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New York Times: New Leaks, New Repercussions
In the wake of more disclosures from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden – namely the French surveillance issue – this masthead editorial from the New York Times states that “the very scale of America’s clandestine electronic operations appears to be undercutting America’s ‘soft power’ — its ability to influence global affairs through example and moral leadership.”
In news related to the French affair, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has called the Le Monde report “misleading.” He told the Associated Press that the French newspaper's reporting "contain[s] inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign intelligence activities." Clapper also stated "The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million 'recordings of French citizens' telephone data' is false.” It must be noted that Clapper intentionally lied in his testimony before the U.S. Senate about these NSA activities in March, months prior to the initial Snowden disclosures.
Le Monde is standing by its story.
TechNewsWorld: Strong Encryption, Natural Language Search Make Potent Cocktail
The Freedom of the Press Foundation launch of SecureDrop – technology that will give whistleblowers a safe online place to communicate sensitive information to news outlets – is coming at a critical time for those seeking to get the truth out. Many are speculating that the launch of SecureDrop has to do with the Obama administration’s notorious crackdown on revealers of state secrets.
Key Quote: "It's worse than all other administrations in terms of national security whistleblowing," Louis Clark, president of the Government Accountability Project, told TechNewsWorld.
"I think it's the best administration in terms of corporate whistleblowers," he continued. "So it's a schizophrenic administration."
In the current agency climate technologies like SecureDrop have become a necessity for whistleblowers, Clark noted.
"The treatment of whistleblowers has angered some people in the national security agencies," he said. "Whistleblowers feel like they have nowhere to go in their agencies, and when that happens, there's no place they can go except for the public if they want to raise their concerns."
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Washington Post: Richard Cohen – Edward Snowden is No Traitor
Prominent and widely-distributed columnist Richard Cohen has admitted that he was incorrect in his initial judgment of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden. Cohen claimed in June that the computer expert was not really a whistleblower, also calling him “ridiculously cinematic” and “narcissistic.” In this column, which has run in several major newspapers, Cohen writes “my judgments were just plain wrong.” He goes on to say that Snowden:
a.) is not a traitor,
b.) “has bent over backward to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little damage as possible,”
c.) has resisted selling out in any way,
d.) is staying in Russia because it “has been forced upon him,”
e.) has “been careful with his info,” and
f.) that he has “instigated a worthwhile debate.”
GAP welcomes the change of heart from Cohen, having supported Snowden as a whistleblower since the disclosures about NSA surveillance first began in June. GAP has released a statement outlining exactly what makes Snowden a whistleblower here, and also responding to the Espionage Act charges against him here.
CTV News Channel: Spying on Allies
In related news, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack appeared on 24-hour Canadian News channel CTV yesterday to discuss the French citizen surveillance revelations.
Key Quote: I think as with many of Mr. Snowden’s allegations, the sheer mass dragnet surveillance of an entire population that’s completely innocent is really beyond the pale. Of course other countries spy on each other and even on allies but in one year collecting 760.3 million communications of perfectly innocent French citizens is not necessary for the national security of the United States.
Huffington Post: Walter Tamosaitis, Hanford Site Whistleblower – ‘I Was Fired Because I Raised Nuclear Safety Issues’
More on 44-year employee Walt Tamosaitis of URS Corp. – a subcontractor for the Hanford Nuclear Site – who was laid off earlier this month after he repeatedly raised concerns about unsafe building plans for a radioactive waste treatment plant in 2011. Though his concerns were validated and the poor safety practices of the Hanford site are notorious, the whistleblower was ostracized and eventually lost his job.
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Der Spiegel: Fresh Leak on US Spying – NSA Accessed Mexican President’s Email
Another disclosure from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that the US has been eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years – in particular former President Felipe Calderon, whose email messages have been targeted. According to the report, the spying has allowed for “deep insight into policymaking and the political system.” An NSA division for “particularly difficult missions” called the “Tailored Access Operations” handled the operation. The Mexican foreign ministry has responded that the program “is unacceptable, illegitimate and against Mexican and international law."
In related news, today Le Monde published another big revelation from Snowden disclosures – that the NSA has been engaged in widespread phone surveillance of French citizens. Glenn Greenwald co-wrote this article. The report claims that during a 30 day period from late 2012 to early 2013, the NSA recorded 70.3 million French phone calls. France is demanding answers from the US.
Finally, The Guardian – which unleashed the initial Snowden documents – has won two online journalism awards for its coverage of the NSA programs.
