Government Protects Criminals by Attacking Whistleblowers

It’s now obvious to everyone that – even though criminal fraud dominates Wall Street – the Obama administration refuses to prosecute white collar crime.

Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton each prosecuted financial crime more aggressively than Barack Obama.

Of course, the lack of a fair and even-handed legal system destroys prosperity and leads to the breakdown of society.

National security claims are also used to keep financial fraud secret (and people who protest runaway criminality by the big banks are targeted as terrorists). And when those in the private sector blow the whistle on potential crimes, they are targeted also.

But it’s not like the government isn’t aggressively using the legal system … it’s just using it to silence the truth.

Specifically, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

Government employees also goes out of their way to smear whistleblowers, threaten reporters who discuss whistleblower information and harass honest analysts.

Indeed, even high-level government employees are in danger. For example, after the head of the NSA’s spying program – William Binney – disclosed the fact that the U.S. was spying on everyone in the U.S. and storing the data forever, and that the U.S. was quickly becoming a totalitarian state, the Feds tried to scare him into shutting up:

[Numerous] FBI officers held a gun to Binney’s head as he stepped naked from the shower. He watched with his wife and youngest son as the FBI ransacked their home. Later Binney was separated from the rest of his family, and FBI officials pressured him to implicate one of the other complainants in criminal activity. During the raid, Binney attempted to report to FBI officials the crimes he had witnessed at NSA, in particular the NSA’s violation of the constitutional rights of all Americans. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in these disclosures. Instead, FBI officials seized Binney’s private computer, which to this day has not been returned despite the fact that he has not been charged with a crime.

Other NSA whistleblowers have also been subjected to armed raids and criminal prosecution.

After high-level CIA officer John Kiriakou blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture, the government prosecuted him for espionage.

Even the CIA director was targeted with extra-constitutional spying and driven out of office.

Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald notes:

The permanent US national security state has used extreme secrecy to shield its actions from democratic accountability ever since its creation after World War II. But those secrecy powers were dramatically escalated in the name of 9/11 and the War on Terror, such that most of what the US government now does of any significance is completely hidden from public knowledge. Two recent events – the sentencing last week of CIA torture whistleblower John Kirikaou to 30 months in prison and the invasive investigation to find the New York Times’ source for its reporting on the US role in launching cyberwarfare at Iran – demonstrate how devoted the Obama administration is not only to maintaining, but increasing, these secrecy powers.

When WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010, government defenders were quick to insist that most of those documents were banal and uninteresting. And that’s true: most (though by no means all) of those cables contained nothing of significance. That, by itself, should have been a scandal. All of those documents were designated as “secret”, making it a crime for government officials to reveal their contents – despite how insignificant most of it was. That revealed how the US government reflexively – really automatically – hides anything and everything it does behind this wall of secrecy: they have made it a felony to reveal even the most inconsequential and pedestrian information about its actions.

This is why whistleblowing – or, if you prefer, unauthorized leaks of classified information – has become so vital to preserving any residual amounts of transparency. Given how subservient the federal judiciary is to government secrecy claims, it is not hyperbole to describe unauthorized leaks as the only real avenue remaining for learning about what the US government does – particularly for discovering the bad acts it commits. That is why the Obama administration is waging an unprecedented war against it – a war that continually escalates – and it is why it is so threatening.

To understand the Obama White House’s obsession with punishing leaks – as evidenced by its historically unprecedented war on whistleblowers – just consider how virtually every significant revelation of the bad acts of the US government over the last decade came from this process. Unauthorized leaks are how we learned about the Bush administration’s use of torture, the NSA’s illegal eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by the criminal law, the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the secret network of CIA “black sites” beyond the reach of law or human rights monitoring, the targeting by Obama of a US citizen for assassination without due process, the re-definition of “militant” to mean “any military age male in a strike zone”, the video of a US Apache helicopter gunning down journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, the vastly under-counted civilians deaths caused by the war in Iraq, and the Obama administration’s campaign to pressure Germany and Spain to cease criminal investigations of the US torture regime.

In light of this, it should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration – including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush – to plug all leaks. It’s because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

Silencing government sources is the key to disabling investigative journalism and a free press. That is why the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer told whistleblowing advocate Jesselyn Radack last April: “when our sources are prosecuted, the news-gathering process is criminalized, so it’s incumbent upon all journalists to speak up.”

Indeed, if you talk to leading investigative journalists they will tell you that the Obama war on whistleblowers has succeeded in intimidating not only journalists’ sources but also investigative journalists themselves. Just look at the way the DOJ has pursued and threatened with prison one of the most accomplished and institutionally protected investigative journalists in the country – James Risen – and it’s easy to see why the small amount of real journalism done in the US, most driven by unauthorized leaks, is being severely impeded. This morning’s Washington Post article on the DOJ’s email snooping to find the NYT’s Stuxnet source included this anonymous quote: “People are feeling less open to talking to reporters given this uptick. There is a definite chilling effect in government due to these investigations.”

