The leakage of information is a key principle of democracy. Just look at the past

The late Congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis was renowned for his wise words that spanned an inspiring career. During Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in 2019, Lewis called for clarity and justice when he remarked; “When you see something that’s not right, not right, not right, you have to speak up. You have to say something, you have to do something.” With the recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that seeks to overturn Roe vs. Wadeand the 50th anniversary of the Watergate scandal that plagued the Nixon administration, Lewis’s words are still relevant in a toxic political landscape.

The leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on overturning a federal abortion ruling and allowing elected officials to decide abortion rights represents a cataclysmic shift in American society. Speculation abounds as to whether the whistleblower was a disgruntled clerk working for liberal justice, or a member of the conservative majority as a foreshadowing of what lies ahead. A recent poll found that less than a third of Americans say they favor reversing Roe vs. Wade. It’s clear that the abortion ban is unpopular in the United States, despite how some pro-life Republicans manipulate the statistics in an attempt to demean the whistleblower who leaked the proposed decision.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) blamed the leak on the left and the “unprecedented breach of confidentiality” they used to bully the highest court. Meanwhile, fellow Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) likened it to a form of harassment of judges. This same tactic deployed by the right was featured throughout the disgraced former president’s first impeachment trial. It is a cowardly act to expose the whistleblower to avoid the issue in question, regardless of whether the issue in question is a vital matter of public interest.

The art of flight, as recent events suggest, is integral to maintaining American values ​​when the upper echelons of power seek to denigrate them. The story of Martha Mitchell, wife of Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell, is an example of why whistleblowing must be protected at all costs by US law. Her story is being told via a Starz miniseries that pays tribute to her whistleblowing efforts and pours scorn on those who treated her with contempt.

Mitchell gave the press a glimpse behind palace walls of what was going on in the White House, and his vivid revelation of the truth was key to unraveling the Watergate scandal that consequently cost Nixon the presidency. Mitchell was drugged and kidnapped by her husband’s coterie of sycophants for her role in trying to expose Nixon’s wrongful involvement in the robbery of the Democratic National Committee headquarters. She was branded mentally unfit by the White House in their attempt to tarnish a critic willing to spread information about corruption at the highest level.

The Supreme Court building is seen.
David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

Why must the nation of the free world, a so-called bastion of democratic principle, hasten to launch a smear campaign against anyone who seeks to divulge the truth? There has been a smear campaign like no other against Wikileaks founder and thorn in the side of US cover-ups, Julian Assange, for years. Assange is currently being held in a maximum security prison in the UK, awaiting his fate by the Home Office over whether he will be extradited to the US for disclosing national security information. Wikileaks uncovered many scandals committed by the American establishment, but it is the establishment that tries to absolve itself by decrying the website as a traitor.

Assange’s willingness to reveal dark secrets has encouraged other whistleblowers to follow suit. Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was responsible for releasing a slice of classified US military documents, which included videos of ruthless airstrikes in Iraq and thousands of US diplomatic cables. Manning has been lambasted by international governments, as has Edward Snowden for disclosing The Guardian documents on global surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Both have become polarizing figures in world history where critics call them cowards, while others hail them as patriots.

The leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion is the latest in a long series of events aimed at uncovering the truth and subsequently holding those in power accountable. This leak comes at a good time, with a milestone that marks a period of reflection for the whistleblowers at the center of the Watergate affair, especially those like Mitchell who have been regularly reprimanded. Leakage within the Supreme Court, along with the art of whistleblowing itself, must be protected under democracy without a doubt. Decisions are being made that will affect Americans for generations to come. Were it not for those with the courage to speak out, the crimes committed by an increasingly autocratic America would continue to jeopardize the thriving democracy it claims to be.

Liam Barrett is a London-based freelance culture and politics writer. His Twitter is @LiamMBarrett.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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