I appeared on Democracy Now! this morning with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, fellow Kossack, and my client Thomas Drake discussing the NSA's spying on American citizens, Drake's experience as the fourth person in history prosecuted under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information, and Justice Department's using the Espionage Act as back-door of creating an Official Secrets Act to silence media sources and discourage potential whistleblowers.
GAP has been conducting an investigation into the cover up of medical problems associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since last fall. We are working with over 25 whistleblowers involving public health and safety threats that sharply contrast with BP and government denials and reassurances.
On March 2, GAP and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), our partner in the Gulf, sent a joint letter to the BP America Ombudsman Program, seeking an explanation for a resource manual (provided to GAP by an anonymous source) that details health risks for Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup workers from both the five million gallons of oil, and the two million gallons of toxic dispersant.
The letter asked the BP Ombudsman to help resolve an apparent, complete contradiction between BP’s safety reassurances to and restrictions on its employees, compared to the conclusions, warnings and mandatory precautions required by its own internal manual. A confidential whistleblower informed GAP that the safety manuals were pulled from worksites early in the cleanup, as workers began to develop listed health symptoms.
At a hearing last month, prosecutors in the case against Pfc. Bradley Manning noted that they didn't receive the messages but could not explain why. Chief prosecutor Capt. Ashden Fein said at a hearing Thursday that the messages had been "blocked by a spam filter for security." However, it fell to defense attorney David Coombs to explain precisely why the e-mails about evidence issues in the Manning case never made it.
"Apparently, they were blocked because the word 'WikiLeaks' was somewhere in the e-mail," Coombs said.
The government's own WikiLeaks policies are now hampering the prosecution's work in the case against Manning. Yesterday's Manning hearing also revealed that the U.S. claims that Manning aided al-Qaeda by allegedly giving documents to WikiLeaks. What about the New York Times, which also posted the WikiLeaks documents? Neo-con Gabe Schoenfeld, who suggested using the Espionage Act to target news sources, which the Obama administration had done in record numbers, also believes that news organizations should be held criminally liable for alleged leaks of classified information.
Speaking of absurd WikiLeaks policies, I blogged yesterdayabout the State Department's attempt to fire whistleblower and author Peter Van Buren based on his linking – NOT leaking – to a Wikileaks document on his personal blog. Van Buren was on Democracy Now! this morning:
MacLean with NYPD whistleblower Frank SerpicoIt’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… Robert MacLean?
That’s right. GAP client and TSA whistleblower Robert MacLean was being celebrated as a hero yesterday in local Nashville news. While it would, at first glance, make sense for MacLean to be celebrated for his important disclosures, this story actually involves a feat of more physical derring-do.
A roofing contractor, MacLean was analyzing houses for hail damage when he noticed a suspicious character lurking in the neighborhood this past Tuesday. He had another contractor call the police, who arrived shortly thereafter. After the police asked the suspect to produce an ID, the suspect shoved an officer and attempted to run away.
Except that MacLean got in his way.
MacLean tackled the suspect from behind and held him down until the police arrested him. The suspect has since been charged with disorderly conduct.
MacLean is not new to taking down bad guys. He is a former Federal Air Marshal who revealed that the TSA was planning to cut down costs by removing Air Marshals from flights. After this disclosure, a number of Senators called on the agency to rectify the situation (and they did).
Van Buren wrote a book (We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People) that exposed massive fraud, waste, and abuse associated with the State Department-led Iraq reconstruction program, including wasted money on the sheep for widows program, pastry classes for underprivileged Iraqi women to open French bakery shops on the bombed out streets of Baghdad, and the money wasted trying to make grass grow in the desert at the multi-million dollar Baghdad embassy.
Van Buren sent his book through the State Department's pre-clearance policy and the State Department cleared it by default. Now, the State Department seeks to fire Van Buren for telling the unflattering truth about what he saw in Iraq.
The proposed removal is based on a Report of Investigation dated December 2011, but the State Department did not propose removal until after Van Buren filed a retaliation complaint with the revamped Office of Special Counsel.
Van Buren's supervisors admittedly singled him out, and are monitoring all of his online activities taken on his personal time using his personal computer. They have insisted that he "preclear" all of his blog posts, tweets, and other social media activities as well as live radio and TV appearance - all First Amendment-protected activities Van Buren conducts on his personal time. How is anyone supposed to pre-clear a live radio interview?
I have a great respect for Bill Arkin, especially his reporting on Top Secret America. He is known for being a thorough investigator and researcher, hence, my surprise and confusion that someone way too smart for such carelessness makes so many careless errors about a case as widely-reported as that of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
I have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes that Arkin completely misses the widely-reported facts about the Drake case and lashes out at Drake for pointing out what nearly every expert has agreed on and the facts reveal: that the Obama has used the Espionage Act to target so-called "leakers" (who are usually whistleblowers) more times than all past presidents combined.
After the jump are a few of the mistakes Arkin makes in his recent blog, which responds to Thomas Drake's Daily Kos diary posted earlier this week.
(1) Arkin says in response to Drake's claim "That Obama has gone after whistleblowers and leakers more than Bush ever did. . . . . I doubt that this is true but would be interested in being corrected if someone’s got some facts."
Here are some facts. Far from being the statement of Salon or lefty bloggers, every mainstream media outlet has documented that Obama has launched an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, including editorials in the Washington Post (here and here), theNew York Times, the L.A. Times, and the Economist, to name a few.
Eyal Press wrote an interesting piece this week, comparing the excessive attention that Justice Department prosecutors have directed at whistleblowers in the national security world in recent years to the absolute disinterest with which these same attorneys treat Wall Street whistleblowers.
He’s right. In fact, it’s striking. But finally, the real story behind the lack of criminal prosecutions produced by the financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession is starting to seep out. It’s a sorry tale of edited testimony, arm twisting and rule changing.
After the financial meltdown in September 2008, the Obama administration “rescued” both commercial and investment banks, as well as insurance monolith AIG. Tim Geithner, Henry Paulson, Jamie Dimon and the other Masters-of-the Universe staged a revival of the US economy in a stunning, all-star production that fall season. It was a spectacular performance. There was the mystery of the closed-door deals, the suspenseful, whipsaw swings of the Dow, the zany antics of the Republican presidential candidate, and the breathtaking confrontation with Congress. When it was over, we were all exhausted, and the Justice Department rang down the curtain.