What happens when well-intentioned individuals attempt to shine a media spotlight on government abuse and fraud?
“[O]ften the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out,” said Obama. “Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”
In reality, the White House’s sanctions on whistleblowers and journalists are unprecedented in the course of American history. The growing secrecy that shrouds his administration makes Richard Nixon appear like Julian Assange’s number-one fan.
Armed house raids and mass polygraph testing are both components of Team Obama’s culture of isolation and intimidation. Anybody who doesn’t play by team rules is dealt with appropriately.
“Intelligence community employees with mortgages and mouths to feed no doubt get the message,” explains Jesselyn Radack, writing for Salon.
And if they don’t get the message, the White House has little trouble finding out. As reported by McClatchy, the National Reconnaissance Office — America’s secretive spy satellite agency — is subjecting thousands of employees and job applicants to polygraph tests.
“In the Pentagon alone, almost 46,000 national security polygraphs are ordered each year,” McClatchy notes, adding that the figure is a five-fold increase from 2002. Any polygraphers who fail to cooperate with government orders are “punished or criminally prosecuted as leakers.”
Among the whistleblowers who have incurred the Obama Administration’s wrath is a former Senior Executive of the National Security Administration, Tom Drake.
When he exposed the fact that a contractor was paid $1.2 billion for a new NSA spy program that could have been built in-house for a mere $3 million, the agency raided Drake’s home at gunpoint and immediately dismissed him from his post.
The government convinced themselves I was a bad guy, an enemy of the state, and went after me with everything they had seeking to destroy my life, my livelihood and my person — the politics of personal destruction, while also engaging in abject, cutthroat character assassination and complete fabrication and frame up.
That’s how Drake recounts the affair, which strained his marriage, landing him blacklisted and bankrupt.
While Drake won his case against the Justice Department (whose prosecutor unsuccessfully insisted on fining Drake $50,000 after the “not guilty” verdict), he was down hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees and a retirement package.
CIA agent John Kiriakou worked for the intelligence community for almost 15 years, notorious for surviving an assassination attempt, as well as being the first CIA officer to label waterboarding as “torture.”
Today, he faces up to 50 years in prison for revealing secrets concerning CIA torture methods. The government information leaked by Kiriakou was originally kept secret from defense attorneys representing Guantanamo detainees — a highly illegal move by the government to begin with.
But rather than investigate the government’s withholding of information that may have proved exculpatory for the detainees, and the approximately 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees’ alleged torturers, the federal inquiry focused solely on Kiriakou and his punishment.
Kiriakou has already shelled out tens of thousands in attorney fees, and is having trouble raising the projected $1 million he will need for an adequate defense. His wife, also a CIA employee, was fired almost immediately after the feds pursued Kiriakou. She received the news while on maternity leave.
Perhaps the most notorious whistleblower of the Obama era is Bradley Manning. The former Army intelligence analyst leaked a Defense Department video showing a U.S. helicopter shooting journalists in Baghdad, along with years worth of diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, revealing serious corruption and embarrassing diplomatic exchanges by the U.S. and regimes around the world.
The jailed Manning currently awaits his fate. If charged under the Espionage Act, he’ll face the remainder of his life in prison.
In fact, the Obama Administration has already charged six government officials under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking classified information. That number is twice as many cases as all previous presidents — combined.
The three examples are far from the only casualties of Obama’s war on whistleblowers, but arguably the most notable. Peter van Buren has more names, if you’re interested.
Two Sets of Rules
Equally sickening are the methods the White House has used to justify classified leaks when politically advantageous.
While waging their war on whistleblowers, the President’s administration has been suspected of leaking politically convenient security secrets of their own and parading the contents, portraying Mr. Obama in a bold and heroic light.
The President’s administration has continuously asserted that it’s precisely these types of secrets that are so sensitive, they’re unable confirm or deny their existence.
It’s the epitome of hypocrisy.
“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” responded White House spokesman Jay Carney, when the question came up.
If this sudden stroke of positive press simply dropped into Obama’s lap, it’s one helluva coincidence. Glenn Greenwald, now with The Guardian, has labeled several curious instances of White House-friendly stories arising from thin air.
USA Today highlights Obama’s prowess as Commander-in-Chief from leaks detailing drone attacks that have killed prominent al-Qaeda members in the covert Pakistan operation, which “may or may not exist.”
In other newspapers, anonymous tips based on classified information become top stories. The administration boasts about cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear program and the President’s role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
In fact, the White House seems bent on propagandizing the convenient leaks.
In August 2011, Maureen Dowd reported on a meeting between top administration officials and Sony Pictures Inc., who was provided with high-level classified information detailing the bin Laden raid according to sources. A film, based on the raid, was slated for an October 2012 release, but has suffered delays.
When The New York Times profiled Obama’s evolution on foreign policy back in May, three dozen current and former advisors delivered detailed information about the President’s kill list, along with the killings of high-level combatants, such as Anwar al-Awlaki.
Curiously, any mention of Anwar’s son is absent from the Times’ recap, which reads more like a carefully orchestrated public relations operation.
While the available information suggests a complicit White House, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Carney’s flat-out denial is true.
As Greenwald posits, this would mean that all leaks thus far have been unauthorized and worthy of large-scale criminal investigations from the Department of Justice.
Why haven’t the three dozen advisors who spoke to The New York Times been hunted down? What about the “senior administration official” who lauded Obama for his role in the Iran cyber-attacks?
Up is down, and white is east in the Obama White House. When an individual leaks to expose government corruption, he or she is met with severe reprisal. But when an individual leaks information that portrays the President in Herculean fashion, they are protected, and likely rewarded.
As long as Mr. Obama’s Administration continues to eagerly use leaks when politically convenient, without prosecuting their source, it’s difficult to take the President’s obsession with national security as much more than an intimidation tactic, save for the instances of political theatre.
While fighting a brazen and blurry enemy abroad, perhaps the most significant war waged by this government lies within its own walls. In a United States where nearly every decision worth a candle is made behind the closed doors of a self-protecting Washington elite, whistleblowers have become a final recourse for exposing government wrongdoing.
By going after whistleblowers the way he has, Barack Obama has chiseled away at a pillar of free society, slowly pulling down the curtains on democracy in the process.