First of all - thank you to the whistleblower supporter who started the Facebook group "Save Tom Drake!" I urge you all to visit, "like," and comment on that page.
Compare the case of Thomas Drake, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower now facing an indictment under the Espionage Act and 35 years in prison for telling the truth to other recent spying cases in the media.
The FBI spent more than a decade pursuing the Russian spy ring operating under deep cover in American neighborhoods whose alleged members the New York Times has described as "the suburbs personified."
China's sentencing American geologist Xue Feng to eight years in prison for "stealing state secrets" has us outraged, and rightfully so considering Feng claims he was tortured while in custody.
However, the case of Xue Feng elucidates a particularly poignant comparison with Thomas Drake's case: in both cases, governments are using the criminal justice system to protect their claims of secrecy.
The Washington Post describes the Feng case as
a case that underscored how the Chinese government will use the legal system to protect the business interests and competitive edge of its state-run firms. . . . But China in recent years has shown an increasing willingness to use its catchall state secrecy laws -- usually invoked in matters of national security -- to protect what it considers the trade secrets of its state-run companies
Catchall state secrecy laws? Protecting companies? Putting aside for the moment the paradox of slamming "catchall state secrecy laws" that protect business interests after passing the retroactive telecom immunity provisions of the FISA Amendments Act, our outrage also seems incongruous considering Drake's case.
Drake's indictment stems from his contacting the Baltimore Sun in connection with a series of articles that exposed the NSA's wasteful spending on a failed multi-million dollar program and rejection of a more effective alternative that contained much-needed privacy protections for Americans.
Yet as we cry foul when China sentences eight years, the United States is prosecuting Drake under the Espionage Act for "willful retention" (not even unauthorized disclosure) of information that embodies the U.S. version of "catchall secrecy laws." With his numerous internal complaints to his superiors at NSA, the NSA Inspector General, the Defense Department Inspector General, and the Congressional Intelligence Committees being ignored, Drake found himself where so many national security whistleblowers end up - caught between their conscience and their careers, or in Drake's case, his freedom. When true and secret facts evidence government waste, fraud, mismanagement, abuse, or illegality (or serve only to protect business interests), we would not tolerate another country concealing them using the criminal justice system, but here in the U.S., Drake is facing over four times the eight years Feng received in China.
Meanwhile, the 11 persons allegedly operating a long-term, elaborate plot to infiltrate American institutions and steal secrets for Russia have not been charged under the Espionage Act, a law originally intended to catch spies.
This blog entry by GAP Homeland Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack is cross-posted from her column appearing on Daily Kos.