Hindsight is 20/20, as the saying goes. And I'm really hoping that's the case. Because the government's current vision is pretty clouded – at least when it comes to national security. And by clouded, I mean nearly blind.
How else do you justify that the only person associated with the Bush-era torture policies going to jail is the guy who blew the whistle on it? Or the interception and storage of millions of Americans' private communications?
At least not everyone is blinded by this all-encompassing "national security." In fact, there are those who would expose this façade. Specifically, there is CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, and NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe and Bill Binney. And there is the Joe A. Callaway for Civic Courage that recognizes the importance of what these whistleblowers are exposing.
Kiriakou, in particular, has a magnificently compelling story. He was among the first to identify torture as CIA policy and was subsequently charged under the Espionage Act. He recently pled guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (30 months in prison) in exchange for the government dropping the other charges – including the ones under the Espionage Act. As he said in the ceremony, his first priority was to see his five kids grow up, and this plea deal gave him at least that.
Accepting the award on Tuesday night (Nov. 13), he put on a brave face as tear-stained faces of the audience saluted him in a standing ovation. As GAP's Sarah Damian summed up nicely, "It was a good reminder of why we do what we do."
Binney and Wiebe's story is no less powerful, though, thankfully, it doesn't end in prison. Binney and Wiebe worked at the NSA for a combined 60+ years. When they saw the corruption and illegalities that were pervading the agency after 9/11, they resigned. Now, they speak out about the agency's domestic surveillance and the privacy rights it violates.
All three of these whistleblowers have done important work peeling back some of the layers of the national security complex. It is heartwarming to see them honored for their courageous actions.
Let's hope the government will see that. If not now, then at least in hindsight.
Hannah Johnson is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower proteciton and advocacy organization.