Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday about "secrecy creep" – the retaliation against whistleblowers that has crept down from the White House into Executive branch agencies.
Whistleblowers have always been subjected to retaliation, but the retaliation used to be focused on marginalizing the whistleblower, shifting or eliminating the whistleblower's job duties, firing her, or yanking her security clearance. Now, with the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers, whistleblower retaliation includes polygraphs, systematic monitoring of whistleblowers' electronic activities, and prosecution under the Espionage Act – even at Executive agencies beyond the intelligence community.
Intelligence community whistleblowers like former National Security Agency (NSA) officials Bill Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe were targeted with criminal investigation and subjected to armed FBI raids. Even more severe, whistleblowers like former NSA official Thomas Drake and former CIA officer John Kiriakou were indicted under the Espionage Act.
Now Executive branch agencies outside the intelligence community are using the secrecy and surveillance tactics to punish whistleblowers.
Greenwald provides concrete examples of the secrecy creep resulting in increased whistleblower retaliation:
 . . . McClatchy reported on a criminal investigation launched by the Inspector General (IG) of the National Reconnaissance Office, America’s secretive spy satellite agency, against the agency’s deputy director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko. After Mashiko learned that four senior NRO officials whose identities she did not know reported to the IG “a series of allegations of malfeasant actions” by another NRO official relating to large contracts, Mashiko allegedly vowed: “I would like to find them and fire them.”
 It was not until 2011 that the Interior Department . . . hired . . . a hydrologist, Dr. Paul Houser, who was previously an associate professor in George Mason University’s Geography and Geoinformation Sciences Department.
But only a few months later, Houser began experiencing serious problems within the agency when he raised substantial questions, on scientific and environmental grounds, about the administration’s proposal to remove dams from a river that flows through Oregon and California. . . . About the Interior whistleblower case, Sheppard notes: “Advocates for transparency and good science within government agencies point out the apparent irony in firing a guy hired to enforce scientific integrity for his attempts to do just that.”
In addition to Greenwald's examples, other cases of secrecy creep indicate that the surveillance tools once reserved for the intelligence community are now being used by other Executive agencies to intimidate whistleblowers and silence dissenters.
- The State Department monitored all of whistleblower Peter Van Buren's online activities taken on his personal time using his personal computer.
- The Food & Drug Administration targeted and spied on whistleblowers in a widespread surveillance operation that included spying on whistleblowers' protected communications with Congress and the Office of Special Counsel, congressional staffers and reporters.
- Feeding off the "leak hysteria" in Washington, Congress proposed a series of pro-secrecy "anti-leak" measures which would do more to silence and punish whistleblowers than stop leaks that actually harm national security.
Greenwald articulated the effects of "secrecy creep:"
Worse still, allowing the Executive Branch to leak at will information that glorifies the President and his policies, while aggressively suppressing all information that does the opposite, is the classic recipe for propagandizing without limit. What these lower-level officials are doing in threatening and retaliating against whistleblowers may very well be criminal, but they’re adhering to a mindset clearly decreed from the top.
The Obama administration's hypocritical position on so-called "leaks" – ignoring if not orchestrating pro-administration "leaks" while prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act – steers Executive Branch agencies in wrong direction by instituting a culture of silencing dissent and condoning whistleblower retaliation.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Governent Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.