Promises, Promises: Is the Obama DOJ Going after Whistleblowers?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

From Change.gov (The Office of the President-Elect Barack Obama):
“Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.”

Is President Obama following through on his promise to protect whistleblowers? It doesn’t appear so. One has only to look at the case of Jeffrey Sterling to see that our President has definitely not been working to strengthen laws that would protect them. Sterling, an alleged whistleblower, was arrested in early January on charges that he leaked national defense information to the media and revealed the identity of a “human asset.”

 In his article The DOJ’s creeping war on whistle-blowers (Salon), Glenn Greenwald writes that Obama’s pretty words have given way to the most aggressive crusade to expose, punish and silence “courageous and patriotic” whistleblowers by any President in decades. As the Federation of American Scientists’ Steven Aftergood put it, “They’re going after this at every opportunity and with unmatched vigor.” And last May, The New York Times described how “the Obama administration is proving more aggressive than the Bush administration in seeking to punish unauthorized leaks.”

Let’s step back a little. Last April, the Department of Justice served a subpoena on author James Risen. The DOJ wanted to know the identity of the source for a story about a botched CIA attempt to “trip up” Iran’s nuclear program that was included in Risen’s 2006 book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. According to Josh Gerstein (Politco): “The scheme involved using a Russian defector to deliver the faulty blueprints to the Iranians, but the defector blew the CIA’s plot by alerting the Iranians to the flaws — negating the value of the program, and perhaps even advancing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

Greenwald says that the subpoena was originally served but then later abandoned by the Bush DOJ. One has to ask why a President who campaigned on a platform of protecting whistleblowers decided to go after a whistleblower when the previous administration decided to drop the case.

The DOJ eventually uncovered the identity of the alleged source for Risen’s story without Risen’s help. It was Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent who left the agency in 2002.

Maybe you’d like to know how Sterling’s identity was uncovered. Well, federal investigators targeted author/reporter Risen. They obtained Risen’s “three private credit reports, examined his personal bank records and obtained information about his phone calls and travel…”

Gerstein says the revelation that the government obtained that information about Risen has alarmed First Amendment advocates, particularly in light of Justice Department rules requiring the attorney general to sign off on subpoenas directed to members of the media and on requests for their phone records. And Risen told POLITICO that the disclosures, while not shocking, made him feel “like a target of spying.”

Greenwald says what he finds “particularly indefensible” is how the Obama DOJ is going back into the past to dig up “forgotten episodes.”

This is how Greenwald closes his article:
For a President who insists that we must “Look Forward, Not Backward” — when it comes to investigating war crimes by high-level Bush officials — this anti-whistleblower assault reflects not only an obsession on preserving and bolstering the National Security State’s secrecy regime, but also an intense fixation on the past. And increasingly extremist weapons — now including trolling through reporters’ banking and phone records — are being wielded to achieve it. As Thomas Jefferson warned long ago: “Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

Sources

The DOJ’s creeping war on whistle-blowers (Salon)

Feds spy on reporter in leak probe (Politco)

ABC News

57 thoughts on “Promises, Promises: Is the Obama DOJ Going after Whistleblowers?

  1. One has to wonder how much of this is the President and his staff and how much id due to the Bush cronies who “burrowed in” before the Worst President In History left office. Dislodging those trolls is going to be a major undertaking due to restrictions on firing them outright. I know that Obama wants to be the Great Conciliator, but it ain’t working folks.

  2. It is an unhappy truth that the public doesn’t have the political will to hold President Obama’s feet to the fire regarding this (nor would, say, defeating him for re-election likely do anything but worsen this situation). In less perilous times I could imagine thousands of people marching on the Capitol to demand fair treatment for people like Mr. Sterling and the author of the Wikileaks dump, but when it requires all of the public’s focus to fight the barbarians at the gate (or the Republicans and their corporate masters) how can we defend against this sort of behind-the-scenes attack on our rights?

  3. It’s not Important…

    You never know what would make the people take to the streets,Wisconsin gives us all hope.

