Whistleblowers Take Obama and Bush to Task for War on Whistleblowers, Urge Patriot Act Repeal
Seven former government workers who exposed wrongdoing inside federal agencies spoke out this week against the “war on whistleblowers” that has been waged by the past two presidential administrations.
The seven whistleblowers also urged Congress to adopt legislation, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which would end the Patriot Act and roll back government surveillance on Americans’ personal lives. They also criticized the administrations of President Barack Obama and George W. Bush for trying to punish whistleblowers.
One of the seven, former National Security Agency (NSA) senior executive Thomas Drake, accused the Obama administration of trying to “unchain itself from the Constitution” and act above the law. He added that he and other national security whistleblowers were “the canaries in the constitutional coal mine” to warn of the NSA mantra “to collect it all,” according to Expose Facts.
In addition to Drake, the group consisted of William Binney, a former high-level NSA official; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst who exposed the Pentagon Papers from the Vietnam War; Ray McGovern, former Central Intelligence Agency analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and current director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent; and J. Kirk Wiebe, who spent 32 years at the NSA.
The seven also criticized the comparatively light sentence of a fine and probation given to Gen. David Petraeus, who was convicted of passing classified information to his girlfriend Paula Broadwell. In contrast, those who reported government overreach and misdeeds, such as Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, John Kiriakou, and the soon-to-be-sentenced Jeffrey Sterling, have all been charged under the Espionage Act and face much harsher punishment.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to General David Petraeus for showing us what a farce [the Obama administration’s] war on whistleblowers and leaks more generally really is,” Radack said, according to Common Dreams.
One of the group’s aims may gotten a boost by the action of a House committee on Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee passed the USA Freedom Act by a vote of 25-2. With three key provisions of the Patriot Act expiring June 1, the Freedom Act would largely end the mass electronic surveillance of Americans’ phone records. The measure still has an uphill fight to be approved by Congress, however.
Criticism of the government’s treatment of whistleblowers also came from James Risen, reporter for The New York Times, who was threatened with prosecution by the Justice Department for refusing to reveal his source for a report on classified operations in Iran.
Speaking at the National Press Club while receiving the Ridenhour Prize for courage, Risen said, “We in the press have to speak out against the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers.”
“My friends have said the difference between the Bush and Obama administrations on the war on terror is that the Bush people believed in what they were doing.” The Obama people, by contrast, whatever their motives, “feel bad about it,” Risen said, according to Government Executive.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley
To Learn More:
Whistleblowers vs. “Fear-Mongering” (by John Hanrahan, Expose Facts)
Journalist Badmouths Two Administrations’ Treatment of Whistleblowers (by Charles Clark, Government Executive)
National Security Whistleblowers Call for Repeal of Patriot Act (by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams)
NSA Reform Bill Imperilled as It Competes with Alternative Effort in the Senate (by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian)
Terrorists, Spies, Whistleblowers Treated the Same by Obama Administration (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Whistleblowers Versus Obama’s Secret Government (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
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