UPDATED 12:23 PM: Earlier today I argued that, in light of the Obama administration going after reporters and sources, Wikileaks is the only avenue left. In the comments I stated that Wikileaks is not ideal because it lacks the fact-checking and at-least-the-pretense-of-balance of journalism. I stand corrected. In Mr. Assange's own words, BREAKING:
This idea is spin by those connected to the abuses we have revealed, however, it is simply not true.
I can't argue with that, Julian Assange. THANK YOU for what you are doing and for your bravery in contacting me.
In many cases, like that of Bradley Manning, we end up slamming "leakers" for going to Wikileaks instead of questioning why American soldiers used an Apache helicopter to shoot unarmed Iraqi civilians, journalists, and children, while egging each other on like they were playing Call of Duty.
If the Obama administration so despises disclosures to the media or Wikileaks, giving protections and options to national security whistleblowers should be priority one. In the meantime, I submit that it is the government officials who engaged in torture, warrantless wiretapping, and "collateral murder" who have endangered our national security, and not those who exposed the wrongdoing.
Jon Stewart's monologue on The Daily Show should be required watching for any doubters about Obama and civil liberties (he discusses Thomas Drake and whistleblowing at 7:00):
On Obama's watch, national security whistleblowers find themselves exempt from the Whistleblower Protection Act, crippled by the inaptly-named "Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act" (which provides zero real protections for employees) and now, thanks to Obama's recent crackdown on "leakers", whistleblowers--fearing criminal prosecution should they turn to the media (often the only real check on government abuse of power)--can only go to Wikileaks.
Wikileaks may be the only option left for employees who see waste, fraud, abuse or illegality in the national security realm. This is certainly not ideal, as Wikileaks lacks the fact-checking and at-least-pretense-of-balance of journalism.
I appeared on two recent shows on NPR and Pacifica Radio that detail the debate over Wikileaks and Obama's stance on so-called "leakers." (Remember, we called them whistleblowers during the Bush administration). The radio shows are available here and here.
I've chronicled the Obama administration's recent dedication to criminalizing whistleblowing to a greater extent than any other president in history:
Thomas Drake (former senior National Security Agency official)- Stemming from a Bush leak investigation into the warrantless wiretapping program, recently indicted for allegedly retaining classified information that led to a series of newspaper articles about NSA's billion-dollar mismanagement of a program to conduct secret surveillance with maximum privacy intrusion.
James Risen (New York Times reporter)- Justice Department reissued Bush-era grand jury subpoena for his sources for a chapter of his 2006 book, State of War, which focuses on a CIA-led ruse to disrupt Iranian nuclear weapons research.
Shamai Leibowitz (FBI linguist)- sentenced to 20 months in prison for giving classified information to a blogger.
Bradley Manning (Army Intelligence Analyst)- arrested for allegedly disclosing to Wikileaks classified video footage [titled "Collateral Murder"] of an apache helicopter attack that killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters reporters, and injured two children.The crackdown has received support from giddy conservatives like Gabriel Schoenfeld, author of Necessary Secrets, and supporter of prosecuting under the Espionage Act not only leakers, but - much to the chagrin of the First Amendment - also the journalists and newspapers who help get the truth out. . .and by logical extension, anyone who reads the articles and further disseminates them by discussing or e-mailing them on.
As much as Schoenfeld would like us to believe in some mythical state of whistleblower protections for national security employees where employees can easily blow the whistle and merrily go about their careers, the reality for national security whistleblowers is tragically different.
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