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Today President Obama will issue an executive order, ostensibly to help crack down on human rights atrocities in other countries –
by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures.
If this is the true, and only reason, that would be laudable. But the ulterior purposes to which secret domestic spying has been put belie the real reason: worldwide control of information.
If you think this is mere hyperbole, listen to my client, former NSA Senior Analyst Bill Binney, on Democracy Now! this past Friday. (He was the technical director of NSA's World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, so he knows a thing or two about surveillance.) He discusses the NSA's massive power to spy on Americans, why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower, and how the government made him the target of a federal criminal investigation.
Is America tracking Julian Assange because he's an authoritarian dictator guilty of human rights abuses? No, it's because we don't like him.
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I have been shouting for well over a year that Obama's war on whistleblowers is a back door way of attacking the media. We have seen a hint of this attack in the Obama administration's attempts to subpoena journalist James Risen to testify about his sources in the Espionage Act prosecutions of former CIA officer Jeffery Sterling. (It should now be common knowledge – but still bears repeating – that Obama has brought more Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined.)
Glenn Greenwald's explosive Salon article on Sunday details how the U.S. government repeatedly detained, searched, and harassed Laura Poitras, an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker – with no probable cause or even suspicion that Poitras had committed a crime. Not only is the detention, search, and interrogation of an innocent American – who the government does not even suspect committed a crime – completely enraging to any civil libertarian, but I am particularly disconcerted as Poitras has filmed three of my National Security Agency (NSA) clients and no doubt countless other courageous whistleblowers. My clients have already been put through a years-long retaliatory criminal investigation, and should not be forced to endure further persecution because they are brave enough to continue to speak out against NSA's illegal actions.
Greenwald described what typically happens when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detains Poitras:
She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).
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People ask the question in various ways, sometimes hesitantly, often via a long digression, but my answer is always the same: no regrets.
In some 24 years of government service, I experienced my share of dissonance when it came to what was said in public and what the government did behind the public’s back. In most cases, the gap was filled with scared little men and women, and what was left unsaid just hid the mistakes and flaws of those anonymous functionaries.
What I saw while serving the State Department at a forward operating base in Iraq was, however, different. There, the space between what we were doing (the eye-watering waste and mismanagement), and what we were saying (the endless claims of success and progress), was filled with numb soldiers and devastated Iraqis, not scaredy-cat bureaucrats.
That was too much for even a well-seasoned cubicle warrior like me to ignore and so I wrote a book about it, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. I was on the spot to see it all happen, leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in rural Iraq while taking part up close and personal in what the U.S. government was doing to, not for, Iraqis. Originally, I imagined that my book’s subtitle would be “Lessons for Afghanistan,” since I was hoping the same mistakes would not be endlessly repeated there. Sometimes being right doesn’t solve a damn thing.
By the time I arrived in Iraq in 2009, I hardly expected to be welcomed as a liberator or greeted -- as the officials who launched the invasion of that country expected back in 2003 -- with a parade and flowers. But I never imagined Iraq for quite the American disaster it was either. Nor did I expect to be welcomed back by my employer, the State Department, as a hero in return for my book of loony stories and poignant moments that summed up how the United States wasted more than $44 billion in the reconstruction/deconstruction of Iraq. But I never imagined that State would retaliate against me.
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Well-played, Justice Department. Indict former CIA officer John Kiriakou on Tuesday evening, but don't unseal the indictment until 4:59pm on Thursday, right before the holiday weekend, in order to avoid press coverage of the Obama administration's 6th Espionage Act prosecution of a whistleblower.
Before I start deconstructing the Indictment, here's a key to reading the tea leaves:
Officer A = undercover
Officer B = former CIA career & targeting analyst Deuce Martinez (never undercover)
Journalist A = Matthew Cole
Journalist B = Scott Shane
Journalist C = mentioned in original charges, but dropped from Indictment
Facts Not in the Indictment/Kiriakou's Whistleblowing Disclosures:
* Refused to be trained in torture tactics
* First CIA officer to call waterboarding "torture" (2007/ABC News)
* Helped expose CIA's torture program as policy rather than playtime (2009/The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror)
It's outrageous that John Kiriakou, a whistleblower, is the ONLY INDIVIDUAL TO BE PROSECUTED IN RELATION TO THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S TORTURE PROGRAM.
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On April 3, 2012, the Obama administration indicted intelligence whistleblower John Kiriakou. Kiriakou is the sixth whistleblower that the Obama administration has charged under the Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information – more than all past administrations combined. In a rare move, the indictment was sealed until today.
