Read more »
This week, GAP client Thomas Drake is prominently featured in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker magazine, in an explosive article on widespread corruption and wrongdoing within the National Security Agency (NSA). The piece, “The Secret Sharer,” highlights Drake’s legal and proper attempts to expose massive NSA waste, mismanagement, and illegality regarding the agency’s use of a data collection program that was more costly, more threatening to American citizens’ privacy rights, and less effective than a legal alternative.
The New Yorker article can be read here.
The article describes several areas of widespread gross waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality at the NSA, including: the implementation of a warrantless, domestic surveillance and datamining system; the agency’s attempt to hide information about the surveillance from Congress and the Supreme Court; the squandering of billions of taxpayer dollars on an undeveloped data collection program that violated American privacy rights; the NSA’s failure to give other intelligence agencies critical information it had obtained prior to 9/11; and the overreaching prosecution of Drake.
GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack commented, “It is abhorrent that the Obama administration, which routinely pledges openness and transparency, is prosecuting brave federal employees who stand up against wrongdoing inside government agencies. Tom Drake went through all of the appropriate channels for bringing information to Congress and the Defense Department Inspector General. Drake did not leak classified information to the media and, tellingly, is not charged with disclosing classified information to the media."
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 . . .
Read more »
In the case of former NSA official Thomas Drake, who is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for retention (not disclosure) of allegedly classified information, the government now asserts that under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), the government should be able to provide "substitutions" for unclassified information.
The through-the-looking glass nature of this case just gets more bizarre as it speeds along.
Normally, the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) allows the Court to create "substitution" for classified information -- such as redacted versions or summaries -- so that both sides can use the information.
But now in a huge leap, the government is arguing that CIPA substitutions should be applicable to "protected" information, which includes "information relating to the activities of NSA" and unclassified information available on the Internet.
This is absurd.
Thomas Tamm and Thomas Drake have much in common. They both blew the whistle on massive malfeasance and illegality at the National Security Agency (NSA). They were both targets of a years-long investigation into the sources for the Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times article revealing George W. Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. Tamm and Drake were both recipients of the Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling. They even share a first name.
Yet, despite these commonalities, the differences between Tamm and Drake have never been more significant. Namely, Drake is still facing 35 years in prison for charges brought under the Espionage Act, while Tamm is no longer the target of criminal inquiry.
Read more »
While Tamm has maintained, including on Democracy Now yesterday, that he never broke the law, Tamm has publicly admitted that he (bravely) served as a source of the New York Times.
In contrast, there is no evidence Drake was ever a source for the Times, and Drake never revealed a secret program. Despite that the indictment brought against Drake alleges extensive [First Amendment-protected] contact with a reporter, Drake never gave classified information to a reporter and, tellingly, is not charged with disclosing classified information to reporter.
Read more »
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) today praised Senate action last night to confirm the nomination of Carolyn Lerner as Special Counsel at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the office charged with investigating federal whistleblower disclosures, protecting them from retaliation, and defending the merit system.
“This is an outstanding appointment, and we hope that Ms. Lerner will be worth the wait,” stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. “To date, her career has personified excellence -- as a litigator, mediator and manager of government reform programs. Lerner has earned widespread respect among good government activists for a lifelong commitment to employee rights."
Lerner's task is seen as a difficult one, as OSC has been without a leader for over 18 months, following the resignation of Scott Bloch. Last month, Bloch was sentenced to one month of jail time for withholding information from Congress. During his tenure, Bloch issued gag orders and engaged in harsh retaliation against whistleblowers on his own staff, abandoning the agency’s mission to protect whistleblowers.
Devine added that credit should be given to the Oval Office, stating “It is no coincidence that this appointee could be the strongest Special Counsel since the office’s creation in 1978. President Obama now has completed appointments to the strongest, most qualified team in history to protect government and corporate whistleblowers. Now all these leaders need is a credible open government law to enforce. That would be done already, except for a 'secret hold' placed by a senator at the request of House Republican leadership last December on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). It is time for congressional Republicans to put their priorities and votes where their rhetoric is. Their war on waste will be false advertising unless they quickly act to pass the WPEA."
Tom Devine is Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Read more »
The Ridenhour Awards are today, and GAP, as always, is extremely proud to partner with the Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and others to make this event happen. There should be more events that honor the brave acts that whistleblowers take in the name of Americans. These coveted prizes are among the most respected for those citizens who act "in the spirit of courage and truth."
Every year, the awardees are exceptional. This year is no different. Whistleblower and author Wendell Potter takes the Ridenhour Book prize this year for his work in exposing the true nature of health care providers. Sen. Russ Feingold takes the Courage Award for his continued, principled fight against corporate wrongdoing. And a new award this year, the Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize, is being handed out to the producers of Budrus.
And the coveted Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize -- hands down the most respected annual American award for whistleblowers -- is going to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake. Drake, who GAP has advocated for strenuously over the past year, helped expose multi-billion dollar waste and fraud at the NSA by going through several internal government channels. His concerns eventually were reported in the Baltimore Sun. For his actions of protecting America, he now has the dubious distinction of being the fourth American indicted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first person.
Read more »
Amid themes of innovation and change, President Obama dedicated a few moments during the State of the Union address to comment on government reform. He called for increased transparency from members of Congress regarding special interests, and highlighted measures aimed at bolstering government accountability:
In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.
A follow-up fact sheet circulated by the White House elaborated on the point of making more data available online, stating that a new website would “let taxpayers know how their taxes are spent across 20-25 categories of federal spending, including Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, foreign aid, and other programs.” In addition, members of Congress are being asked to develop a system for disclosing meetings with lobbyists similar to the one that already exists to track visits to the White House.