    “I could imagine thousands of people marching on the Capitol to demand fair treatment for people like Mr. Sterling and the author of the Wikileaks dump, but when it requires all of the public’s focus to fight the barbarians at the gate (or the Republicans and their corporate masters) how can we defend against this sort of behind-the-scenes attack on our rights?’

  4. Otteray Scribe,

    I, too, often wonder about burrowing – there was certainly an effect when the Bush administration ignored the restrictions on firing Justice Department employees and politicized the agency (and anything else they could get their hands on) to a completely unprecedented degree. The fact that the Justice Department routinely produces action that seems like the wet dream of some Bush administration war criminal… – I mean lawyer – strikes me as evidence that burrowing has had a substantial influence on the Justice Department. Although whether he was complicit in this attack on civil liberties or just unable to stop it, AG Holder (and, to a lesser extent, President Obama) also deserves some of the blame for this travesty.

  5. einobob,

    I don’t think that the left can successfully wage a battle for civil liberties when it is involved in an existential fight for the cornerstone of its coalition (unions). Wisconsin gives me hope, too – but if we take our eyes off of the ball there I believe the Kock-suckers will find a way to win. As important as civil liberties are, it’s never worthwhile to lose the war for the sake of a battle… (one may argue that losing civil liberties is also losing the war, but it is a far, far slower path than losing unions).

  6. Elaine; yes I realize about Holder. Sometimes a sin of omission is as bad as a sin of commission. He has the power to come down hard on some of these folks. I am astounded that the same US Attorney in Alabama that pushed the questionable prosecution of Governor Siegelman is still on the job. Just think what the political landscape would look like if the US Attorneys around the country went after other corrupt governors and oligarchs with the same zeal.

  7. As long as the Republican Party insists that only the worst of the worst, amoral, brain-dead candidates can get the nomination Obama, and the Democrats have no need to do the right thing.

    Obama is much better than Boy Blunder and his Super Friends – that is obvious. He is also demonstrably better than the other choice in ’08. Sadly, that does not make him a good President; only the best one we are allowed to have at the moment. Maybe someday this fever will pass from the body politic and we can again be proud of a President.

  8. War Criminals Obama, Holder, G.W. Bush, et al ahould be arrested.

    NWO RINO’s John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Darrell Issa (also all War Criminals to be arrested) should step down now. They are selling out our country. We need real leaders to start an investigation into Obama’s eligibility with a committee or subcommittee of the House compelling by subpoena the production of all the available records relevant to Obama’s eligibility.

  9. From Salon (4/16/2010)
    What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ
    BY GLENN GREENWALD
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/16/prosecutions

    Excerpt:
    The more I think and read about the Obama DOJ’s prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, the more I think this might actually be one of the worst steps the Obama administration has taken yet, if not the single worst step — and that’s obviously saying a lot. During the Bush years, in the wake of the NSA scandal, I used to write post after post about how warped and dangerous it was that the Bush DOJ was protecting the people who criminally spied on Americans (Bush, Cheney Michael Hayden) while simultaneously threatening to prosecute the whistle-blowers who exposed misconduct. But the Bush DOJ never actually followed through on those menacing threats; no NSA whistle-blowers were indicted during Bush’s term (though several were threatened). It took the election of Barack Obama for that to happen, as his handpicked Assistant Attorney General publicly boasted yesterday of the indictment against Drake.

    Aside from the indefensible fact that only crimes committed by high-level Bush officials — but nobody else — enjoy the benefits of Obama’s “Look Forward, Not Backward” decree, think about the interests being served by this prosecution. Most discussions yesterday suggested that Drake’s leaks to The Baltimore Sun’s Sibohan Gorman were about waste and mismanagement in the “Trailblazer” project rather than controversial NSA spying activities, but that’s not entirely accurate.