Tech Crunch: WikiLeaks in a Box – Secure Drop is Whistleblower Communication Tool for Media
In light of the NSA's expansive surveillance programs, SecureDrop – launched this month by the Freedom of the Press Foundation but developed initially by the late hacktivist Aaron Swartz – seeks to relay encrypted documents from whistleblower sources via safe and confidential channels to journalists. According to the article, the program has been updated to account for recent NSA spying operations.
Related Articles: Time
CBS: Nuclear Waste Whistleblower Now Out of a Job
Walt Tamosaitis – a long-time scientist at the Hanford nuclear site who was permanently laid off this month after years of raising concerns about a building project – will take his case of wrongful termination to court next month. Hanford has been under intense scrutiny by federal and local oversight bodies for decades, as investigations have validated Tamosaitis’s concerns. The subcontractor where Tamosaitis worked for over forty years, URS Corp, is unwilling to go into details about the layoff. The whistleblower has been a featured speaker on GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour stops at Whitman College and Portland State University in the past.
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New York Times: Snowden Says He Took No Secret Files to Russia
The New York Times' James Risen has conducted an “extensive interview” with Snowden, in which the whistleblower reveals several key points about his actions. These include:
• He took no secret NSA documents with him to Russia
• He gave all classified documents to journalists in Hong Kong, and he has no copies
• He protected such documents from the Chinese, as he was already intimately familiar with that country’s intelligence abilities
• He has never considered defecting to another country
• His decision to become a whistleblower was one that was made gradually, dating back to working for the CIA. He believes that working through the chain-of-command would have led to retaliation. According to Snowden, this belief was buttressed by the treatment of GAP client and whistleblower Tom Drake, who was charged with Espionage by the Obama administration for helping to reveal a program that sacrificed Americans' security and privacy, and was laden with massive waste.
• He decided to act after finding a 2009 classified IG report on the Geroge W. Bush administration warrantless wiretapping program. After reading the document and realizing that programs were illegal, he thought ‘If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all ... secret powers become tremendously dangerous.’
Key Quote: “In the interview, he said he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the N.S.A.’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data, including that of Americans.
He argued that he had helped American national security by prompting a badly needed public debate about the scope of the intelligence effort. “The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure,” he said. He added that he had been more concerned that Americans had not been told about the N.S.A.’s reach than he was about any specific surveillance operation.
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Prominent National Security Whistleblowers Coming to FIU
On Oct. 24, GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour will make a stop in Miami at Florida International University (FIU) for a discussion of national security and surveillance issues with two whistleblowers who met last week with Edward Snowden in Russia. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and DOJ whistleblower Jesselyn Radack were part of a coalition of whistleblowers that presented NSA surveillance whistleblower Snowden with the Sam Adams prize – awarded to intelligence workers who exhibit outstanding integrity in their jobs. At FIU, they will share their stories and take questions from an audience of students, faculty and interested members of the public.
Drake was a senior official at the NSA who used internal channels to disclose serious wrongdoing about a data collection program that was overly costly, ineffective and unconstitutional. He was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and the case against him collapsed in 2011. Radack served as an Ethics Advisor at the Department of Justice in 2001, when she advised FBI agents against illegally interrogating so-named “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. She is now GAP’s National Security & Human Rights Director.
Washington Post: Documents Reveal NSA’s Extensive Involvement in Targeted Killing Program
The latest explosive revelation from the Snowden disclosures details how the CIA relies heavily on NSA programs in carrying out its drone assassination program. The article illustrates how an al Qaeda operative was killed by a CIA drone strike days after the NSA was able to collect information on him from emails.
In related news, NSA head Keith Alexander is expected to retire by March or April of next year, while his deputy, John Inglis, will leave in the next couple of months.
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On Thursday, Oct. 24, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) returns to Florida International University (FIU) to present its acclaimed program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability. The stop will feature prominent national security whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack. Both panelists were part of a delegation of whistleblowers that met last week with NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia to present him with the Sam Adams Award.
The FIU event will be streamed online here. GAP President Louis Clark, who will moderate the panel discussion, stated.
"The hot-button issue of 2013 is the NSA's surveillance of American citizens vs. our privacy rights. This debate is only happening, and will continue for years, because of the actions of one national security whistleblower. We are pleased to visit FIU for the third year in a row, and bring students the first whistleblower charged by the Obama administration with espionage, along with the nation's leading expert on whistleblowing in the national security sphere."
