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The Washington Post reports:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday plans to provide the most detailed account to date of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad, as it did in last year’s airstrike against an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, officials said. . . . his speech Monday will mark a new and higher-profile phase of the administration’s campaign to justify lethal action in those rare instances in which U.S. citizens, such as New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, join terrorist causes devoted to harming their homeland.
But when GAP (and other civil liberties groups) request the legal memo justifying the killing of al-Awlaki from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), OLC maintains that the "existence or non-existence" of the memo is classified.
To review the Justice Department's completely ridiculous and indefensible position on the assassination memo:
- Days after the Obama administration engages in the targeted killing of an American citizen without due process, anonymous "administration officials" leak the existence of the legal memo rationalizing the assassination to the Washington Post.
- When the "don't worry, we've got a legal memo" excuse fails to satisfy civil libertarians questioning the expansion of Executive power to killing American citizens without affording a bunch of fundamental Constitutional rights (due process, jury trials, right to confront accusers, etc.), details of the memo appeared on the New York Times front page, including when the memo was written, who authored the memo, the memo's legal reasoning, and even the memo's number of pages in the memo.
- Now, the Attorney General is going to give a public speech at Northwestern University Law School important enough to warrant more anonymous leaks to WaPo further detailing the "logic" of assassinating Americans.
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Thanks to Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake, we have another example of hypocrisy and disparate treatment associated with the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Hamsher analyzes an e-mail exchange that suggests that former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) official James Casey leaked to Stratfor chief Fred Burton that the Justice Department had a sealed indictment against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange:
Burton clearly felt email@example.com was his own little Wikileaks window into the DoJ. So on 1-26-2011 when Burton sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying he had intelligence that the DoJ had a “sealed indictment” on Assange, you have to wonder where it came from.
Even if Casey didn't leak the indictment, someone did. Hamsher is right on explaining the disparate treatment:
Moral of the story: Bradley Manning gets charged with “aiding the enemy” for potentially leaking information that was available on the SIPRNET to hundreds of thousands of people. This guy gets a gold watch and no investigation for potentially leaking the existence of a sealed DoJ indictment of Julian Assange that I imagine almost nobody knew about.
Hamsher's article comes on the heels of hard-hitting questions from ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper on the Obama administration's policy of using the Espionage Act to prosecute so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers.
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White House Press Secretary had an almost unbelievably lame non-response when ABC's Jake Tapper asked how the Obama Administration squared lauding freedom of the press and internet freedom abroad while engaging in a record-setting campaign to silence "leakers" a.k.a. sources a.k.a. whistleblowers.
Carney refused to answer the questions, referred Tapper to the Justice Department, and said "I'm not making the assumption" that the Espionage Act prosecutions suppress whistleblowers. The Justice Department is using the prosecutions for exactly that purpose. In the now-failed case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, Justice Department prosecutor William Welch II requested a harsh sentence for Drake specifically to "send a message" to other Intelligence Community employees.
But speaking at the Conference on Internet Freedom at the Hague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
[T]he right to express one’s views, practice one’s faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change – these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. the Justice Department is doggedly pursuing Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers, thereby labeling them spies and traitors. Not to mention the State Department's retaliation against author Peter Van Buren.
No wonder Carney had a difficult time explaining the glaring hypocrisy. For those who want the visual:
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As GAP Communications Director for the last seven years, I've heard about more than my fair share of travesties and wrongdoing within the federal government. But the evidence that whistleblowers relay to us involving defense, war and intelligence – the travesties that are committed, the wrongdoings and despicable behavior that is covered up – is exceptionally disappointing, considering the stakes. GAP has heard from hundreds of these federal employees over the past few years who simply don't know where to begin. Like many truth-tellers, they feel lost and isolated ... but these particular whistleblowers often reach a point where they deeply question their long-held assumptions about our government. Their very core can be shaken.
While these employees often feel alone – dealing daily with materials they cannot speak to their family about – they should (and must) understand that others have found themselves in similar situations before. And a very prominent whistleblower – GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack – has just published her new memoir about her experience as the Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower on the treatment of John Walker Lindh.