    Just consider this May 18, 2006, article by Gorman, describing how and why the NSA opted for the “Trailblazer” proposal over the privacy-protecting “Thin Thread” program, in the process discarding key privacy protections designed to ensure that the NSA would not eavesdrop on the domestic calls of U.S. citizens (h/t ondelette). In that article — which really should be read to get a sense for the whistle-blowing that is being punished by the DOJ — Gorman described at length how then-NSA head Michael Hayden rejected technologies that could “rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy” and “that monitored potential abuse of the records.” As she put it: “Once President Bush gave the go-ahead for the NSA to secretly gather and analyze domestic phone records — an authorization that carried no stipulations about identity protection — agency officials regarded the encryption as an unnecessary step and rejected it.”

    It’s not hyperbole to say that Bush’s decision to use the NSA to spy domestically on American citizens was one of the most significant stories of this generation. It was long recognized that turning the NSA inward was one of the greatest dangers to freedom, as Sen. Frank Church warned back in 1975, after he investigated America’s secret surveillance apparatus: “That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.” It was, of course, the December 16, 2005, New York Times article by Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau which first disclosed that the Bush NSA was illegally eavesdropping on American citizens inside the U.S., but Gorman’s articles regarding the Trailblazer program — in the time period covered by the indictment, using NSA sources (almost certainly including Drake) — provided crucial details about how and why the Bush NSA dispensed with key safeguards to protect innocent Americans from such invasive domestic surveillance.

    And then there’s the massive fraud and waste which Gorman also exposed as a result of Drake’s whistle-blowing. The primary focus of her stories was that the Trailblazer project turned into a massive, billion-dollar “boondoggle” which vastly exceeded its original estimates, sucked up enormous amounts of the post-9/11 intelligence budget explosion, and produced very little of value. But look at the coalition of corporations which was contracted to develop this Trailblazer project, the familiar cast of Surveillance State interests who were the recipients of the “boondoggle” which Gorman and Drake exposed:

    Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) today announced a contract award from the National Security Agency to be the provider of the technology demonstration platform phase of the TRAILBLAZER program.

    The TDP phase of the TRAILBLAZER program is currently estimated at $280 million and will be performed over a period of 26 months.

    The NSA selected the SAIC-led Digital Network Intelligence Enterprise team that includes Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Boeing Company, Computer Sciences Corporation and SAIC wholly-owned subsidiary Telcordia Technologies to contribute to the modernization of the NSA’s signals intelligence capabilities.

  10. Wow, this is really going on…… I knew why I didn’t vote for him… Now I’ll put emphasis on Huckabee…. Not that he is the best candidate…just more beatable…

  11. I wonder if he inhaled…..nah….just caught a down draft from Willies place….

    Remember, call the Governor of WI and to Vote for Huckabee… May they all have a charmed life….

  12. Good to see you anon nurse. The embed has not worked for me for over a week. Marvin Gaye was so talented.

  13. Hey SWM, AN… Good Morning and Good Evening….

    So how did the guy from Arkansas find his sister in the woods…..

    Hot…..

    Drum Roll……crescendo… then drum stick its the edge of the snare drum….

  14. Elaine,
    Mr. Greenwald hits the nail on the head when he states that only people who get a pass from prosecution are the Bush torture crowd. He is happy to “look backwards” on everyone else!! Pitiful!

  15. Good to see you too, Swarthmore mom. Yes, about Marvin Gaye — he was incredibly talented. I still miss him…

    Good Evening to you, as well, AY.

  16. How did you get it to work, Buddha? I tried it twice and then anon nurse tried to help. I don’t even know if she likes the song.

  17. anon nurse,

    Welcome back!

    *****

    Swarthmore mom,

    I couldn’t embed the youtube videos so I started copying and pasting the URLs of the videos. That has worked for me.

  18. I copied the address from the URL bar of the browser while viewing the video at YouTube.

    That seems to be the “go to” coding WordPress likes when the coding from the “Embed” button starts acting funny.