For authoritarians who view assertions of government power as inherently valid and government claims as inherently true, none of this will be bothersome. Under that mentality, if the government decrees that something shall be secret, then it should be secret, and anyone who defies that dictate should be punished as a felon – or even a traitor. That view is typically accompanied by the belief that we can and should trust our leaders to be good and do good even if they exercise power in the dark, so that transparency is not only unnecessary but undesirable.

But the most basic precepts of human nature, political science, and the American founding teach that power exercised in the dark will be inevitably abused. Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power. That’s why those who wield political power are always driven to destroy methods of transparency. About this fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote in an 1804 letter to John Tyler [emphasis added]:

“Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions.”

About all that, Yale law professor David A Schultz observed: “For Jefferson, a free press was the tool of public criticism. It held public officials accountable, opening them up to the judgment of people who could decide whether the government was doing good or whether it had anything to hide. . . . A democratic and free society is dependent upon the media to inform.”

There should be no doubt that destroying this method of transparency – not protection of legitimate national security secrets- is the primary effect, and almost certainly the intent, of this unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Just consider the revelations that have prompted the Obama DOJ’s war on whistleblowers, whereby those who leak are not merely being prosecuted, but threatened with decades or even life in prison for “espionage” or “aiding the enemy”.

Does anyone believe it would be better if we remained ignorant about the massive waste, corruption and illegality plaguing the NSA’s secret domestic eavesdropping program (Thomas Drake); or the dangerously inept CIA effort to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear program but which ended up assisting that program (Jeffrey Sterling); or the overlooking of torture squads in Iraq, the gunning down of journalists and rescuers in Baghdad, or the pressure campaign to stop torture investigations in Spain and Germany (Bradley Manning); or the decision by Obama to wage cyberwar on Iran, which the Pentagon itself considers an act of war (current DOJ investigation)?

Like all of the Obama leak prosecutions – see here - none of those revelations resulted in any tangible harm, yet all revealed vital information about what our government was doing in secret. As long-time DC lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represents indicted whistleblower Stephen Kim, put it: what makes the Obama DOJ’s prosecutions historically unique is that they “don’t distinguish between bad people – people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money – and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions”. Not only doesn’t it draw this distinction, but it is focused almost entirely on those who leak in order to expose wrongdoing and bring about transparency and accountability.

That is the primary impact of all of this. A Bloomberg report last October on this intimidation campaign summarized the objections this way: “the president’s crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama’s initial promise to ‘usher in a new era of open government.’”

The Obama administration does not dislike leaks of classified information. To the contrary, it is a prolific exploiter of exactly those types of leaks – when they can be used to propagandize the citizenry to glorify the president’s image as a tough guy, advance his political goals or produce a multi-million-dollar Hollywood film about his greatest conquest. Leaks are only objectionable when they undercut that propaganda by exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality.

***

As FAIR put it this week, whatever else is true: “The only person to do time for the CIA’s torture policies appears to be a guy who spoke publicly about them, not any of the people who did the actual torturing.”

Despite zero evidence of any harm from his disclosures, the federal judge presiding over his case – the reliably government-subservient US District Judge Leonie Brinkema – said she “would have given Kiriakou much more time if she could.” As usual, the only real criminals in the government are those who expose or condemn its wrongdoing.

Exactly the same happened with revelations by the New York Times of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. None of the officials who eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law were prosecuted. The telecoms that illegally cooperated were retroactively immunized from all legal accountability by the US Congress. The only person to suffer recriminations from that scandal was Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ official who discovered the program and told the New York Times about it, and then had his life ruined with vindictive investigations.

This Obama whistleblower war has nothing to do with national security. It has nothing to do with punishing those who harm the country with espionage or treason.

It has everything to do with destroying those who expose high-level government wrongdoing. It is particularly devoted to preserving the government’s ability to abuse its power in secret by intimidating and deterring future acts of whistleblowing and impeding investigative journalism. This Obama whistleblower war continues to escalate because it triggers no objections from Republicans (who always adore government secrecy) or Democrats (who always adore what Obama does), but most of all because it triggers so few objections from media outlets, which – at least in theory – suffer the most from what is being done.

And see this.

When the government acts like a “protection racket” – and pretends that the truth is too complicated or dangerous for the public to know – we’re in real trouble.

As Kiriakou points out:

President Obama just like president Bush has made a conscious decision to allow the torturers, to allow the people who conceived of the tortures and implemented the policy, to allow the people who destroyed the evidence of the torture and the attorneys who used specious legal analysis to approve of the torture to walk free.

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In this post 9/11 atmosphere that we find ourselves in we have been losing our civil liberties incrementally over the last decade to the point where we don’t even realize how much of a police state the United States has become.Ten years ago the thought of the National Security Agency spying on American citizens and intercepting their emails would have been anathema to Americans and now it’s just a part of normal business.

The idea that our government would be using drone aircraft to assassinate American citizens who have never seen the inside of a courtroom, who have never been charged with a crime and have not had due process which is their constitutional right would have been unthinkable. And it is something now that happens every year, every so often, every few weeks, every few months and there is no public outrage. I think this is a very dangerous development.