Her new book is: Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban"
This excellent book walks the reader through Jesselyn's experiences as an ethics adviser at the DOJ who disclosed that the FBI committed ethical violations in its interrogation of Lindh, such as interrogating him without an attorney present. She also exposed that the DOJ attempted to suppress that information, and that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior government officials made misleading public statements about the case.
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Citing the Obama administration Justice Department's war on whistleblowers as one of many examples of excessive secrecy, the National Security Archive at George Washington University awarded the 7th annual Rosemary Award (named for Nixon tape-eraser secretary Rosemary Woods) to the Department of Justice. WaPo reports:
The Justice Department, beating fierce competition from the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and others, has won this year’s coveted Rosemary Award, named for President Richard M. Nixon’s secretary Rose Mary Woods , who somehow erased 181 / 2 minutes of a crucial Watergate tape.
The seventh annual award, presented by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive, honors the agency that has done the very most in the previous year to enhance government secrecy and keep the public in the dark.
The Archive said the department, among other things, engaged in “selective and abusive prosecutions of espionage laws against whistleblowers as ostensible ‘leakers’ of classified information” and conducted “more ‘leaks’ prosecutions in the last three years than in all previous years combined,” while experts say “over-classification” of government documents is endemic.
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The media is feeling the chilling effect from the Obama administration's record-breaking number of Espionage Act prosecutions against so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers. The New York Times reported this weekend on what I've chronicled since the first of six indictments – that of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake:
It used to be that journalists had a sporting chance of protecting their sources. The best and sometimes only way to identify a leaker was to pressure the reporter or news organization that received the leak, but even subpoenas tended to be resisted. Today, advances in surveillance technology allow the government to keep a perpetual eye on those with security clearances, and give prosecutors the ability to punish officials for disclosing secrets without provoking a clash with the press.
I'm all too familiar with this fact having represented clients who - knowing what the NSA is capable of - insisted on meeting in-person at places like the Olive Garden. Pay in cash. No phone calls. No texts. Definitely no e-mails.
The Obama administration's Espionage Act prosecutions result in a massive chilling effect on whistleblowers and potential whistleblowers working in the ever-expanding national security establishment - an effect that seems precisely the purpose of the prosecutions (the prosecutor argued that Drake needed to be punished to "send a message"). The Times recognized this weekend that the attack on sources has already turned into an attack on the media in the Espionage Act case against former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee Jeffrey Sterling, where the Justice Department attempted to subpoena Times reporter Jim Risen three times. Risen commendably fought the subpoena and offered a glimpse into just how closely Big Brother is watching journalists:
I have learned from an individual who testified before a grand jury . . . that was examining my reporting about the domestic wiretapping program that the Government had shown this individual copies of telephone records relating to calls made to and from me . . .
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Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack at the Ridenhour AwardsThis coming Monday, February 13, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake will speak at Americans Who Tell the Truth: Ethics, Integrity and the Law, a “Founder's Day” event at the American University Washington College of Law (WCL), presented by the National Lawyers Guild and the WCL Program on Law and Government.
In addition to Radack and Drake, this program features a keynote address by Ralph Nader and talks by other notable activists and whistleblowers. The event is a mixed symposium of speaker portraits by artist Robert Shetterly and presentations by the individuals depicted in the art. Presentations will focus on ethics and integrity in the context of fighting for positive social change.
The symposium runs from 12 pm – 6 pm on Monday at the AU Washington College of Law, Room 603. More on the event can be found here.
About Radack and Drake
Jesselyn Radack is a former ethics adviser at the Department of Justice (DOJ) who disclosed that the FBI committed ethical violations in its interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, such as interrogating Lindh without an attorney present. She also exposed that the DOJ attempted to suppress that information, and that former Attorney General John Ashcroft made misleading public statements about the case. The Lindh case was the first major terrorism prosecution after 9/11. Since her ordeal, Radack has been a champion of whistleblowers, recently serving as counsel to Drake on whistleblower issues during the government's failed attempt to prosecute him under the Espionage Act.