  19. What joke. That is the truth in all of the Southern state East of Texas…..including but not limited to the States South of the Mason-Dixon line…

  20. Buddha, What a nice surprise — it’s one of my favorite songs. You’re a veritable miracle worker… And thanks to you, Swarthmore mom, for trying to post it first.

    Sorry about not responding earlier today, Buddha. I was working and only had time to post a few quick comments. I knew that I’d catch up with you somewhere. It’s nice to see you, as well…

  21. Thanks, Blouise. (I’ll send an e-mail…) I’ve missed all of you — this blog continues to be a port in the storm…

    I love the song, Swarthmore mom, but I would have tried to embed any old video for you… :-)

  22. Jane Mayer on the Obama war on whistle-blowers
    BY GLENN GREENWALD
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/16/whistleblowers/index.html

    Excerpt:
    In a just released, lengthy New Yorker article, Jane Mayer — with the diligence and thoroughness she used to expose the Bush torture regime — examines a topic I’ve written about many times here: the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers generally, and its persecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake in particular (Drake exposed massive waste, excess and perhaps illegality in numerous NSA programs). Mayer’s article is what I’d describe as the must-read magazine article of the month, and I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety, but I just want to highlight a few passages. First, we have this:

    When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks — more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

    Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history — even more so than Nixon.”

    When it comes to civil liberties and transparency — cornerstones of the Obama campaign — those two paragraphs are a perfect microcosm of what has taken place. And Mayer did not even include this quote about whistleblowers from candidate Obama: “Such acts of courage and patriotism . . . should be encouraged rather than stifled.” Apparently, by “encouraged,” he meant: “snuffed out with relentless prosecution and intimidation.”

    But for the real microcosm of the Obama legacy in these areas, Mayer offers this:

    Jack Balkin, a liberal law professor at Yale, agrees that the increase in leak prosecutions is part of a larger transformation. “We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state,” he says. In his view, zealous leak prosecutions are consonant with other political shifts since 9/11: the emergence of a vast new security bureaucracy, in which at least two and a half million people hold confidential, secret, or top-secret clearances; huge expenditures on electronic monitoring, along with a reinterpretation of the law in order to sanction it; and corporate partnerships with the government that have transformed the counterterrorism industry into a powerful lobbying force. Obama, Balkin says, has “systematically adopted policies consistent with the second term of the Bush Administration.”

    If someone asked me to point to a single paragraph that best conveys the prime, enduring impact of the Obama presidency, I’d point to that one.

    As for why serious tensions developed between Drake and his NSA superiors, Mayer explains that it originated with the post-9/11 work of NSA mathematician (and political conservative) Bill Binney, whose work was intended to fix the NSA’s flaws that allowed the 9/11 plot to go undetected but was quickly exploited far beyond that purpose by Bush’s NSA:

    Binney expressed terrible remorse over the way some of his algorithms were used after 9/11. ThinThread, the “little program” that he invented to track enemies outside the U.S., “got twisted,” and was used for both foreign and domestic spying: “I should apologize to the American people. It’s violated everyone’s rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world.” According to Binney, Drake took his side against the N.S.A.’s management and, as a result, became a political target within the agency.

  23. The Secret Sharer
    Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?
    by Jane Mayer
    The New Yorker
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

    Excerpt:
    On June 13th, a fifty-four-year-old former government employee named Thomas Drake is scheduled to appear in a courtroom in Baltimore, where he will face some of the gravest charges that can be brought against an American citizen. A former senior executive at the National Security Agency, the government’s electronic-espionage service, he is accused, in essence, of being an enemy of the state. According to a ten-count indictment delivered against him in April, 2010, Drake violated the Espionage Act—the 1917 statute that was used to convict Aldrich Ames, the C.I.A. officer who, in the eighties and nineties, sold U.S. intelligence to the K.G.B., enabling the Kremlin to assassinate informants. In 2007, the indictment says, Drake willfully retained top-secret defense documents that he had sworn an oath to protect, sneaking them out of the intelligence agency’s headquarters, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and taking them home, for the purpose of “unauthorized disclosure.” The aim of this scheme, the indictment says, was to leak government secrets to an unnamed newspaper reporter, who is identifiable as Siobhan Gorman, of the Baltimore Sun. Gorman wrote a prize-winning series of articles for the Sun about financial waste, bureaucratic dysfunction, and dubious legal practices in N.S.A. counterterrorism programs. Drake is also charged with obstructing justice and lying to federal law-enforcement agents. If he is convicted on all counts, he could receive a prison term of thirty-five years.

