5/24 Thomas Drake, NSA Whistle-blower & Jesselyn Radack, DOJ Whistle-blower
Posted on May 24, 2012
NSA & DOJ Whistleblowers Talk - Whistleblowing in America
The Majority Report with Sam Seder
Published on May 29, 2012
From the Majority Report, live M-F 12 noon EST and via daily podcast
NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, DOJ whistle-blower, on the government's intimidation and personal destruction of whistle-blowers. The Espionage Act, secret signing statements and how Obama has outdone Bush in squashing informants. Radack is also Drake's attorney, Director of National Security and Human Rights with the Government Accountability Project and author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban". Drake was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2011.
Rush transcript (possibly wrong at some times - I'm not a native English speaker)
... [?] denotes a passage that I don't understand
Sam Seder: On the phone we have Thomas Drake and his attorney Jesselyn Radack who is also the author of the book "TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban". Jesselyn, let's start with you. You not only represented Thomas Drake in his case brought against him by the US Government for espionage, but you also were whistleblower yourself. Tell us briefly your story.
Jesselyn Radack: I had been the Justice Department's ethics attorney in the case of the so-called "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh shortly after 9/11 and I had avised not to interrogate him without counsel and certainly not torture him. When the FBI did so anyway, I advised that that information would have to be sealed and not used for the criminal prosecution. Again my advice was ignored and evidence of that advice was withheld from the court. At that point I blew the whistle and the Lindh case collapsed shortly thereafter. But for me that journey had just began, because I was subject to all sorts of retaliation, including being put under criminal investigation myself, being [withdrawn from] the state board licensed as an attorney and being put on the no-fly list. Because of that experience that lead me into representing whistleblowers because I knew what they were going through, and didn't want them to go through what I went through and eventually working at the Government Accountability Project ... [?] and I came to represent Thomas Drake, when the government brought charges against him, the fourth person in US history against whom the government has brought charges for espionage, against a non-spy under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information.
SS: And while simulataneously -very close at leaast in time as you -- and we should make it clear that your advice in the Lindh case was solicited. They were holding John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan, and your advice was solicited. They were perfectly aware that he had a counsel at that time, you suggested that -you told them that they cannot interrogate this man without that counsel, and they went ahead and did it, like you said, and then claimed after the fact that they weren't aware of that. Meanwhile -I guess across town- Thomas you were working for the NSA. Tell us what your job was.
Thomas Drake: I was hired on a special outside hiring program ... there had been a lot of pressure on the NSA to bring in people from outside NSA, people that had not been brought up in NSA or promoted from within the system, particularly from Congress. There is lot of personell hired during the spring/summer of 2001. So I entered in that, I was actually placed in the Washington post, I was also offered a position and my first day on the job entitled "Senior Change Leader". I was reporting to the number three person, Maureen Baginski, who headed up the Signal Intelligence Center at the time. 9/11 was my first actual day on the job.
SS: At that time you came to see that the NSA had material, had all sorts of data that in your words could have prevented 9/11. Is that right?
TD: Oh, yes. That was the first thing that I discovered certainly after 9/11, it's the sheer amount of information that NSA had. What they also knew about the information, but also later what they didn't know they had, that was very deep inside their data banks. an information that had it gotten out and been shared with the rest of the government in the manner it was supposed to have been shared by the NSA, I would say, could have easily prevented, blunted the 9/11 attacks.
SS: And why do you feel that that material never was shared? Was there a statutory firewall or what was it?
TD: No, they had standing regulations and provisions that they were to share what's called "actionable intelligence", indications and warnings, and information that one brought to the highest levels of government, the type of information you then take action on. They had that critical information in their databanks prior to 9/11. Now, I didn't discover this untill after 9/11. They were people coming to me and when I was later during one of the 9/11 congressional investigations and trying to figure out what had gone wrong in the government, why the government was unable to prevent the attack, they started doing a lot of inquiries and I was contacted as a material witness to provide critical information to a couple of different congressional investigations. During those investigations I shared with them information that NSA had prior to 9/11 regarding Al-Quaida that had never been shared outside of NSA. In fact they had prohibited the sharing this critical information, because as I found out later, they didn't know what others would do with it, and so they decided to hold and retain it, to hoard the information rather than share the information, a pathological, compulsory condition.
SS: And when you testified to those 2 committees, the House and Senate Permanent Select Committees on Intelligence you were required by law, obviously, to testify to these committees.