GAP's Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event will feature a moderated discussion and is free to all. A full description of the Tour can be found at WhistleblowerTour.org.
- Thomas Drake is a former senior official of the National Security Agency (NSA) whom the Justice Department prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In June 2011, the case against him collapsed, but he endured four years of investigation and faced 10 felony counts after he used internal mechanisms to disclose serious wrongdoing concerning a data collection program called "Trailblazer." That program was costly, wasteful and ineffective; it threatened Americans’ privacy rights, and was wholly undeveloped – despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that protected Americans’ privacy. Ultimately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped all felony counts against him, and the judge excoriated DOJ lawyers for their conduct. Drake is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, regarded in the U.S. as the highest honor that a whistleblower can receive.
- Jesselyn Radack served as an Ethics Advisor in the Department of Justice. In 2001, she learned that FBI agents sought to interrogate "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. Because Lindh was represented by counsel, she advised the agents they could not conduct the interrogation without Lindh’s attorney. They did so anyway. As a result, she correctly advised them that Lindh’s testimony was inadmissible in a legal proceeding. When Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely stated in public that the seriously injured Lindh had waived his right to legal counsel before speaking with the FBI, Radack’s advice was reported in the news media. Radack is GAP’s National Security & Human Rights Director and a recipient of the 2012 Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award (also awarded to GAP client Thomas Drake)
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Buzzfeed: Glenn Greenwald Will Leave Guardian to Create New News Organization
Glenn Greenwald is leaving The Guardian to launch a brand new outlet. The split is described as amicable, with Greenwald saying that he’s been presented with “a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline.” Most likely, many future stories involving the disclosures of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden will come from this new outlet.
Related Articles: Reuters, CNET, New York Magazine
Portland Press Herald: Seafood Processing Plant Inspections in Maine Delayed
As the federal government shutdown continues, more questions are being asked about what furloughs mean for food safety inspection and related issues. GAP Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt discusses the current state of inspector presence, and looks at possible short-term ramifications.
Key Quote: Among the myriad of problems caused by the shutdown are furloughs of workers who monitor food safety, said Amanda Hitt, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Food Integrity Campaign...
Hitt said that while the meat, poultry and egg inspectors have so far been considered essential employees, furloughs of back-office USDA employees could eventually snarl operations, such as the delivery of labels, including recall labels for contaminated food.
While the USDA has kept its meat inspectors working during the shutdown, the FDA has furloughed 45 percent of its employees, some of whom are involved in food safety, according to government documents.
Hitt said the food supply is not being jeopardized substantially so far, but if the shutdown continues, the nation could head into dangerous territory.
“We do not want to roll the dice with the safety of the U.S. food supply,” Hitt said. “One little hiccup could lead to quite a disaster. You could have the possibility for massive illnesses.”
Too Big to Jail?
The second blog installment in a series from Bank of America/Countrywide whistleblower Michael Winston, who witnessed firsthand the abuse that led to the 2008 global financial crisis. In the piece, he asks why – years later – none of the bank executives who led the industry into the ground have been held accountable for their wrongdoing. The question spreads beyond the inherent lack of transparency in the banking sector to the lack of oversight and enforcement in the US justice system largely responsible for holding the financial giants accountable.
RT: Freedom of the Press Foundation Takes Over Aaron Swartz’s Whistleblower Project
The Freedom of the Press Foundation, whose Board Members include Greenwald, journalist Laura Poitras, and Daniel Ellsberg, has announced that it has resurrected the DeadDrop project worked on by the late transparency advocate Aaron Swartz. According to the Foundation, this project (renamed SecureDrop) is “an open-source whistleblower submission system ... In the coming months, the Foundation will also provide on-site installation and technical support to news organizations that wish to run the system.”
Key Quote: By installing SecureDrop, news organizations around the world can securely accept documents from whistleblowers, while better protecting their sources’ anonymity. Although it is important to note that no security system can ever be 100 percent impenetrable, Freedom of the Press Foundation believes that this system is the strongest ever made available to media outlets. Several major news agencies have already signed up for installations, and they will be announced in the coming weeks.
Related Articles: Motherboard, FireDogLake
Huffington Post: FISA Court – We Only Approve 75 Percent of Government Warrants Without Charges
The Chief Judge of the FISA Court sent letters to Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yesterday, in which he asserts that the Court has forced “substantive changes” to nearly 25 percent of the warrants presented to them by the government. This means that 75 percent of requests pass through the court sans any real changes.