    The government argues that Drake recklessly endangered the lives of American servicemen. “This is not an issue of benign documents,” William M. Welch II, the senior litigation counsel who is prosecuting the case, argued at a hearing in March, 2010. The N.S.A., he went on, collects “intelligence for the soldier in the field. So when individuals go out and they harm that ability, our intelligence goes dark and our soldier in the field gets harmed.”

    Top officials at the Justice Department describe such leak prosecutions as almost obligatory. Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General who supervises the department’s criminal division, told me, “You don’t get to break the law and disclose classified information just because you want to.” He added, “Politics should play no role in it whatsoever.”

    When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

    Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

    One afternoon in January, Drake met with me, giving his first public interview about this case. He is tall, with thinning sandy hair framing a domed forehead, and he has the erect bearing of a member of the Air Force, where he served before joining the N.S.A., in 2001. Obsessive, dramatic, and emotional, he has an unwavering belief in his own rectitude. Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

    “But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

  24. Read the New Yorker article last night. Thanks for posting it. The last paragraph of the posting describes the situation perfectly.

    “But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

    from the press release:

    Drake and several fellow-dissidents at the N.S.A., all of whom were registered Republicans, tell Mayer the story of their previously unknown efforts to stop the N.S.A. from engaging in what they saw as illegal domestic surveillance. Bill Binney, a former top N.S.A. analyst, tells Mayer he believes that “a little program” he developed was “twisted” into an alarmingly invasive program of domestic spying. “I should apologize to the American people. It’s violated everyone’s rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world,” Binney says. “It can create an Orwellian state. It’s exactly what the Founding Fathers never wanted.” Binney confided his fears to Diane Roark, the Republican staff member on the House Intelligence Committee whose job it was to oversee the N.S.A.

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/services/presscenter/2011/05/23/110523pr_press_releases#ixzz1Mcv2tjZq

    —————

    There are some wicked things goin’ on…, but the road to revelation is, apparently, a very long and tortuous one. Word will get out, with or without those who are, quite literally, obstructing justice.

  25. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/06/06

    Published on Monday, June 6, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

    The Loneliness and Courage of Thomas Drake: A Whistleblower’s Journey
    by Robert Shetterly

    “As a student of history and politics, I firmly believe that we have reached a breaking point in this country, when the government violates and erodes our very privacy and precious freedoms in the name of national security and then hides it behind the convenient label of secrecy.

    This is not the America I took an oath to support and defend in my career. This is not the America I learned about while growing up in Texas and Vermont. This is not the America we are supposed to be.” — Thomas Drake, from his acceptance speech of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth–Telling

  26. I just saw the latest on the Thomas Drake whistleblower case. In a diary by Jesselyn Radack, a former FBI agent and whistleblower herself, she reports the government case against Mr. Drake is “imploding.”

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/09/983529/-UPDATEWaPo-Front-Page:-Case-Against-NSA-Whistleblower-Thomas-Drake-Imploding?detail=hide

    More analysis from the New Yorker

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/06/is-the-nsa-whistleblower-case-falling-apart.html

  27. anon nurse,

    From the link (article) you posted:

    “This is just more evidence that the government never should have prosecuted Thomas Drake,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. “We should be thankful that Mr. Drake had the courage to stand by his convictions and do what was best for the country.”