TD: I was actually contacted by investigators about the Facts Assembly Subcommittee .... that formed recently that time under HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committe on Intelligence]. I'd also been in contact prior to those investigations with other HPSCI and SPSCI [Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] staffers, and then I was also called as material witness for a much larger investigation that precipitated in the spring and summer of 2002. And so I was material witness, had supoena power, I was actually providing significant amounts of information, so that highly class information about what NSA could have known or should have known regarding the 9/11 perpetrators.
SS: How woud you characterize the data that the NSA had at that time? I believe this is under the program known as Trailblazer, is that correct?
TD: Trailblazer never actually delivered anything. It's important to note that. It was a flagship program that was launched with great fanfare in the spring of 2000 and supposed to bring NSA into the digital age. It failed abysmally, but it spent multiple billions of dollars for something that had already been solved by the very best of our American ingenuity, an innovation called ThinThread, a program that had been developed with only a few millions of dollars by essentially a skunk works team, a highly performing skunk works team who decided in the mid 90s to take on the great challenge of NSA of which one of them was, the critical challenge, how do you make sense of data when you have so much information at hand. And so they took that on, they solved the core challenge problem and they are ready to deploy ThinThread on a world wide basis well prior to 9/11. But NSA would not let them do that. So Trailblazer was a funding vehicle, that's all it was. It died an abysmal death in the 2005 - 2006 time frame.
SS: How would you characterize the information that NSA had at that time relative to its parameters as to what it was allowed to gather in terms of information on Americans?
TD: Now, that's the other thing that I discovered. Shortly after 9/11 a critical decision was made with far reaching implications, they opened up the Pandora's box. You remember: There was lots of illegal surveillance by the American government during the 50s, 60s and 70s culminating in the Nixon administration. And so that the Frank Church and the Pike Committee hearings during that period in the 70s that ultimately lead to uncover a lot of the surveillance, illegal activity in monitoring Americans who were legitimately expressing the First Amendment rights [list of amendments to the United States Constitution] and ...[?]. Before the two Standing Intelligence Committees to provide oversight or supervise [?] the government they also put in for law during the Carter administration 1978 a statute called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was the exclusive means by which the US government could conduct surveillance with a warrant, although there were hard [?] persuit options accepted back at the warrant later at a rather short period of time, but could not conduct electronic surveillance on any basis without a warrant issued by that court. That was modified five times prior to 9/11. After 9/11 they chose to completely bypass that statute, and they entered into a very, very secret program of which NSA became the executive agent, a program now known -not then, but after it came out in public- called Stellar Wind, which became a vast dragnet electronic surveillance program across the United States, so domestically.
SS: Jesselyn, when Thomas goes and reports to the various entities whether it was Senate or House Committees or to the DoD Inspector General to essential whistleblow, outline for us what actions he took that should have been covered under US law and protection for whistleblowers.
JR: That acts that are lawfully covered are certainly reporting to the superiors, reporting to the Inspector General are protected by the Inspector General Act of 1978 and reporting to Congress is protected by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act as well as the First Amendment. He reported to all of the proper internal channels. I have never seen a whistleblower who so appropriately and properly reported through the official channels, yet all of them failed him.
SS: And so all those whistleblower channels failed him, and ultimately was it that reporting that became the basis for the government's attempt to prosecute Thomas under the Espionage Act?
JR: Yes, totally inappropriately the government used protected disclosures that Mr. Drake has made to the Department of Defense Inspector General as the basis for the Espionage Act counts against him. So, in a way, it's completely double crossed by the office and agency that was supposed to protect him. Now, that office and agency actually did a long report over two and a half years which found in favor of Drake and the other whistleblowers -there were four other whistleblowers- yet they classified that report immediately. So it was not available to the public. And meanwhile when the Justice Department decided to start a so-called "leak investigation" for how its secret domestic warrantess wire-tapping program which was illegal, how that got out, the Defense Department Inspector General apparently turned over the names of Tom and the other people who had authored the complaints.
SS: Jesselyn, your experience vs. Thomas's in terms of ... I want to get a sense of how different members of Congress reacted. I know that in your case, Jesselyn, when you were being essentially prosecuted or at the very least persecuted, by the Department of Justice in some respects for blowing the whistle on the fact that John Walker Lindh had an attorney that the Department of Justice was aware that he had an attorney and they ignored that, and therefore essentially tainted any evidence -in addition to the way they treated him- tainted any evidence for use in a criminal trial. My understanding is according to your book TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" that the late Senator Kennedy at least intervened in some respect on your behalf. Is that correct?
