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As reported today by the NYT, the complete Pentagon Papers are set to (finally) be released, about 40 years after making headline news. The whistleblower in that case, Daniel Ellsberg, has been recognized widely by the 'good government' community as the "patron saint" of whistleblowing. At a time when the negative connotations involved with whistleblowers were enormous and all too commonplace, he put his professional career, reputation, and the overall well-being of his family on the line to speak the truth about the Vietnam War. Ellsberg, who has graciously appeared with GAP on several occasions to promote our work and the importance of the phenomenon, was on the right side of history.
This announcement comes at an interesting time, because there's another prominent whistleblower who's about to go to trial -- who's also on the right side of history. Former NSA employee Tom Drake is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for retaining, not leaking, classified information about a data collection program that was amazingly expensive, threatening to Americans' privacy rights, and wholly undeveloped, despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that respected Americans' privacy.
Drake (a GAP client) did what he was supposed to do, raising concerns through official channels first -- including senior NSA management, the Defense Department's inspector general, and Congress. You would like to think that the progress made by the American government with regards to the whistleblower system, since Ellsberg's disclosures, would have never allowed for Drake's allegations to be sat on, and done nothing with. This, unfortunately, is not the case. His concerns were ignored.
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This past Friday, June 3, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) delivered a petition to the heads of both the Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary Committees, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, regarding the selective and unjust prosecution of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
Over 4,100 people lent their voices to demand that the Department of Justice drop its case against Drake, who exposed gross waste and wrongdoing at the agency. Specifically, the petition (which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/mU1iVZ
I find it shocking that the Department of Justice is prosecuting National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake for exposing gross waste and wrongdoing at his agency.
Why is the Department of Justice prosecuting Tom Drake for acting to protect our rights? And why is he being charged as a spy for his role in fighting gross waste and wrongdoing at the NSA? I urge you to conduct proper oversight and demand that the Justice Department drop the retaliatory prosecution of Tom Drake.
"The widespread support for Tom Drake has accumulated in the past few weeks, and the message is clear. The public is behind Tom Drake, and is against the federal government's selective and retaliatory prosecution of this hero," stated GAP Homeland Security & Human Rights Counsel Kathleen McClellan.
When Thomas Drake's trial begins next week on June 13th the courtroom should be overflowing because we need people to bear witness to history being made. I urge everyone who does not need to work to attend this critical, historic trial at the Federal District Courthouse in Baltimore. Shout-out to retirees, work-at-home Moms, and the unfortunately unemployed.
I am grateful that Drake's case is finally getting the attention it deserves because it has huge ramifications for both Whistleblowers, the media, and the First Amendment.
While The New Yorker, 60 Minutes, and LA Times have already given the Drake case the attention it deserves, I am surprised and thankful that the more conservative Washington Post editorial board understands that the Espionage Act prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake is overkill.
In today's editorial, titled "A case that could be overkill against a whistleblower," WaPo criticizes the Drake prosecution and hits on the consequences for national security whistleblowers considering speaking out against government waste, fraud, abuse, or illegalities:
Mr. Drake’s prosecution smacks of overkill and could scare others with legitimate concerns about government programs from coming forward.
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In the case of former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake, yesterday the judge issued a powerful "Order Regarding Admissibility of Classified Information." This is significant because Drake is being charged with "retention" of classified information "for the purpose of disclosure" to the media." Drake did not give classified information to a reporter. Drake is not charged with disclosure, only with retention, and now the Court has ordered the government to stipulate that there is no evidence that the reporter in question relied on the documents Drake is accused of retaining! Kafkaesque.
Drake is being prosecuted because he blew the whistle through proper internal channels.
Instead of tips or Tweets, PLEASE sign the petition demanding accountability in the Drake case.
Yesterday, the Court made the following rulings regarding the evidence:
The email is relevant to the defendant's state of mind and when his cooperation with the DOD IG [Department of Defense Inspector General] began.
The email is relevant to the defendant's state of mind, the issue of his retention of documents and his cooperation with the DOD IG.
Paragraphs 2, 6
The e-mail is relevant to the defendant's state of mind and his cooperation with the DOD IG.
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Stripped Provision in Authorization Act Would Have Provided Agency Heads With Sweeping New Powers to Retaliate
Today, GAP is praising the actions of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for successfully protecting the rights of national security whistleblowers. Wyden fought against a broadly crafted provision in S. 719, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (IAA) that, if passed, would have given Intelligence Community agency heads sweeping new power to retaliate against those employees they personally believe made unauthorized disclosures.
In this year’s IAA, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had inserted language permitting agency chiefs to punish current or even retired employees, whenever the chief decides that such an employee has made an unauthorized disclosure. The minimum penalty would be removing their pensions. Traditionally, past legislation has called for internal agency due process. But no statutory rights for employees were included in the IAA draft. In terms of due process, internal agency proceedings have typically been honor systems that routinely rubberstamp retaliation in the context of security clearance actions.
The committee included legislative history specifying that existing whistleblower laws would not be cancelled out by this provision, but agencies have routinely ignored this as unenforceable "cheap talk" in the past.
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NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and two other former NSA employees (Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe) gave stunning interviews on 60 Minutes last night.
In a hard-hitting, on-point report, they told Scott Pelley that NSA had technology---a program called ThinThread--that was ready to deploy in January 2001 and could have picked up critical intelligence prior to 9/11. NSA management rejected ThinThread, and embarked on a billion-dollar boondoggle, Trailblazer, a proposal designed figure how to do what ThinThread could do (collect and analyze massive amounts of data) on a massive and far more invasive scale. NSA also tossed ThinThread's privacy protections, leaving Americans vulnerable to illegal surveillance.
Drake called the failure to gather critical intelligence prior to 9/11
one of the great tragedies in the history of NSA
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Note: Some may find this diary wandering, overlong, meandering, obtuse, and scatterbrained. I agree. However one person has expressed a like for it, so I reckon I'll post it anyways.
I am not the sharpest tack in the box. I'm not trained in national security, law, or much of anything really. Like most people, I first heard about the NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake case back in mid 2010. I didn't, at first, think he was a whistleblower. I thought he was just some guy who had been caught doing something dumb. Some of the news stories quote anonymous sources, saying that it was "hubris" or "corporate IT politics" that Drake had gotten caught up in. I believed that. Part of the problem was that I couldn't understand the basic facts of the case. It was like swimming through algae. I looked at the news stories; many were titled something like 'leak case' or 'leaker', and they had this 'tsk tsk' vibe and they were short on details. Most of them didn't even list the actual specific charges against him; they just said 'leaking'. I don't think any of the headlines said 'Whistleblower'. Now, looking back, I have to wonder; how can the word 'leaker' meet journalistic ethics rules for neutrality, but not the word 'whistleblower'?
Something about those words "Espionage" or "Leaking" seem to switch off the logic center of my brain. Maybe I just don't wan't to support anything that might "harm the troops"; maybe I want to be patriotic. When the government says things, I'm inclined to believe them. In the Drake case, I believed what the indictment said... that he shredded documents, that he copy-pasted classified info, that he gave classified information to a reporter, and that he lied about all of it. I was totally, completely, one hundred percent wrong. And now I'm ashamed of myself.