Snowden’s alternative? His motive provides an implicit and, an unstated, explicit alternative, but does America want them? The explicit alternative is Americans reject the surveillance state and achieve the same safety and security by some other unstated means as if the digital domain will police itself because it is benign. Or that the threats in the digital domain do not require NSA surveillance.
Snowden’s implicit alternative requires a radical change in American politics. It would appear that America must either accept individualist anarchism or the unrestrained pursuit of civic virtue. Either will need the public to forgo their comfortable self-preservation. The whole system, not just the NSA programme, has to be rejected. The system of comfortable self-preservation has created the architecture of oppression. Without a viable an alternative, his criticism, no matter how radical or how widely published and promoted, remains incomplete, incoherent, and ultimately ineffective. We can summarize it as follows: He does not like the surveillance system because it makes him uncomfortable. Anyone who wants to protect individual autonomy will agree with him that the government must change its ways.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: whistle blowing by explosive
Tsarnaev had a different motive. Instead of informing the public to make a better choice, or reforming the regime, Tsarnaev had one [alleged] goal; kill Americans in revenge for America’s crimes. He is not a whistleblower as it is commonly understood. Unlike Snowden and Manning he has not made a public statement that a blogger or Wikileaks have amplified and exploited for their purposes. To the extent that his act and his views are amplified it is not in the Western media markets. Even though, like Manning, he opposed American actions in Iraq, he [is alleged to have] wanted to kill Americans. Even though, like Snowden, he wanted to wake America up to an issue, he did this through violence. However, he is not simply a lone wolf terrorist as some have called him because that reduces him to an operational problem for the security forces. He is, like the others, a harbinger. As an extreme version of Manning and Snowden’s disaffected and technologically enabled autonomous individual response to the liberal democratic state, Tsarnaev is only a difference of degree not kind.
Conclusion: neither civil disobedience nor whistle blowing but harbingers
Ultimately, none of these individuals are whistleblowers nor will their acts lead to a substantive change in America or its policies. If they were to change America they would have had to be true whistleblowers. They would have practiced civil disobedience rather than criminal disobedience through the propaganda of the deed. If they had followed Martin Luther King, a true whistleblower, a true conscience of America, then we could consider them. In his justly famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he explained that before any direct action could occur four steps were required. The steps had to be followed to be sure the right action happened for the right reason for the right outcome.
Neither Manning, nor Snowden, nor Tsarnaev followed these steps. They did not articulate the higher law they served unless we believe it includes the “public interest”, a vague notion of “privacy”, or [alleged] murder in Allah’s name. King, like Socrates, stayed to defend himself before the laws. He invoked the higher law, the natural law, at the heart of the American Declaration of Independence. The natural law is that all men are created equal and deserve equality before the law. His act of civil disobedience, like that of Socrates, demonstrated that the laws were inconsistent with the promise of the founding. King echoed Lincoln in his call to act. Lincoln had had argued that America could not remain half-free and half-slave. King argued that America could not claim to be founded in equality and practice inequality. King came to redeem not to destroy or change the American regime. What Lincoln had argued in the Gettysburg Address was that King was asking of America. They both wanted the people to live up to promise of a regime founded on the proposition that all men are created equal.
Neither Manning, nor Snowden, nor Tsarnaev have invoked a higher law. Manning accepts the document disclosure could justify the war, while Tsarnaev[is alleged to have] wanted to kill Americans. To the extent that Snowden has, he accepts self-preservation as the highest good, just as long as it is not comfortable self-preservation. Yet, for self-preservation to succeed, the state must act to protect the public interest, the reason why we have a government and why the NSA programme expanded after the attack on 11 September 2001. Instead of being whistleblowers, Manning, Snowden and Tsarnaev, represent a deeper problem, a deeper threat, to America and to liberalism, which is the topic for a future blog.
Part two of this blog will published shortly.
 At the time of his deeds, Chelsea Manning was Bradley Manning. He was a man. She is now a woman.
 I follow Michael Davis’s work Avoiding the Tragedy of Whistleblowing, Business and Professional Ethics Journal, vol 8, no. 4, pp. found here: http://ethics.csc.ncsu.edu/old/12_00/basics/whistle/rst/avoiding_tragedy.html (last accessed 25 December 2013).
 A representational democracy, from an information point of view, is designed to avoid information overload. We elect representatives to make these choices. In turn, they create and administer institutions and agencies to put our indirect choices into force. The whole process has to accord with the constitutional principles so that the public and the representatives can see the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any given choice. In this scenario, the simplest choice for the citizen is whether they want to be safe and to what constraints are they willing to tolerate for that safety.
 See for example Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History, p. 236. For an understanding of Locke’s influence on the American founding see generally the following Toward a Republican Synthesis: The Emergence of an Understanding of Republicanism in American Historiography by Robert E. Shalhope The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1972), pp. 49-80, The spirit of modern republicanism: the moral vision of the American founders and the philosophy of Locke Thomas L Pangle, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. The liberal tradition in America; an interpretation of American political thought since the Revolution, Louis Hartz: New York, Harcourt, Brace 
 For a discussion of jeremiad in American politics see Errand into the wilderness, Perry Miller Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1956 and Sacvan Bercovitch The American jeremiad, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978. More generally, see Lawrence Serewicz America at the Brink of Empire, Rusk, Kissinger, and the Vietnam War Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 2006 pp.112-130
 I have not included the third alternative that the whole spectacle was simply to have better oversight for two reasons. First, Snowden did not try to go to official channels. Second, it seems strange to think that the only outcome from this public act is Congress will do a better job than it already does given that it was briefed by the Executive about intelligence issues. If better oversight is the outcome of this spectacle, then the regime has to look closely at how it recognises and acts on “bad news” that challenges the executive branch and by extension the government. One wonders whether such “bad news” can be conveyed in any other way than through loudspeakers like a blogger and wikileaks. Is Congress no longer capable of listening for “bad news?” or that the “whistleblower” no longer trusts it to act? Either conclusion raises questions for the viability of American democracy.
 I consider Paul Moore an ideal example of a modern whistleblower. He did his duty and reported the risk to HBOS. He acted according to the chain of command. He was fired. Even though he was fired, he maintained his legal duty of confidence. However, when he saw the testimony of the former HBOS CEO he felt compelled to speak out. He did this at great risk and reluctantly only doing it after a period of soul searching. His duty to the truth was paramount and he was willing to face the consequences so that he could bear witness. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2dd0f0de-ab70-11e2-8c63-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2oWJ1G9Qw see also http://www.christianstogether.net/mobile/default.aspx?group_id=75042&article_id=169798, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/4592025/HBOS-whistleblower-Paul-Moore-breaks-silence-to-condemn-Crosby.html
- Goodbye 2013, welcome to the post Edward Snowden era (cubicgarden.com)
- Edward Snowden will deliver Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message (independent.co.uk)
- Edward Snowden: ‘I already won’ | World news | theguardian.com (theguardian.com)
- An NSA Coworker Remembers The Real Edward Snowden: ‘A Genius Among Geniuses’ (thetruthseeker.co.uk)
- Treason, or disobedience? (steveprestegard.com)
- Snowden’s Dad SCHOOLS Obama, Pelosi, and Holder in Open Letter (activistpost.com)