JR: That's correct. I was very grateful for that ... It was very fortunate that he intervened, but in some States it was radio silence. Congress on the highest level was fully aware of Tom Drake's predicament, and nobody intervened, which is very cowardly and unfortunate. Basically Congress is supposed to do oversight over these agencies and here now they were not overseeing the agency, they weren't overseeing the agency where it was acting completely ultra vires and now fight the scope of what it was allowed to deal in terms of harrassing somebody.
SS: Thomas, tell me about that part of your journey here. I mean, at different points you are reaching out to different authorities, in fact not even reaching out, being called in to talk to different authorities, to provide information they are seeking. In some instances you're talking to committee chairs, you're talking to committee staffers, in other instances you're talking to your immediate superior at the NSA, who essentially in my understanding is your director of signals intelligence, who was the number three person at NSA who you worked for, Maureen Baginski. Instead of helping you in providing this information that was your responsibility to provide for her, she was upset that you've provided this information. Correct?
TD: There is any number of incidences. The one in which I actually provided her this very long range study about Al-Quaida and the associated movements. That has never been released to the rest of the government, but had been finished well prior to 9/11. I actually brought it to her attention, when it was brought to my attention, by very concerned analysts not long after 9/11, and she actually looked at it and said, you should never have brought this to my attention. She needed plausible deniability. In early 2002 she actually pulled me inside and warned me in no uncertain terms that they were looking for leakers, not leakers to the press, not leakers to people that are not authorised to see any government information ... [?], leakers to the congressional investigators looking in to what NSA knew, could have known or should have known prior to 9/11. So, that makes it very clear. When I was then contacted in early 2003 by the Department of Defense's Inspector General investigator, auditor's investigator regarding Trailblazer and ThinThread, I remember telling him right upfront my extraordinary concerning retaliation and reprisal by virtue me having contacted them. And they said, well, if you are tried by NSA, you can actually submit a reprisal complaint and you are investigated and you cannot be reprised for cooperating, for they have subpoena power, too, in an official investigation that actually went on for well as almost two and a half years for that particular investigation. So yes, I was soon compromised. The irony of my case, the central charges that the government issued, when I was indicted in April 2010, there were ten counts: There were five counts on the Espionage Act. The center piece of their charges, the details of which remain sealed, but I can share this with you, were in whole or in part the actual [material?] they alleged that I retain for the purposes of the disclosure -which is allowed even by the law, by the way- those particular documents in whole or in part were provided to the Department of Defense Inspector General investigators. And I've been asked to retain anything I could -of course I wasn't to retain anything classified- I did retain a fair amount of unclassified material and the reason was, in case they ever needed it for a follow-up or that they had additional questions for their record, I would at least have some way to recreate some of what I provided to them as part of protected communications. So, isn't it ironic that the very basis of their case in terms of the espionage charges was centered on information that I had provided to them as protected communication as part of an official government investigation.
SS: Right. And had you withheld those documents from them - I mean you were required to give them these documents, and then the fact that they told you to hold on to them and the fact you held on to them became the basis of their charges against you.
TD: Yes. And by the way, those documents were never shared -this is important to your audience- those documents were never shared with anybody except the investigators. None.
SS: So, essentially, the charges amounted to charging for providing them to government investigators.
TD: Yes. Although I did have contact with a reporter later. ... as Jesselyn just said a short time ago: All of my whistleblowing both internal NSA and outside of NSA within the proper government channels, protected communication channels, all came to naught. .... the 2005 ... for the first time into this one portion of this much larger dragnet surveillance program, which was illegal to begin with, which the government can enable to ... a terrorist surveillance program, when that story hit, I knew that there were others that knew. I also knew that there's far more of the story and there was a much, much larger program. And I also knew, if I had made that case internally after 9/11 and to the investigators, there would be legal alternatives which would have provided superior intelligence and would have provided all the protections to Americans under the Fourth Amendment and was fully compliant with FISA. Therefore it was never necessary to go to the dark side.
SS: Jesselyn, we have heard the characterization of essentially testitying to Congress as leaking within the context of the NSA. I want to ask you: In your experience in the Department of Justice, was there a similar perspective, I guess, was there a similar culture of that if you were to testify in proper channels - if you were to cooperate with investigators within proper channels- did the DOJ have the same, I guess, culture which perceived that as leaking. Because of course that's not leaking by any stretch of manner but if you characterize it as leaking it presupposes that what you're doing is wrong. Did the Department of Justice have a similar culture, do you think?
