The Obama administration's shocking crackdown on government whistleblowers became more prominent this week with the New Yorker Magazine's publication of a hard-hitting article about the plight of former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake. He faces a June 13 trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, obstructing justice and lying to federal agents.
Update: CBS 60 Minutes broadcast a report May 22 by Scott Pelley, The Espionage Act: Why Tom Drake was indicted.
Drake's supporters raised his profile also May 18 by releasing a video of his acceptance speech for the annual Ridenhour "Truth-Telling Prize." Drake is shown below receiving his award from a previous winner, Jesseyln Radack, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Drake's speech alleged that the Obama Justice Department is instilling fear amongst government employees who might consider informing the public about official waste and other misconduct, including criminal violations. He continued, in a speech here on YouTube:
Truth-tellers, such as myself, are those who are simply doing their jobs and honoring their oaths to serve their nation under the law of the land. We are dedicated to the proposition that government service is of, for, by the people. We emphatically do not serve in order to manipulate on behalf of the powerful, nor to conceal unlawful, illegal or embarrassing secrets from the public, because truth does matter.
Via OpEd News in January, our Justice Integrity Project published a comprehensive article, "Whistleblower Says: Obama's DOJ Declares War on Whistleblowers," about the Obama crackdown on critics of government waste and misconduct. The column quoted four of the country's most prominent recent internal government critics as describing why they thought the Obama administration was worse than the Bush administration in punishing critics.One of them, Dana Jill Simpson, confirmed that view this week. She is the Alabama attorney who stepped forward in 2007 to provide sworn evidence on how her fellow Republicans were framing Democratic former Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges for political reasons traceable to the White House. But she now sees the Obama administration as worse. This is, in her view, because it has left key malefactors in office, failed to investigate documented scandals such as the Bush political prosecutions, and is actively seeking to file charges against critics, often (as in the Drake case) under a claim of national security. "Obama," she told me in a phone interview this week, "has undertaken an all-out war on whistleblowers."
The New Yorker article about Drake released this week was authored by Jane Mayer, and is a landmark in mainstream
reporting about such criticisms. Mayer reported the government's allegation that
Drake leaked government secrets to an unnamed newspaper reporter, identified as
Siobhan Gorman of the Baltimore Sun, who wrote a prize-winning
series about waste and questionable legal practices in counterterrorism
programs. Drake faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted. His trial is in Baltimore's federal courthouse.
In contrast to the Obama administration's effort to imprison Drake, the group named for the late Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour honored Drake. Ridenhour helped alert the world during the Vietnam War to the notorious My Lai Massacre, the U.S. Army's mass murder in 1968 of hundreds of unarmed civilians.
The award-presenter Radack, now working for the Government Accountability Project, had been fired by the Justice Department as an ethics advisor in 2002. This was after she rendered a legal opinion that the FBI violated ethics in its 2001 interrogation without Miranda protections of John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban" captured during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. This was part of DOJ's disgraceful effort to hide from the courts the circumstances of its interrogation of Lindh, who ultimately pled guilty to reduced charges.
Bush investigators targeted Drake as a suspect in revealing its warrantless wiretapping program and suspended his security clearance. This led him to resign voluntarily from the NSA before his indictment.
Among many other such situations are: the White House outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame in retribution for her husband's Iraq weapons of mass destruction (WMD) analysis contradicting official themes. Another was the long-running and recently ended federal investigation of Thomas Tamm, a former lawyer in the United States Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review in 2004. Tamm and other senior Justice officials fought against the widening scope of warrantless NSA surveillance. Separately, authorities indicted former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling in January on felony charges that involved reporter contacts.
Other firings include NSA analyst Russell Tice, FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds and DOJ paralegal Tamarah Grimes. Those indicted include former NSA analyst Kenneth Ford and former CIA asset Susan Lindauer. Our Justice Integrity Project has chronicled Ford's suspicious imprisonment on a six-year term for possessing confidential papers after he wrote a memo disputing the White House WMD themes justifying our Iraq invasion. The DOJ fired Grimes after she described irregularities in the Siegelman prosecution she witnessed as DOJ's top full-time paralegal during that frame-up of a potential future Democratic presidential candidate.
Lindauer this spring published her account in, Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq. The book describes her work in Iraq and Libya from 1995 to 2003 as a CIA operative and her subsequent indictment on secret charges. Her trial judge, Michael Mukasey, the future Bush Attorney General, approved her indictment and state of limbo for nearly five years without trial, because of prosecution claims she had psychological problems. This included a year in pre-trial jailing, a Stalin-type tactic that limits a defendant's right to confront witnesses. The DOJ dismissed all charges and released her on Jan. 15, 2009, five days before Obama's inauguration. Lindauer, whom I interviewed May 20, is a vigorous opponent of extending the Patriot Act, which a bipartisan coalition reportedly plans next week to approve for four more years with scant discussion.
The criticism of Obama by whistleblowers is well-known to OpEd News readers but is likely confusing to many others who still define the president by his anti-war rhetoric during the 2008 campaign. It's much more complicated than that, of course.
For example, former Navy and NSA analyst Wayne Madsen, now a broadcast commentator and investigative reporter, strongly supported Obama during the 2008 election. But Madsen focuses now on disclosing scandals in the administration, often via OpEd News. As a result, he believes authorities have worked to set him up. He says, for instance, that he's heard that he and New York Times reporter James Risen are among those whose work is under scrutiny by a federal grand jury based in Alexandria, VA. Also, he says someone claiming to be a "reporter" phoned him almost every day for a year seeking an interview, which Madsen believes was a ruse to get information.