    Keep on keeping on … sometimes the good guys do win. I’m certain Mr. Drake privately suffered through many long, sleepless, nights … strength of character, kiddo, strength of character …

  28. Thanks for that, Blouise. Good people are helping… and I count you among them… I’ll definitely “stay the course, no matter the outcome, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s taken a mighty toll…

  29. Why are we subverting the Constitution in the name of security?

    by Thomas Drake

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-are-we-subverting-the-constitution-in-the-name-of-security/2011/08/25/gIQANnrheJ_story.html

    Excerpt:

    I raised the gravest of concerns through all the proper channels, reporting massive contract fraud, management malfeasance and illegalities conducted by the NSA, including critical intelligence information and analysis that was never reported or shared by the NSA. Had this vital and actionable intelligence been properly analyzed and disseminated by the NSA, it could have led to the capture of the Sept. 11 hijackers and prevented the attacks.

    I followed all the rules for reporting such activity until it conflicted with the primacy of my oath to defend the Constitution. I then made a fateful choice to exercise my fundamental First Amendment rights and went to a journalist with unclassified information about which the public had a right to know.

    Why are we subverting the Constitution in the name of security?
    Rather than address its own corruption, ineptitude and illegal actions, the government made me a target of a multi-year, multimillion-dollar federal criminal “leak” investigation as part of a vicious campaign against whistleblowers that started under President George W. Bush and is coming to full fruition under President Obama.

    To the government, I was a traitor and enemy of the state. As an American, however, I could not stand by and become an accessory to the willful subversion of our Constitution and our freedoms.

    It is a basic precept when taking the oath to defend the Constitution as a government employee and providing for the common defense that you do not sell out intelligence or national security to the highest bidder, or keep our nation’s decision makers in the dark, or turn information into a political tool and, driven by self-interest, use it to hammer whistleblowers.

    Such egregious behavior sends a chilling message about what the government can and will do to those who speak truth to power — a direct form of political repression and censorship.

    Once exposed, these unconstitutional detours are justified by vague and undefined claims of “national security,” aided and abetted by officials’ shameless fear-mongering while they cover up their own actions and keep them secret from the public.

    The real consequence of such behavior by our government is also chilling: It weakens our national security and keeps the public less informed, while wasting billions of dollars enriching any number of contractors that are profiteering at the expense of our security and common defense.

    Before the war on terrorism, our country recognized the importance of free speech and privacy. If we sacrifice these basic liberties, according to the false dichotomy that such is required for security, then we transform ourselves from an oasis of freedom into a police state that crucifies its citizens when they step out of line or speak up against government wrongdoing. These are the hallmarks of despotism, not democracy. Is this the country we want to keep?

    Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, received the 2011 Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize.

  30. Blowing the whistle on Obama’s America

    Do the threats facing whistleblowers under Obama’s presidency mean Americans know less about what their government does?

    Listening Post Last Modified: 05 Jan 2013 10:40

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2012/06/20126816273761143.html

    This week: A Listening Post special – Whistleblowing and the US media.

    On the campaign trail four years ago, US presidential candidate Barack Obama shared his views on whistleblowers. He said: “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud and abuse in government is a government employee committed to public integrity, willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism … should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

    As president, the reality has been very different. During his first term in office, six whistleblowers have been charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. That is twice as many as all previous presidents combined.

    The threat facing whistleblowers has implications in many areas, including defence, intelligence and national security. And then there is the impact it is having on the US media: In a digital age, where electronic paper trails are hard to hide, journalists are no longer able to guarantee their sources’ anonymity. And if the sources dry up, so do the stories and the American people are left knowing less and less about what their government is doing.

    In the first half of this full edition special, we blow the whistle on President Obama’s America.

    Jesselyn Radack is a lawyer who worked as an ethics adviser for the US Department of Justice. In 2001, Radack revealed that the FBI questioned John Walker Lindh – ‘the American Taliban’ – illegally and that his so-called confession might not stand up in a court of law. Radack was heavily criticised and became the target of a Federal criminal ‘leak investigation’. After a year she resigned.

    In the second half of the show, Radack talks to us about the impact whistleblowing has had on US journalism and what news organisations are doing about it.

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