Kiriakou is a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) veteran who headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan after 9/11, organized the team operation that captured suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, and refused to be trained in torture interrogation tactics. In December 2007, Kiriakou gave an on-camera interview to ABC News in which he disclosed that Zubaydah was "waterboarded" and that "waterboarding" was torture. Kiriakou was one of the first CIA officers to label waterboarding as torture, and his interview helped expose the CIA's torture program as policy, rather than the actions of a few rogue agents. Kiriakou further exposed the CIA's torture program and the CIA's deception about torture even to its own employees in his 2009 book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror.
Government Accountability Project (GAP) National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower herself, represented National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, the first individual indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act for disclosing massive waste, fraud, abuse and illegality at the NSA through proper channels. The DOJ case against Drake fell apart days before the trial was set to begin last summer, in what was widely seen as a bellwether case for future prosecutions, like that of Kiriakou.
"John Kiriakou is the new Thomas Drake," stated Radack, continuing, "And the case against Kiriakou is just as flimsy as the one against Drake. The Obama administration's unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to target whistleblowers sends a chilling message to any national security worker considering blowing the whistle on corruption and wrongdoing. The Espionage Act is an archaic World War I-era law intended to go after spies, not whistleblowers."
Inexplicably, Kiriakou's indictment was sealed until today. Radack noted "There was no flight risk for Kiriakou, who had already been arrested in January, and no reason to keep the indictment under seal, except perhaps to delay press coverage of the Obama administration's latest criminal prosecution of a whistleblower."
Radack added, "It is outrageous that John Kiriakou – the whistleblower – is the only individual to be prosecuted in relation to the Bush administration's torture program. The interrogators who tortured prisoners, the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, and the CIA agents who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable, much less charged with crimes. But John Kiriakou is facing decades in prison for helping expose torture. The fact that national security whistleblowers have become the exception to the Obama administration's meme of 'looking forward, not back' at Bush-era crimes sets a dangerous precedent: if you torture a prisoner, you will not be held criminally liable, but if you blow the whistle on torture, you risk criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act."
Members of the media interested in speaking with Radack can contact GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an interview.
Dylan Blaylock is the Communications Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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National Security Agency (NSA) expert and author Jim Bamford has a another explosive article in Wired Magazine:
But one of the agency’s biggest secrets is just how careless it is with that ocean of very private and very personal communications, much of it to and from Americans. Increasingly, obscure and questionable contractors — not government employees — install the taps, run the agency’s eavesdropping infrastructure, and do the listening and analysis.
Bamford's latest piece – which features NSA whistleblowers and GAP clients – describes how 6 employees of a "mom-and-pop company," Technology Development Corporation (TDC), constructed the center for Stellar Wind - the NSA's illegal domestic spying program (remember they had to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and give the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity). TDC was owned by two brothers - one of whom is described as "unstable," "weird," "robotic," a tax dodger, and "changing his name to Jimmy Carter, and later Alfred Olympus von Ronsdorf." TDC didn't just build the Stellar Wind center, the bizarre company ran the Stellar Wind operation.
For a description of Stellar Wind, check Bamford's first blockbuster Wired Magazine article of the year, which described not only a gargantuan data storage facility NSA is building on the taxpayer's dime, but that the American people are paying NSA to collect massive amounts of their private data:
[Bill] Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts.
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Three of my whistleblower clients (Tom Drake, Bill Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe) warned us a year ago that the NSA was already doing this: collecting and storing massive amounts of private data on innocent Americans with no connection whatsoever to terrorism, or any crime.
Now Attorney General Eric Holder is just making it official, with new guidelines that permit the federal counterterrorism investigators to collect, search and store data about Americans who are not suspected of terrorism, or anything. This is beyond even the "pre-crime" world of the then-fictional movie Minority Report. Now the government is admittedly collecting and storing information on Americans who are not even thinking about committing a crime, and is resorting to the usual fear-mongering to justify it.
The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.
According to the Justice Department, law enforcement and other national security agencies can copy entire databases and sift through the data for suspicious patterns to stop potential terrorist threats. But the Justice Department is operating under one major logical fallacy: investigating innocent people tells you nothing about the guilty.
Meanwhile, the relaxed guidelines – which privacy advocates compare to the Bush-era now-defunct "Total Information Awareness" program – come on the heels of a blockbuster WIRED Magazine cover story by National Security Agency (NSA) expert Jim Bamford, featuring two GAP clients, NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. Bamford's article sheds light on construction of a massive NSA facility in Utah designed to store a yottabyte of data, or in Bamford's words:
. . . it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.