Today's Washington Post has a piece examining the potential mental health problems of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of leaking the "Collateral Murder" video to Wikileaks.
Whatever the reality of Mr. Manning's mental health, or any whistleblower, it should not diminish the validity of the disclosures. Our country has studiously avoided having any meaningful conversation about why the soldiers in a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunned down unarmed Iraquis, including children, while high-fiving each other as if they were playing "Call of Duty." Or, why the Army found no wrongdoing in this incident and tried to bury it. Manning's mental health gives us no insight there.
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With the Obama administration cracking down on whistleblowers more than any past President, we must remember a whistleblowers' mental health does not reduce the significance of their disclosures.
I've chronicled the Obama administration's campaign against whistleblowers on Kos, including the latest prosecution of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim and:
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The Washington Post has an editorial today, U.S. citizens who say they were tortured get their day in court, questioning a federal District Court decision, which allowed a torture lawsuit to proceed against high level U.S. officials, including former Secretary of Defense Donald "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?" Rumsfeld.
While the Washington Post says, “Judges should not be in the business of second-guessing or micromanaging the executive's battlefield decisions.”
I submit that the Washington Post should not be in the business of second-guessing judicial decisions.
The Post implies there are other avenues available to hold high-level officials accountable, and the plaintiffs “should have availed themselves of processes within the military justice system to ferret out and punish miscreants.”
Prosecuting the Charles Graner's and Lynndie England’s of the torture universe is a band-aid on a bullet wound. The real responsibility lies at the top of the heap with the lawyers and officials who conceived the policies, none of whom have been held accountable for the use of coercive interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture).
While it's not clear from the editorial, the American citizen plaintiffs were not taken captive, blindfolded, strip-searched, held incommunicado almost entirely in solitary confinement often with blaring music, denied food and water, and subjected to sensory deprivation and harsh interrogation tactics for their own protection. They were taken captive because the powers that be feared the plaintiffs' potential whistleblowing.
The plaintiffs' kidnapping had nothing had nothing to do with the battlefield. They were kidnapped in 2006, three years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They were held at Camp Cropper, not in some temporary battlefield tent.
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By Michael J. Wilson
Everyone in America seems to have an opinion about who is responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Liberals blame Tony Hayward and the rest of BP's greedy and irresponsible management. Conservatives like to blame President Obama (in general) and the Mineral Management Services incompetent regulation (in particular). Then Sarah "Drill, Baby, Drill" Palin just knows that it isn't her responsibility.
The real answer is, "none of the above." Yes, BP's management and Mineral Management Services share some responsibility, but blaming them entirely ignores the fundamental problem of the 21st century workplace.
Sherlock Holmes once solved a baffling case by noticing that the dog didn't bark. It's the same clue here as well. Every one of the 126 workers on the Deepwater Horizon knew there were serious safety problems. Every one of them knew they were risking their lives every day they went to work. Why didn't they complain? Why didn't they call the OSHA, the EPA, the AFL-CIO, their Member of Congress, or the New York Times? The workers might not have known exactly who to call, but they could have found someone to pay attention. Why didn't they try?
The answer is simple; they didn't want to lose their jobs. Given the horrible choice of risking their lives at work or being unable to put a roof over their family's head, they chose danger. It's why miners work in non-union mines and why workers labor in meatpacking plants where there are more USDA inspectors than OSHA inspectors.
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Today's Washington Post has an article on "TechExpo Top Secret," an intelligence community job fair. The "meal ticket" to getting a job with a company doing intelligence work for the U.S. or under U.S. government contracts: a top-secret security clearance.
Part of what makes this such an exercise in absurdity is that, in the ever-expanding top-secret world created to respond to 9/11, approximately 854,000 people -- 1.5 times as many people live in Washington, D.C. -- hold top-secret security clearances.
So while unemployment surges and the housing market tanks around the rest of the country, the fat secrecy industry of the Intelligence Industrial Complex has kept D.C. and the surrounding regions afloat.
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I've been blogging here, to mixed reception, about the alarming increase of "leak" investigations and prosecutions under President Obama.
Yesterday, the L.A. Times had a lead editorial on "The Obama Administration's Attacks on the Media."
[T]his administration has pursued a quiet but malicious campaign against the news media and their sources, more aggressively attacking those who ferret out confidential information than even the George W. Bush administration did.
It specifically mentions the cases of James Risen, one of the New York Times reporters who broke the warrantless wiretapping story, and Thomas Drake, a former NSA official indicted for supposedly leaking details of NSA secret surveillance programs to the Baltimore Sun.
Risen and Drake are bookends of a disturbing trend of the "Transparency President": keeping information from the public.
