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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/21/11

DOJ: So-Called "Leakers" Are More Dangerous Than Spies

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Message Jesselyn Radack
by Jesselyn Radack [Subscribe] Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 11:32:19 AM EST

Posted at The Daily Kos.

The strength of government's unyielding animus toward whistleblowers is no more evident than in the latest statements from disgraced prosecutor William Welch, who is "redeeming" himself amidst prosecutorial misconduct allegations stemming from the botched case against late-senator Ted Stevens by prosecuting whistleblowers like Thomas Drake under the Espionage Act.

Politico reported Welch's latest swill filed in the case against ex-CIA official Jeffery Sterling:

"The defendant's unauthorized disclosures...may be viewed as more pernicious than the typical espionage case where a spy sells classified information for money,"

In other words, disclosing information of public interest to the public is worse the selling nuclear secrets to a foreign enemy.  The idea that whistleblowers are somehow more dangerous than spies is both laughable in its absurdity and tragic as it represents the level of vindictiveness the government harbors against whistleblowers.  

This obvious over-dramatization in the latest in the Obama administration's record-setting spate of whistleblower prosecutions serves another disreputable cause: alienating whistleblowers from their natural allies in the legal community (I've written previously on Sterling as a whistleblower.)

Similarly, Thomas Drake's name has been constantly associated with "leaking" classified information even though Drake never gave classified information to a reporter and is not charged with leaking classified information.  Welch has unleashed his typical shenanigans in the Drake case in what Drake's defene attorneys called a "transparent attempt" to gain a "tactical advantage." Using national security, classification, and possible lack of "trustworthiness" as excuses, Welch filed - without any basis in law - a motion attempting to force Drake's legal team to disclose the names of their consulting expert witnesses earlier than required.  Welch's attempt failed, but only because the Court advised he was "on shaky ground."

Welch is at it again in Sterling's case, petitioning for Sterling's detention by arguing that Sterling is more dangerous than the Rosenbergs:

Unlike the typical espionage case where a single foreign country or intelligence agency may be the beneficiary of the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, this defendant elected to disclose the classified information publicly through the mass media. Thus, every foreign adversary stood to benefit from the defendant's unauthorized disclosure of classified information, thus posing an even greater threat to society

Really??  The idea that exchanging government secrets for money is the same as--or more minor than--so-called "leaking" fails even the laugh test.

The indictment of Sterling is suspicious in and of itself.  Brought despite the Justice Department's failed attempt to renew the Bush-era grand jury subpoena against former New York Times reporter Jim Risen - a drastic First Amendment swipe the government should not take absent another option - the indictment alleges Sterling was a source for Risen's book.  

The already substantial chilling effect when employees face professional and financial ruin for blowing the whistle is inestimable in light of Obama's ciminalization of whistleblowing and more severe when criminal indictments come with shady tactics and smear campaigns.

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My name is Jesselyn Radack and I am the former Justice Department ethics attorney and whistleblower in the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. In today's issue of The National Law Journal (Feb. 19, 2007), I have an Op-Ed entitled (more...)
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