Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
by Stephen Lendman
At perhaps the most perilous time in world history, exposing vital truths takes on greater urgency than ever.
Freedom in America is endangered. Truth telling and dissent increasingly aren’t tolerate. Whistleblowers are called threats to national security.
The ACLU says “leak detection, prevention, and punishment is cause for alarm.”
“National security must be protected and properly classified information must be kept safe. However, this cannot be at the expense of a free, open and informed society.”
Harry Truman once said:
“When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.”
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) is an alliance of whistleblowers. In August 2004, Sibel Edmonds founded it. It’s independent and nonpartisan. She serves as president.
Its members include “current or former federal employees or civilians working under contract to the United States who, to their detriment or personal risk, bring to light fraud, waste, and abuse in government operations and agencies when such improprieties compromise the national security of the United States.”
The The Government Accountability Project (GAP) “promote(s) government accountability….protect(s) whistleblowers, advanc(es) free speech, and empower(s) citizen activists.”
Since 1977, it’s been “the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.”
Americans Who Tell the Truth (AWTT) honors those who do so. It’s “dedicated to the belief that a profound sense of citizenship is the only safeguard of democracy and the best defense of our social, economic, and environmental rights. “
It “teaches the courage to act for the common good.” Doing so, it believes, “inspire(s) hope in the future.”
On January 23, ATWW and GAP honored CIA/anti-torture whistleblower John Kiriakou. “Even if torture works,” he said, “it cannot be tolerated – not in one case, or a thousand, or a million.”
“If their efficacy becomes the measure of abhorrent acts, all sorts of unspeakable crimes somehow become acceptable.”
“I may have found myself on the wrong side of the government on torture. But I’m on the right side of history.”
“There are things we should not do, even in the name of national security. One of them, I now firmly believe, is torture.”
More on Kiriakou below. He’s Obama’s latest whistleblower victim. His Justice Department wages war on them more aggressively than all previous administrations combined.
Candidate Obama promised transparency, accountability, and reform. Extremist Bush administration policies will end, he said. He called sunlight “the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse.”
“We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. (I’ll) strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.”
He said one thing. He did another. As president, he usurped diktat powers. He wages war on truth. He targets whistleblowers. He prioritizes surveillance powers.
They include warrantless wiretapping, accessing personal records, monitoring financial transactions, and tracking emails, Internet and cell phone use. It’s done lawlessly to gather secret evidence for prosecutions.
In his book “Necessary Secrets,” Gabriel Schoenfeld said he “presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history – even more so than Nixon.”
Rhetorically he supports civil liberties and transparency. “Such acts of courage and patriotism….should be encouraged rather than stifled,” he said.
At the same time, he betrayed the public trust. He targets free expression and dissent. He pursues police state prosecutions and intimidation.
He claims Justice Department immunity from illegal spying suits. He exceeds the worst of all previous administrations.
His national security state targets activists, political dissidents, anti-war protestors, Muslims, Latino immigrants, lawyers who defend them, whistleblowers, and investigative journalists.
Law Professor Jack Balkin expressed alarm, saying:
“We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimation of a national surveillance state.” Obama exceeded the worst of George Bush.
Bradley Manning’s persecution is well known. So is targeting Julian Assange. Others get little or less coverage.
James Risen was targeted for his book titled “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.”
In February 2011, former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling was indicted for allegedly providing him classified information. Risen’s book discussed an unidentified firsthand account of extraordinary rendition, torture and other type abuses.
He refused to disclose his sources. Obama officials alleged Sterling. He was indicted under Espionage Act of 1917 provisions. Transparency is verboten. Secrecy is official policy. Truth-telling is criminalized.
According to Reporters Committee for Freedom executive director Lucy Dalglish:
“The message they are sending to everyone is ‘You leak to the media, we will get you.’ ”
“As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no difference (between Bush and Obama), and (he) seems to be paying more attention to it. This is going to get nasty.”
Longtime reporter/author Helen Thomas accused Obama of “controlling the press.”
“It’s shocking. It’s really shocking,” she added. “What the hell do they think we are, puppets? They’re supposed to stay out of our business. They are the public servants. We pay them.”
Waging war on truth-telling is more aggressive now than ever. Former National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake was targeted.
He was indicted on multiple charges of “willful retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements.”
Charges alleged he gave Baltimore Sun reporter Sibohan Gorman classified NSA documents. She focused mainly on its “Trailblazer” project. She discussed illegal spying, waste and other abuses.
She called the scheme “the biggest boondoggle going on (at the time) in the intelligence community.” She said people have a right to know.
Drake’s leaks exposed illegal spying, waste, fraud and abuse. He provided information on a public/private national security surveillance state.
He said profiteers are incentivized to hype fears. Doing so benefits their bottom line priorities. Justice Department prosecutors tried to prosecute him. They failed. Charges were dropped. Others aren’t as lucky.
Drake, Sterling, Risen, and others like them are heroic. They’re some of America’s best. They prioritize doing the right thing. They know the risks and take them. They’re punished for acting responsibly. Police states operate that way.
In April 2012, Obama’s Justice Department headlined “Former CIA Officer John Kiriakou Indicted for Allegedly Disclosing Classified Information, Including Covert Officer’s Identity, to Journalists and Lying to CIA’s Publication Board.”
In January 2012, he was initially charged with a criminal complaint. Subsequent counts included violating Espionage Act provisions “for allegedly illegally disclosing national defense information to individuals not authorized to receive it.”
Kiriakou formerly headed CIA counterterrorism operations in Pakistan. He was involved in capturing alleged Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. He took no part in torture and abusive interrogation practices.
In December 2007, he went public. His book titled “Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror” revealed Agency wrongdoing.
He said Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in one month. Doing so is torture, he stressed. He helped expose abusive Agency practices. Official policy prioritizes them.
He became Obama’s seventh Espionage Act whistleblower target. Others include Bradley Manning, Drake, Sterling, FBI linguist Shamai Leibowitz, civilian linguist James Hitselberger, and State Department analyst Stephen Kim.
They’re in good company.
Previous targets included Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) founder Bill Haywood, social justice advocate Emma Goldman, journalist/author/socialist activist John Reed, political activist Max Eastman, civil rights leader Philip Randolph, and Social Democratic Party of America and its successor Socialist Party of America co-founder Victor Berger.
On January 25, morning headlines said CIA whistleblower Kariakou got 30 months for disclosing a covert Agency officer’s identity.
He’s the first past or present CIA officer facing prison. He’s criminalized for doing the right thing. Torturers stay free.
Kariakou potentially faced longterm incarceration. In October, he accepted plea bargain terms.
They’re sought and/or accepted for lesser sentences. Innocent victims take them to avoid harsher treatment.
Kariakou pled guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Other Espionage Act charges were dropped.
Before sentencing, US District Court Judge Leone Brinkema asked if he had anything to say. He declined. Brinkema added that “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”
Separately, Kiriakou thanked supporters. He came “out of court positive, confident and optimistic,” he said.
“I’m headed to prison while the torturers and the lawyers who papered over it and the people who conceived it and the man who destroyed the proof of it, the tapes, will never face justice.”
“And that’s the saddest part of the story,” he added. Unconscionable crimes reflect official policy. Police states operate that way.
Obama heads the worst of rogue governance. Humanity may not survive another four years.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.