The last thing authoritarians want: Outspoken journalists
That is why Obama’s attacks on journalists and journalism is so worrisome: it’s not just whistleblowers he’s persecuting, he’s really trying to close off what the government does from public knowledge. Why? Well, in looking at the history of governments in general and our government in particular, it is NOT for a good reason. It is probably to hide wrong-doing, which is the usual reason (and which eventually comes out). Read this post by Jesselyn Raddack and see what you think:
For two years I have been writing about the criminalization of whistleblowing, or as Glenn Greenwald has put it more aptly, the “war on whistleblowers.” I’m an attorney with the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization.
How did I get into this line of work? Because I myself was a whistleblower when I worked as a Legal Advisor at the Justice Department and blew the whistle when my advice not to interrogate “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh without an attorney (and, parenthetically, not to torture him) was ignored and then “disappeared” from the file in contravention of a federal court discovery order. After I blew the whistle, the Justice Department retaliated against me by, among other things, placing me under criminal investigation, referring me to the state bars in which I’m licensed as a lawyer based on a secret report to which I did not have access, and putting me on the “No-Fly” List. (The D.C. Bar charges are still pending 8½ years later.) I write about the experience in my new book TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the American Taliban. Glenn Greenwald, for whom I am substituting here, wrote an eloquent foreword for the book.
While the Bush administration treated whistleblowers unmercifully, the Obama administration has been far worse. It is actually prosecuting them, and doing so under the Espionage Act — one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American. The Espionage Act is an archaic World War I-era law meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers. Strangely, using it to target the media and sources is the brainchild of neo-conservative Gabriel Schoenfeld, who would have sources who disclose information to reporters, journalists who then write about it for newspapers, the newspapers that publish the information and the publisher itself all be held criminally liable.
Everyone wants to know why Obama, with his pledge to “protect whistleblowers,” would do this. After all, Obama’s transition agenda recognized that “[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. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.” That’s not just a broken promise, it’s a complete reversal.
At first I thought Obama’s war on whistleblowers was meant to appease the intelligence establishment, which saw him as weak. I soon recognized this assault as a devious way to create bad precedent for going after journalists. All the Espionage Act cases involve allegations that the government employee “leaked” information (or retained information for the purpose of leaking it) to journalists.
The government’s spectacularly failed case against NSA whistleblower Tom Drake claimed that he allegedly retained allegedly classified information for the purpose of leaking it to Siobhan Gorman, then with the Baltimore Sun. It turned out that he disclosed unclassified information about a failed and wasteful (multi-billion dollar) NSA spy program that compromised Americans’ privacy. FBI translator Shamai Liebowitz pleaded guilty to leaking information to a blogger. Leibowitz made his disclosure because of an all-too-real fear that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous. State Department arms expert Steven Kim is accused of leaking to Fox News that North Korea was planning to respond to a U.N. Security Council resolution by setting off another nuclear test — surely of public interest to China and South Korea. And, of course, Army Private Bradley Manning is accused of leaking to WikiLeaks.
In the most extreme proof yet that the war on whistleblowers is also a war on journalists, Glenn Greenwald’s explosive piece last night detailed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) repeatedly detaining and interrogating Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentarian Laura Poitras, who has filmed three of my NSA clients for the third installment of her War on Terror trilogy. Not surprisingly, her latest film will be about the government’s ever-expanding secret domestic surveillance, NSA treating our nation like a foreign country for spying purposes, and the war on whistleblowers.
In yet other examples, for the Espionage Act prosecution of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, the government has subpoenaed New York Times journalist James Risen three times to testify about whether Sterling was his source. The issue is on appeal in the 4th Circuit from a lower court ruling that Risen had a “qualified reporter’s privilege” not to do so. Going after the media is also evidenced by last week’s Indictment of CIA officer John Kiriakou, which is laced with thinly-veiled references to “Journalist A” (Matthew Cole of ABC News) and “Journalist B” (Scott Shane of the New York Times). “Journalist C” (Richard Esposito of ABC News), mentioned in the charges, mysteriously disappeared from the indictment.
Kiriakou is charged with identifying a covert agent, three Espionage Act counts, and making a false statement, for which he faces 50 years in prison. In the government’s own words: “The charges result from an investigation that was triggered by a classified defense filing [by attorneys representing Guantánamo detainees], which contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, and in part, by the discovery . . . of photographs of certain government employees and contractors in the materials of high-value detainees.” In other words, instead of investigating the government’s withholding of exculpatory information from Gitmo detainees’ lawyers, the government investigated how the lawyers obtained the information. And instead of investigating the approximately 70 names and 25 photos of the detainees’ alleged torturers, the government investigated how the prisoners found them out. . .
Continue reading. The US is on a rapid run toward an authoritarian government if not a totalitarian one. Maybe Obama believes this is necessary in view of the twin catastrophes of global warming and Peak Oil, but who knows? Our government is not communicating with us about its true concerns: that’s obvious from the weird strategic decisions it’s making (invading Iraq, for example, or this ceaseless and expensive war on drugs, or putting lots of drones in American skies).