On Sunday, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) called for resurrecting a broad anti-leaks law that would be a de facto Official Secrets Act. (I warned that the result of the recent hysteria over leaks could be such a broad anti-leak measure that would no doubt stifle legitimate dissent.)
The law would criminalize any disclosure of classified information, despite the fact that all experts agree that the classification system is plagued by rampant overclassification, and that far too much information is deemed classified. Worse, the law would remove the intent requirement of the Espionage Act, despite the fact that the intent to harm the United States or benefit a foreign nation requirement is the only thing making the Espionage Act constitutional.
Lieberman's proposal would chill First Amendment-protected activity, criminalize whistleblowing, and cover everything from whistleblower disclosures, press briefings, and anyone who repeats or reprints previously leaked classified information.
I discussed Lieberman's misguided proposal on RT yesterday:
Over the weekend, The Listening Post, an Al Jazeera program, aired an episode entirley focused on exploring the Obama administration's attack on intelligence whistleblowers. In the past few years, the administration has charged six intelligence whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, an archaic legislation that was enacted during World War I to catch spies. These six prosecutions are more than all other past administrations combined.
GAP has spent a lot of time on this issue. It is telling that, despite the implications this has for journalists, there has been a major lack of coverage in the mainstream media. However, the foreign press seems to get it. GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack highlighted this in her blog earlier today.
The case of NSA whistleblower and GAP client Thomas Drake was used to exemplify the trumped-up nature of many of these prosecutions. Charges against Drake were dropped shortly before trial last June, when he pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced only to a year of probation (no fine). That's a far cry from the 35 years the federal government was seeking to put Drake away for.
GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards is also among those interviewed about the current status of whistleblowers in the US. But the second half of the show features an extensive interview with Radack, herself a DOJ whistleblower in the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. She challenges American media to dig further and address the issue. Radack calls this attack on intelligence whistleblowers the "worst crackdown on public information that we've seen since the McCarthy era."
Hannah Johnson is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Now that a bi-partisan group of congressional intelligence committee members has brought Obama's hypocrisy on leaks to the forefront for American mainsteam media (MSM), the contrast between coverage from foreign press and American MSM has never been more stark.
Last week's New York Times article serves as a reminder that our public debate about the government's bureaucratized killing program is based almost entirely on the government's own selective, self-serving, and unverifiable representations about it.
This weekend, Al Jazeera English ran a long investigative piece on the whistleblower prosecutions, and the relative lack of coverage in the American MSM. Watch the entire segment here.
After the Justice Department's case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial, Drake's first T.V. appearance was on Russian Television.
In contrast, here in the U.S., it was the blogosphere – NOT the MSM – that focused on the Obama administration's record-breaking number of Espionage Act prosecutions against non-spies, who more often than not are whistleblowers. I called it "criminalization of whistleblowing," but Glenn Greenwald coined the less-wordy moniker "war on whistleblowers." I wrote two years ago that the Obama administration was turning sources and reporters into criminals. And, I received more HR's than ever before when I accused the Obama administration of playing politics with anonymous leaks on national security, an accusation members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have made repeatedly in the past week.
I thought we were done with "death panels" after the health care debate, but as the New York Timesreported yesterday, Obama has his own 100-person "death panel" made up of members of the ever-expanding national security state.
It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.
While the Times calls it a "bureaucratic ritual," a panel of suits deciding who to kill next sounds more like an organized crime ring, with Obama as the mob boss insisting on signing off on every death. John O. Brennan is like the consigliere. The Times' sources – "three dozen of [Obama's] current and former advisers" – imply that Obama's tight hold on decisions about who the U.S. should kill without charge or trial makes Obama morally responsible:
A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions.
It could also make him a psychopathic dictator whose favorite part of being president is heading up the "death panel," but we'll never know, considering that the Obama administration continues to claim in court that it "can neither confirm or deny" the existence of the drone program. BEFORE the commenters jump down my throat about calling Obama a "psychopathic dictator," please read what I wrote - I am not saying Obama is a "dictator" - the point is we don't know the official policies, reasoning behind, or criteria of the death panels - because this is all occurring in secret. Americans cannot go to the U.S. Code or case law and learn the criteria for summary execution. The officials on these death panels are
I have been shouting for well over a year that Obama's war on whistleblowers is a back door way of attacking the media. We have seen a hint of this attack in the Obama administration's attempts to subpoena journalist James Risen to testify about his sources in the Espionage Act prosecutions of former CIA officer Jeffery Sterling. (It should now be common knowledge – but still bears repeating – that Obama has brought more Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined.)
