Read more »
National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, Edward Loomis, and Diane Roark have been through enough. They were targeted with a federal criminal investigation and subjected to armed FBI raids in July 2007. Binney had a gun pointed to his head as he stepped out of the shower. Drake has the dubious distinction of being the fourth person in U.S. history (and first by the Obama administration) indicted under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information.
They have since been forced to sue NSA in an attempt to recoup property the government took in 2007. First, NSA claimed it would take an inordinately long time to perform the "arduous process" of reviewing the seized materials for classified information. (A brief pause to consider the ridiculousness of our nation's massive spy agency needing extra time to go through a few hard drives it has had for over four years). Perhaps the difficulty came because NSA's process involved essentially "word searching" the computers for key terms like "NSA" and "TOP SECRET" to find supposedly classified information.
When the Court tired of NSA's excuses and ordered NSA to actually respond to the whistleblowers' lawsuit, NSA moved on May 11th to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that all the property NSA still has is classified.
NSA's latest claims of secrecy are especially incredible considering NSA couldn't find a single shred of classified information in Drake's home in order to make their Espionage Act case against him stick. The case collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial when the government dropped all felony charges in exchange for Drake pleading to a minor misdemeanor not involving classified information. Bush's former classification czar (J. William Leonard) said about the Drake case that he had never seen a "more deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document." Yet, NSA bizarrely continues to stubbornly claim that there is classified information on Drake's computers.
Read more »
Author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People and whistleblower Peter Van Buren discussed the State Department's retaliatory actions on NPR Sunday. From the NPR story:
The halls of the State Department are haunted, not by actual ghosts, but by people who might as well be ghosts. They're called hallwalkers, people who blew the whistle, people who angered someone powerful, people who for one reason or another can't be fired.
But they can be stripped of their security clearances, their desks and their duties and left to walk aimlessly up and down the halls of that massive building. Sometimes they're required to show up at the building to get paid. Sometimes they're allowed to telecommute from home.
The State Department's anti-free speech retaliation included stripping Van Buren of his security clearance, a forced transfer to a telework position after weeks of paid administrative leave, and banning him from entering State Department facilities. Van Buren explained:
There are procedures in the State Department to fire someone or to discipline someone. There are rules that the State Department claims are broken. But rather than pursue those avenues, which would have allowed me to defend myself, the State Department instead followed a different path where they used bureaucratic tools, unofficial ways of doing business that pushed me out of the village, sent me into the wilderness.
Read more »
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.
Under Obama's self-proclaimed "most transparent administration in history," not only did the number of "original classification decisions" rise by 22.6% in his first year in office, but the secret no-fly list has doubled in the past year and now includes 21,000 names, including at least 500 Americans.
As Obama well knows, his predecessor too often used the no-fly list as a punitive measure. I have a bee in my bonnet about this issue, having been placed on the "selectee" portion of the no-fly list after I became the Justice Department whistleblower in the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. While I no longer have that dubious distinction, no doubt other people have been improperly added to the list and still have no reasonable, convenient or comprehensive redress procedure. In fact,
Read more »
The government will not disclose who is on its list or why someone might have been placed on it.
After the 2009 attempted "Christmas Day" bombing – an attack stopped by alert, courageous passengers, not by a bloated, ineffective no-fly list –
The government lowered the standard for putting people on the list then scoured its files for anyone who qualified. . . .Among the most significant new standards is that now a person doesn't have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list. People who are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security or who attended a terror training camp also are included, said a U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security matters.
Read more »
Courtesy of Flickr user publik15Yesterday, John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, gained the dubious distinction of being the SIXTH person charged in the Obama administration's record-breaking war on whistleblowers:
The Justice Department on Monday charged a former Central Intelligence Agency officer with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah . . .
Worse, in Kiriakou's case, the Obama Justice Department appears to be covering for one of the most abhorrent crimes of the Bush administration – torture. Despite the flowery rhetoric that got him elected, Obama has a dismal record on accountability for Bush-era wrongdoing:
Criminal prosecutions for officials who authorized or conducted torture and warrantless surveillance: 0
Criminal prosecutions for so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers: 6
Read more »
Today's Baltimore Sun has a front-page article describing the surreal battle National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers Bill Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe, and former Congressional staffer Diane Roark are fighting to recoup property the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took from them back in 2007 in connection with a retaliatory criminal investigation, which culminated in the collapsed Espionage Act prosecution of Drake.
You've probably never heard of a 41(g) Motion to Reclaim Property. That's because, under normal circumstances, at the conclusion of a criminal case - especially a flop as spectacular as the Drake case - the government simply returns property. Instead, NSA has decided to claim that it found information classified beyond top secret on Wiebe's computer. Reminder: Wiebe received immunity from prosecution in 2010 and the government dropped all felony counts against Drake, who pleaded to a misdemeanor of Unauthorized Use of a Government Computer - an offense not involving classified information.
Nonetheless, NSA is stubbornly sticking to the same kind of dubious claims of secrecy that caused the Drake case to crumble. Grow up, NSA. You lost.
News outlets from the Baltimore Sun to Politico to the Carroll County Times have written at length about what should be an uneventful, routine motion. If the information on Wiebe's computer was legitimately classified, the Justice Department surely would have used it in the prosecution against Drake.
Read more »
Former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake faces trial under the Espionage Act for allegedly "retaining" classified information. Thankfully, The New Yorker has put this case under a miscroscope and revealed this criminalization of whistleblowing to be the government covering up for its own sins of secret domestic surveillance.
The article details domestic datamining, former NSA director Michael Hayden projecting votes by the Supreme Court if it eventually weighed in on NSA lawbreaking, and NSA proclaiming itself to be the executive agent for the White House. It explains how NSA used the Trailblazer program, "a 1.2-billion flop," as a funding vehicle, despite an inexpensibe, effective, legal alternative (Thin Thread) that could have picked up actionable intelligence such as 9/11 hijackers renting a hotel room miles from NSA's headquarters.
Six times government officials declined to comment on specifics, or anything at all. Tom Drake, who goes on trial June 13th, gave his first public interview on the case, explaining:
This was a violation of everything I knew and believed as an American. We were making the Nixon Administration look like pikers.
Although the government trots out the usual fear-mongering hyperbole that,
This is not an issue of benign documents . . . when individuals [leak,] our soldier in the field gets harmed . . .