The indictment of Tom Drake under the Espionage Act weaves a sordid tale of intrigue about how Drake committed dastardly deeds by leaking classified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter. But Drake never gave classified information to a reporter. Upon a close read of the indictment, he is not charged with "leaking" (there is no such crime) anything at all. Rather, he is charged with retention of classified documents for the purposes of distribution (there is no such crime).
The L.A. Times nails what this is prosecution is really about:
The [Baltimore Sun] reported extensively on technical problems with an NSA program that Drake was involved with; that reporting embarrassed the government, which indicted the individual it says brought about that embarrassment. That smacks of retaliation, not legitimate protection of sensitive information.
Tom Drake is a whistleblower we would have applauded during the Bush years, but now he is facing 35 years in jail.
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In news regarding automaker Toyota’s continuing problems with “unintended acceleration” – a sudden increase in speed that may be linked to several accidents and deaths since 2001 – preliminary findings from federal officials seem to support the company’s claims that problems lie not in faulty electronics, but rather in other issues such as sticking pedals, floor mat entrapment, and driver error.
Government regulators are investigating this issue using data collected from Toyota’s ‘black box’ recorders – devices installed in vehicles that record data such as velocity and acceleration. Of course, keep in mind that federal regulators are reviewing the accuracy of Toyota’s electronic system with an electronic device made by… Toyota? On this note, a handful of safety consultants are asking similar questions, such as: Is the black box device a scientifically validated instrument?
This raises the bigger question of the government’s willingness to trust automakers’ claims. It also brings up the familiar catch of free markets versus government regulation. On the one hand, self-regulation has always been problematic (remember when BP assured us that most companies had voluntarily adopted safeguards to protect against oil spills?). On the other, government regulation is sometimes equally faulty. Toyota’s ongoing acceleration issue highlights both sides of the debate.
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I have an article today in The National Law Journal reviewing what would otherwise be a trifling book by a Bush-era neocon . . . but for the fact that President Obama is following its recommendation to prosecute whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. It's bad enough that Obama's Justice Department is on its way to setting a record for leak prosecutions, but the fact that they are doing so under the Espionage Act--which is meant to prosecute spies not whistleblowers--is especially pernicious.
Real lives are at stake. Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA official who blew the whistle on an astronomically expensive and unconstitutional secret surveillance program, is facing 35 years in jail.
Gabriel Schoenfeld's book, Necessary Secrets, identifies a problem--the publication of true facts that are secret--but he never plumbs the deeper and more salient question:
What if the true and secret facts are illegal?
He is particularly incensed by the New York Times article that revealed that President Bush's NSA had been spying on American citizens without warrants. He views this as a program the government had initiated to avert the repetition of another 9/11, but fails to mention that it became one of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration.
Schoenfeld's solution is that newspaper sources and reporters should face prosecution, be fined, or even be sentenced to jail under the Espionage Act of 1917.
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In the latest turn in the WikiLeaks saga, the Pentagon is now “demanding” that the organization take down the trove of documents it posted related to the Afghan War, so that the website might redeem itself to “do the right thing.”
The “right thing?” Let’s recap for a sec.
Two weeks ago, WikiLeaks spawned a media sensation by posting privy, classified information about the Afghan War. It did this in conjunction with three of the most reputable media outlets in the world – The New York Times, The U.K. Guardian, and Der Spiegel. Granted, these outlets did not post anywhere close to a sizable percentage of the documents that WikiLeaks did. Therefore, each can’t vouch for all of the documents and its relative worth (we’ll get to that more in a minute). But each organization independently determined that the information contained therein had inherent value to the public interest. Each chose to write not a few simple stories, but dedicated multimedia presentations to their own releases. Their stories did not focus on WikiLeaks, but the information. To remind, some of the more interesting/shocking details of the online materials included:
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Today's Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is seeking further expansion of the FBI's power to issue National Security Letters (NSLs) and spinning the expansion as a "technical fix":
The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. . . . But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters.
The Obama administration's "look forward" mentality apparently also means ignoring the FBI's dismal track record when it comes to NSLs.
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Last night, Wikileaks released more than 91,000 classified documents related to the Afghan war, which reveal in excruciating detail the uphill battle American troops have faced in battling the Taliban and in working with Pakistani "allies" who are also helping the Afghan insurgency.
Our country needs to have a serious conversation about supposedly classified documents (under classification laws, you can't classify something to hide its illegality or to avoid embarrassment) vs. the public's right to know.
Because the Obama administration can't catch Wikileaks.org (its founder is the target of a worldwide manhunt launched by the Pentagon), it is bound and determined to make an example out of Thomas Drake, James Risen and other whistleblowers who supposedly "leaked."