Glenn Greenwald's explosive Salon article on Sunday details how the U.S. government repeatedly detained, searched, and harassed Laura Poitras, an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker – with no probable cause or even suspicion that Poitras had committed a crime. Not only is the detention, search, and interrogation of an innocent American – who the government does not even suspect committed a crime – completely enraging to any civil libertarian, but I am particularly disconcerted as Poitras has filmed three of my National Security Agency (NSA) clients and no doubt countless other courageous whistleblowers. My clients have already been put through a years-long retaliatory criminal investigation, and should not be forced to endure further persecution because they are brave enough to continue to speak out against NSA's illegal actions.
Greenwald described what typically happens when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detains Poitras:
She has had her laptop, camera and cellphone seized, and not returned for weeks, with the contents presumably copied. On several occasions, her reporter’s notebooks were seized and their contents copied, even as she objected that doing so would invade her journalist-source relationship. Her credit cards and receipts have been copied on numerous occasions. In many instances, DHS agents also detain and interrogate her in the foreign airport before her return, on one trip telling her that she would be barred from boarding her flight back home, only to let her board at the last minute. When she arrived at JFK Airport on Thanksgiving weekend of 2010, she was told by one DHS agent — after she asserted her privileges as a journalist to refuse to answer questions about the individuals with whom she met on her trip — that he “finds it very suspicious that you’re not willing to help your country by answering our questions.” They sometimes keep her detained for three to four hours (all while telling her that she will be released more quickly if she answers all their questions and consents to full searches).
But one of the agency’s biggest secrets is just how careless it is with that ocean of very private and very personal communications, much of it to and from Americans. Increasingly, obscure and questionable contractors — not government employees — install the taps, run the agency’s eavesdropping infrastructure, and do the listening and analysis.
Bamford's latest piece – which features NSA whistleblowers and GAP clients – describes how 6 employees of a "mom-and-pop company," Technology Development Corporation (TDC), constructed the center for Stellar Wind - the NSA's illegal domestic spying program (remember they had to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and give the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity). TDC was owned by two brothers - one of whom is described as "unstable," "weird," "robotic," a tax dodger, and "changing his name to Jimmy Carter, and later Alfred Olympus von Ronsdorf." TDC didn't just build the Stellar Wind center, the bizarre company ran the Stellar Wind operation.
For a description of Stellar Wind, check Bamford's first blockbuster Wired Magazine article of the year, which described not only a gargantuan data storage facility NSA is building on the taxpayer's dime, but that the American people are paying NSA to collect massive amounts of their private data:
[Bill] Binney left the NSA in late 2001, shortly after the agency launched its warrantless-wiretapping program. “They violated the Constitution setting it up,” he says bluntly. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way. When they started violating the Constitution, I couldn’t stay.” Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts.
I appeared on Democracy Now! this morning with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, fellow Kossack, and my client Thomas Drake discussing the NSA's spying on American citizens, Drake's experience as the fourth person in history prosecuted under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information, and Justice Department's using the Espionage Act as back-door of creating an Official Secrets Act to silence media sources and discourage potential whistleblowers.
I have a great respect for Bill Arkin, especially his reporting on Top Secret America. He is known for being a thorough investigator and researcher, hence, my surprise and confusion that someone way too smart for such carelessness makes so many careless errors about a case as widely-reported as that of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake.
I have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes that Arkin completely misses the widely-reported facts about the Drake case and lashes out at Drake for pointing out what nearly every expert has agreed on and the facts reveal: that the Obama has used the Espionage Act to target so-called "leakers" (who are usually whistleblowers) more times than all past presidents combined.
After the jump are a few of the mistakes Arkin makes in his recent blog, which responds to Thomas Drake's Daily Kos diary posted earlier this week.
(1) Arkin says in response to Drake's claim "That Obama has gone after whistleblowers and leakers more than Bush ever did. . . . . I doubt that this is true but would be interested in being corrected if someone’s got some facts."
Here are some facts. Far from being the statement of Salon or lefty bloggers, every mainstream media outlet has documented that Obama has launched an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, including editorials in the Washington Post (here and here), theNew York Times, the L.A. Times, and the Economist, to name a few.
The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.
I agree, Mr. Holder, but if you really cared about informing the American public more than silencing critics of the administration's Executive power grab, you would release the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos "legalizing" assassinating American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki without a shred of due process and engaging in secret drone warfare in the airspace of sovereign nations. Even the conservative Washington Post editorial board (whose opinion on drone strikes differsfrom mine) agrees on release of the memos:
If the administration is intent on reassuring the American public, it should release the Justice Department memorandum that lays out the domestic and international strictures which, it says, undergird its drone policy.
The offensiveness of the Justice Department's hypocritical secrecy is trumped only by Holder's Constitution-shredding rationalizations.
The factual scenarios Holder says would be enough to assassinate Americans amount to punishing individuals for thoughts. First Amendment need not apply.
[Holder] said the president is not required by the Constitution to delay action until some “theoretical end stage of planning — when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear.”
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.