The government is playing dumb in its public statements on the "leak hysteria" in Washington:
“We have tried more leak cases — brought more leak cases during the course of this administration than any other administration,” Mr. Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I was getting hammered by the left for that only two weeks ago. Now I’m getting hammered by the right for potentially not going after leaks. It makes for an interesting dynamic.”
Surely Attorney General Eric Holder knows the difference between high-level administration officials leaking to the media (or Hollywood!?!) for political gain, and whistleblowers disclosing government waste, fraud, abuse or illegality. But, Holder's obtuse statement deliberately obfuscates the administration's hypocritical policy on so-called "leaks." No doubt because the Justice Department has broken a record prosecuting whistleblowers, while ignoring high-level leaks for political gain.
Unfortunately many in the main stream media (MSM) have been more than willing to perpetuate the confusion by reporting that the Espionage Act prosecutions and pressure to go after high-level leaks are about the same types of disclosures.
The MSM should recognize that the issue is not the need for more than six Espionage Act prosecutions, but for the Obama administration to stop the blatant hypocrisy of criminally prosecuting low and mid-level officials, while simultaneously feeding the media secrets that serve as pro-administration talking points.
Holder's whine about being called out on hypocrisy is almost as bad as the administration's double-speak on its war on whistleblowers, which essentially boils down to:
The Espionage Act prosecutions were an accident, but we want credit for them.
The New York Times reported:
Under fire from Republicans who claim that the White House has leaked classified information to make him look tough, President Obama has pointed to his administration’s unmatched record in prosecuting leaks. . . . Even Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., whose Justice Department has pursued five of the six cases, was surprised by news reports pointing out that the number of cases was unprecedented, colleagues said. He has told associates that he has no desire for leak prosecutions to be his legacy.
The MSM needs to stop perpetuating the Obama administration's far-from-credible premise that even though the administration unintentionally brought a record-breaking number of "leak" prosecutions, the administration should get credit for being tough on leaks and not have to pursue any more. The MSM should quit buying Holder's, "We didn't do anything on purpose . . . but haven't we done enough?" meme.
The disclosures that the Justice Department has not prosecuted are leaks that give the Obama administration good press – like the Osama Bin Laden raid – or leaks that make the Obama administration look tough on terrorism – like the Terror Tuesday meetings where officials debate which people to kill next – or leaks that give the Obama administration the chance to defend its policies – like the leak of the existence of a Justice Department memo "authorizing" the killing of an American citizen without charge or trial, a leak originally credited to anonymous "administration officials."
The first losers are the criminally-prosecuted whistleblowers upon whose backs the high-level officials who leak for political gain can go unaccountable (because, as Holder said, "we've brought more leak cases than any other administration"). The whistleblowers (some of them my clients) the Justice Department has pursued criminally include:
Shamai Leibowitz - FBI translator who disclosed information to a blogger because of his all-too-real fear that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move his saw as potentially disastrous.
Tom Drake – NSA senior executive who disclosed what turned out to be (contrary to the government's assertions) unclassified information about a failed and wasteful multi-billion dollar NSA domestic spying program that compromised Americans' privacy.
Steven Kim – State Department arms expert accused of disclosing that North Korea was planning to respond to a U.N. Security Council resolution by setting off a nuclear test.
Jeff Sterling – CIA officer who accused of revealing a bothched program in which we gave flawed nuclear design information to Iran. But the flaw was so obvious, Iran detected the ruse, and in the process we turned over actual useful nuclear secrets.
John Kiriakou – CIA officer who disclosed that torture was a policy and not a rogue improvisation, and that waterboarding is torture. He's accused of revealing to Gitmo detainee lawyers the identity of one of the officers who tortured the detainees.
Bradley Manning – Army private who allegedly revealed what he thought (and no one has disagreed that the "Collateral Murder" video showed) were war crimes.
The next losers will be the MSM, who will be left with nothing but Executive branch talking points when their other sources are intimidated into silence, and then Americans will be an even less-informed citizenry and less equipped to question government actions.
UPDATE: If the Obama administration really cared about stopping leaks, it would keep its promise to push for meaningful whistleblower protections for intelligence community employees. Same goes for the congressional Intelligence committees who would support the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) (HR 3289, S 743) if they were truly committed to stopping leaks. WPEA would give a meaningful start to whistleblower protections for intelligence community employees, who currently have no rights when they are retaliated against for blowing the whistle on government waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.