In a response to a lawsuit filed by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake (the whistleblower unsuccessfully prosecuted under the Espionage Act), Bill Binney, and Edward Loomis, and former congressional staffer Diane Roark, NSA incredibly claims that there is classified information on Wiebe's computer, reports Josh Gerstein of Politico.
The whistleblowers filed the suit in November seeking property seized in the retaliatory criminal investigation, which targeted four complainants to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG), Binney, Wiebe, Roark, and Loomis, and key DoD IG witness, Drake, and resulted in the Justice Department's spectacularly failed Espionage Act case against Drake.
You'd think after the malicious classification chicanery in the Drake case, the Justice Department and NSA would have learned their lesson. Obviously, if the unreturned property contained such damning information, the Justice Department would have used it against Drake at trial, since most of the "evidence" the government tried to introduce against him was deemed to be unclassified and caused their case to crumble.
The fact that NSA's Signals Intelligence Directorate Deputy now claims that two documents contain information that is "currently and properly" classified at an uber-secret level suggests that these documents were only deemed so after a "forced classification review" of the seized items, just as had been done to Thomas Drake--about which Bush's former classification czar (J. William Leonard) saidhe had never seen a "more deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document."
U.S. officials said the charges were false and politically motivated, describing them as the latest in a series of provocations by Iran’s clerical rulers.
“We strongly condemn this verdict,” said Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the State Department.
We should feel similar outrage when our own government accuses people who exposed fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and illegality of being spies. The Obama administration has brought a record number of prosecutions against so-called "leakers" - who are more often than not whistleblowers – using the antiquated Espionage Act, a law meant to go after spies.
Iran's unjustifiable death sentence should warn against slapping a whistleblower with the toxic label "spy." The injustice for Hekmati is also a stark warning against the dangerous combination of secret courts, government overreach, and questionable prosecutorial conduct, a combination that permeates the current spate of Espionage Act prosecutions.
The Obama administration's Espionage Act prosecutions for alleged mishandling of classified information number more than all past presidents combine, and include - as The New York Timespointed out – one target from each of the State Department (Stephen Kim), the Defense Department (Bradley Manning), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (Shamai Leibowitz), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (Jeffery Sterling), and National Security Agency (NSA) (Thomas Drake).
Prosecutor William Welch II is up to his old tricks at the helm of Obama's record-breaking Espionage Act prosecutions against so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers. Politico's Josh Gerstein reported last week that a federal Judge took the extreme step of barring two government witnesses from testifying in the Espionage Act case against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee Jeffery Sterling because Welch's team withheld impeachment evidence from the defense.
For those non-lawyers - Criminal Procedure 101 teaches would-be attorneys that prosecutors have a duty to provide the defense with exculpatory or impeachment evidence. It's a basic principle, which any first-year law student should know, and which, apparently, "bully" prosecutor Welch frequently forgets, or worse, ignores.
Welch's failure to hand over exculpatory evidence is not unique to the Sterling case. In the completely-failed Espionage Act case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, Welch's tactics included keeping potentially exculpatory evidence from Drake's defense team for months after the Indictment was handed down. For over six months, Welch's team failed to produce evidence that one of the allegedly classified documents Drake was charged with improperly retaining was declassified two months after the indictment. Welch waited ten months to turn over evidence that another document that formed the basis of an Espionage Act charge against Drake had been – in the words of Drake's criminal defense team –
. . . published as 'unclassified' and had never been deemed 'classified' until after it was recovered from Mr. Drake's home. (Emphasis added).
In the case against Army private and alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, the prosecution presented yesterday an e-mail Manning allegedly sent to a friend regarding the "Collateral Murder" video he is accused of leaking:
. . .. a May 2010 e-mail that was sent to an acquaintance — and that Manning apparently thought he had encrypted — said, “I was the source of the 12 July 07 video from the Apache weapons team which killed two journalists and injured two kids.”
If Manning actually sent the e-mail the prosecution is claiming he sent, here's what he is referring to:
Accounts of last week's hearings in the case against Army private Bradley Manning contain eerie reminders of the unconstitutional military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Only a few days into the proceedings, we have a defendant subjected to treatment tinged with torture and vilified by the Executive branch, biased officials, unavailable witnesses, and exaggerated secrecy claims.
At the hearing last week, the public got the first view of Manning since he endured abhorrent treatment while in military custody:
At the jail on the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., he was held in isolation and forced to strip off his clothing and sleep in a tear-proof smock, a measure military officials said was necessary because he might be a suicide risk.
Manning's attorney, David Coombs, accused the hearing's presiding officer - the Army's version of a judge - of bias because the officer (Lt. Col. Paul Almanza) also works at the Justice Department. Coombs asked Almanza to recuse himself.
Almanza refused to recuse himself and refused to suspend the case pending an appeal. With Almanza as the presiding officer, both prosecution and judge then both report to the Executive branch in some respect, but, nonetheless, an appellate court denied Manning's request for a recusal. Sounds eerily similar to Guantanamo proceedings where one branch of government served as both judge and prosecution.
Let's just look at what's in today's news. After first threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act because of a freedom-offensive provision allowing the indefinite detention of American citizens without a single shred of due process, President Obama has now flip-flopped. This is just one of many items in today's news that cause me to question what country I'm living in.
A military court sentenced a prominent Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil to two years in jail yesterday on charges that included insulting the military on his blog. The Washington Postnotes that
this is a disturbing reminder of how much power the military leadership maintains.
Yet Shamai Leibowitz, an American FBI translator, was tried under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 20 months in prison for information he gave to a blogger.
What, specifically, did Leibowitz provide to the blogger? In the judge's own words:
I don't know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it compromised things, I have no idea.
(Quoting U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr.)
Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called for the resignation of Justice Department Criminal Division head, Lanney Breuer, after Breuer denied knowing details of the controversial "Fast and Furious" operation. The Washington Postreports:
The “Fast and Furious” program was meant to track guns as they made their way south of the border to senior members of Mexican drug cartels after being bought by straw buyers. However, ATF agents rarely pursued the weapons after they were bought.
Grassley said Breuer hurt his own credibility by initially denying details of the program.
Breuer might be wise to consider Grassley's request in light of the debacle his Criminal Division made out of the failed Espionage Act prosecution against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
When the Drake indictment was handed down, Breuer wildly overstated the case against Drake in a Justice Department press release:
Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here – violating the government’s trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information – be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously. . .