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Category: Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

6 Responses to “Government Prosecutes and Harasses those Who Expose Criminal Wrongdoing”

  1. Greg0658 says:

    this issue of scanning emails and phonecalls and even more that I think/know exists .. to “keep us safe” .. sometimes I wonder in these things who is pumping up the volume .. I’m sure corporations and mafias and government factions are alike in despise of this scanning .. who’s watching the watchers if not our government

    and 1 more for the: “wondering how things would be different if Laborers decided and not Money”

  2. Greg0658 says:

    I didn’t address my POTUS not doing his job – and hiring more detectives & lawyers and combing something to take someone to court .. enough said

  3. bonzo says:

    Sad to say, but this is inevitable. Read Orwell “You and the Atom Bomb” or “Second thoughts on James Burnham” or Carroll Quigley “”weapons systems and political stability”. When the weapons available to the state are little better than those available to the people, the political system tends to be egalitarian democracy. When the weapons available to the state are vastly superior to those available to the people, the politics system tends to be hierarchical dictatorship, with the mass of people little better than slaves.

    The weapons at the time of the early hunter-gatherers were sticks, stones, bows-and-arrows, etc, and anyone can make those, so the political system was democratic. The weapons of early Rome and Greece were also those that could be easily produced: lightweight armor and lightweight spears and swords. Later, armor became heavier, and techniques using large armies highly trained and discipline troops in formation were found to be extremely effective against unorganized guerrillas, and the land army was supplemented by expensive navies. The common people were unable to resist such power and so the politcal system shifted to an hierarchical slave state. In the middle ages, only the rich could afford heavily armored cavalry and castles, so the political system remains hierarchical with the bottom layer consisting of serfs. In the late 18th century, lightweight rifles became available to the people. The state continued to have a monopoly on heavy artillery and naval vessels, but these are insufficient to defeat mobile guerrillas armed with rifles, provided those guerrillas had the support of the people. So wherever the people were allowed to own rifles, egalitarian democracy followed soon thereafter. White men in the United States, Canada and Australia were the first to gain democracy. During WWI, all over Europe men were given access to rifles and thus had to be given democracy as well. (Blacks in the United States were never allowed access to rifles and gained equal rights as a by-product of the long cold war propaganda campaign with the communists. The United States couldn’t very well pretend that capitalism was a paradise when blacks were still held in subjugation.)

    The mid 19th century was the high point of equality between weapons available to the people versus weapons available to the state, and it’s been downhill ever since. The development of the atom bomb, advanced aircraft, helicopter gunships, drones, surveillance technology, etc has pretty much sealed our fate. Our inevitable future is that of a totalitarian slave state.

    The only thing that could tip the balance back to egalitarian democracy would be development of deadly terrorist weapons, such as home-brew bio-weapons that could wipe out tens of millions of people, including a large part of the government workers, but for which the terrorists had an antidote so they would be immune. The struggle to overthrow the totalitarian slave state will cause a brutal crackdown by the powers-that-be, that will get worse and worse until the terrorists final win. Our best hope for is that the events I am predicting occur far enough in the future that we will not live to see them.

  4. ilsm says:

    Incestuous amplification abounds in US’ military industry congress complex it is: lying about overblown (like Kim) ‘threats’, lying to sell the most huge response to ‘threats’ then ignoring it when the hugely expensive very serious ‘threat’ response weapons don’t work. Whistle-blowers are destroyed, they don’t fit the incetuous amplification test.

    Classified very serious ‘threat’ response weapons are the biggest money pits because potential whistleblowers don’t pass the “incestuous amplification” test to get the deep dark secrets clearance. They are calle ‘black’ because they are money pits.

    If the pentagon could fire GAO…………………..

  5. “…When the weapons available to the state are little better than those available to the people, the political system tends to be egalitarian democracy. When the weapons available to the state are vastly superior to those available to the people, the politics system tends to be hierarchical dictatorship, with the mass of people little better than slaves…”

    bonzo,

    not looking to incite a R**t, though, I’ll ask, anyway..

    you would happen to be ‘Pro-2nd Amendment’, as well, yes?

  6. bonzo says:

    @mark:

    Not really. First, I don’t think guns, not even assault rifles, counterbalance nuclear bombs, supersonic jets and their bomb payloads, helicopter gunships, drones, tanks, etc. Second, I’d give up the right to own guns in a heartbeat in exchange for less street crime.

    Owning guns perhaps makes sense in places like Detroit, because there is so damn much street crime and the government is corrupt and won’t fight the street crime. Because I can afford it, I live in a city with little street crime. And because there is little street crime, I see no reason to waste money buying a gun, and I don’t own any guns and rely on the police to protect me. Not everyone can afford this solution, and a day may come when my town is afflicted with street crime and there is little police protection, in which case I may buy a gun.

    I am concerned about the growth of the totalitarian state, but small arms will not stop this growth. If the people started assassinating politicians, police and rich people as part of an attempt to overthrow the state, there would be a brutal crackdown. The true hope for presevation of some degree of liberty, as I suggested, lies with something like very effective home-brew bio-terrorist weapons.