Michael Cowley writes (and sorry for the delay in publishing, Michael):
I think Rodger Shanahan is accidentally or deliberately distorting the story of both Bradley Manning* and Edward Snowden in this article to make them appear less worthy than they are.
In the case of Manning, while he was troubled and foolish in many ways, he arguably had a noble intent in his own mind — to expose the crazy, almost criminal political backdealings and war crimes he felt the US was engaging in around the world and particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shanahan gives no reason to doubt Manning's motivations here, but simply ignores Manning's own words.
You may question Manning's judgement in handing the documents to WikiLeaks instead of a more 'responsible' journalist, but Manning is not alone in believing that WikiLeaks was more likely to do the right thing with the documents. Assange certainly attempted to have the US Government identify documents that would put lives at risk, and partnered with the Guardian and New York Times to vet and release the documents slowly. Bradley Manning may not have examined every document in detail, but he certainly knew the general character of the documents (available to millions of military and diplomatic staff!) were hardly super secret. And the statement that WikiLeaks 'never attempted to sift through the information' is flat-out ignorant (or perfidious, Rodger?). The documents were only released in full after many months and only after David Leigh of The Guardian and Der Freitag published details that would allow open access to the documents.
The even more careful approach of Snowden is apparent to the casual onlooker, let alone the informed observer that you would hope to find at The Interpreter. Snowden deliberately chose Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras to give his documents to after seeing what happened to WikiLeaks and Manning after the document dump. Greenwald and Poitras have been very careful with what documents they have released.
Snowden chose to go public with both his identity and motivations very early in the process, and only the most careless observer could have missed his explanation as to why he did what he did. That alone is a good guide to his feelings on the matter — he certainly thinks he is taking a principled and honourable stand. He has many supporters who believe likewise, including former whistleblowers widely accepted as honourable and current and former members of the US Government, even an ex-president!
Snowden has revealed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as a liar to the US Congress. Snowden's revelations have led to votes in the US Congress, complaints from tech companies about the silent compliance they are forced into, and announcements of changes to US policy (relatively meaningless though they may be so far). And we are only just getting started.
It is unquestionable that both Manning and Snowden broke the law. Manning's motivations are complicated and questionable in many ways, but an honest observer would at least credit him with thinking he was doing the right thing while in many ways displaying poor judgement and character. But I think there is little evidence that Snowden 'wanted to inflict maximum damage on the country for which [he] worked by revealing its classified material to as many people as possible'. On the contrary, he seems to have been very careful to limit damage — unless you count damage to the credibility and reputation of the US Government, which I consider to be self-inflicted.
* Ed. note: this email was written well before news emerged that Bradley Manning now wishes to be known as Chelsea Manning. The Interpreter will henceforth refer to Chelsea Manning and use the feminine pronoun.