United Arab Emirates' English-language newspaper The National ran a significant piece by Peter Muir criticizing the U.S. government's hypocrisy in declining to criminally prosecute government officials who authorized, orchestrated and committed torture during the G.W. Bush-era while prosecuting John Kiriakou – a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower who helped expose torture – under the heavy-handed Espionage Act.
If those responsible for torture - either committing the act, sanctioning it, providing dubious legal advice that encourages it or wilfully destroying evidence of it- are not held accountable, while those within the US government, like Kiriakou, who take a stand against it are persecuted, it may only be a matter of time before we once again see grinning soldiers shamelessly posing for souvenir photos with the shrink-wrapped remains of "enhanced interrogation" victims.
I've long pointed out that the government's war on whistleblowers (a.k.a. selective and record-breaking use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers) has a tremendous chilling effect on potential national security whistleblowers, creates a terrible precedent for targeting and silencing jouranlists, and is a back-door way of creating an Official Secrets Act. Considering that a commentator for UAE's The National can grasp the dangerous consequences of letting the architects of torture off the hook while charging whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, the government ought to reconsider its attack on whistleblowers for one more reason.
There are dangers of the Obama administration's record-breaking six Espionage Act prosecutions beyond imprisonment for my clients like John Kiriakou and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake (before the case against Drake imploded). In light of the decision not to prosecute torturers or the architects of torture, the message the U.S. government's leak hypocrisy sends is that employees who break the law can get away with it while those who help expose government law-breaking risk criminal prosecution.
While the sad consequences of the U.S. government's leak hypocrisy seem largely lost on the U.S. main-stream-media, they are not lost on all Americans. The National piece comes on the heels of a poignant must-read piece on Kiriakou's case from State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren:
If Kiriakou had actually tortured someone himself, even to death, there is no possibility that he would be in trouble. John Kiriakou is 48. He is staring down a long tunnel at a potential sentence of up to 45 years in prison because in the national security state that rules the roost in Washington, talking out of turn about a crime has become the only possible crime.
. . .
That we now can only speculate about many of the details involved and the extent of all this is a tribute to the thousands who continue to remain silent about what they did, saw, heard about, or were associated with. . . . What is it that allows all those people to remain silent? How many are simply scared, watching what is happening to John Kiriakou and thinking: not me, I’m not sticking my neck out to see it get chopped off. They’re almost forgivable, even if they are placing their own self-interest above that of their country. But what about the others, the ones who remain silent about what they did or saw or aided and abetted in some fashion because they still think it was the right thing to do? The ones who will do it again when another frightened president asks them to? Or even the ones who enjoyed doing it?
Dan Froomkin of Huffington Post reported similarly over the summer:
The bitterest irony of the case is that if Kiriakou had actually tortured, rather than talked about it, he almost certainly wouldn’t be in trouble.
The torturers and their commanders have no fear because Obama has vowed to “look forward instead of looking backward” when it comes to crimes committed during the post-9/11 period in the name of national security.
This post originally appeared on Radack's Daily Kos blog.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.