JR: Yes, it had at the time set up an anti-leak task force shortly after 9/11, and it had an Inspector General, again, whom you could lodge this complaint with and supposedly be protected, ...[?] and you also ended up being retaliated against ... [?]. The difference between my case and Tom's is that for me the retaliation entailed being placed under criminal investigation, referred to the state bar with which I am licenced and being put on the no-fly list. Bush treated whistleblowers unmercifully, but Obama took it to a whole new level by criminally prosecuting them.
SS: And I definitely want to get to that part of it. But I want to ask you both. Let's start with you, Jesselyn. What is it about these agencies that ostensibly are designed to protect Americans, the Department f Jusitice -it's called Department of Justice- what is it about these agencies that perceive this type of cooperation of actually working within the context of the system, and certainly in Thomas's case would have provided far more efficiency and legality -it sounds like- in our intelligence gathering, what is it about these agencies that end up looking upon that normal functioning as being criminal?
JR: I think it's a very warped burocratic response. Often the target of the Inspector General not the person against whom the complaint was lodged but the person who made the complaint him or herself, and I think it's a sense of agency reaction. They say they are open to hearing dissent and criticisms particularly of fraud, waste and illegality. But then, when people actually do that, they are treated as the problem. Now, I think that happens in big burocracies in the government, I think it happens at large corporations, but I think there is very much a group think mentality to go along and get along and ... [?] if you didn't have that burocratic mentality -as I call it- you probably wouldn't be working at a place like the Justice Department or ENRON. But certainly setting up these sham systems tha are meant to protect whistleblowers internally, end up functioning as basic entrapment, when people trust by going there, those offices are actually going to do something helpful.
SS: Thomas, particularly I would think that the only circuitbreaker here theoretically is those members of Congress who are theoretically not within the context of those burocracies, and ostensibly are supposed to be providing oversight for those burocracies - why do you think there was such cowardice on the part of all those staffers, all those Congress people, all those Senators, who were aware of your testimony, who required your testimony, when it came time to actually defend you for providing that information What was motivating them?
TD: They made a political calculus. They were [there to fall ?] with the national security state and those in charge of it and give them the benefit of the doubt, when to acttually persue the very troubling information that I would bring to their attention, and particularly the information regarding the massive fraud, waste, abuse and illegalities. I gave it to them on a silver platter. It was laid out in great detail, time, place and circumstance.
SS: Where is that information now? Who has that information? Is there anybody?
TD: All those details were given to the investigators, all of them. I mean the [?] of information. We are talking about hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pages of [...] evidence. But the NSA was largely let off the hook, a lot of attention was given to CIA and the FBI and other parts of the government, but NSA's culpability in 9/11 ... [?] 9/11 would give NSA all the money that they'd ever wanted or wished for. And that certainly happened.
SS: Right now, just this week, the extension for the FISA law has passed through committee. We still have 2 senators, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden who have said as much as they can, have raised the red flag that the government is interpreting the FISA law in a way that in their words -I'm paraphrasing- "the American public would be very surprised and dismayed to find out how they're interpreting it. Give your sense -to the extent you can say anything on this- would do you think they're talking about.
TD: They're talking about a secret interpretation that we still don't know what the exact wording is, of Section 215 legislation [that] was passed by Congress and signed into law. The secret interpretation, it's very clear what it is. It's extraordinarily expansive. They essentially have carte blanche request to go to any ...[?] and gain ...[?] subscribe for information, period, on a vast scale. That's the secret interpretation in a nutshell. Have I ever seen it? No. Did anybody else, ...? Apparently no, because it's apparently one of the most closely garded secret of the government, the secret interpretation.
SS: Who would generate that secret interpretation?
TD: We're talking about the executive branch itself. ...[?] considered a secret signing statement in essence for the President. Essentially it says "I am signing this legislation [?] into law regardless of the [?] Constitution. However, I'm going to grant myself the ability to reinterpret it as I see fit." And, you see, we've had many cases essentially in recent history where presidents will sign fining [?] statements to that effect. This is the equivalent of a secret version of that, enabeling those instruments of power, surveillance power and collection power, within the government to essentially have carte blanche access, in secret agreements with businesses over the goals that they would set to hand over that information. That's the secret side of it. Meanwhile on the open side of it, they continue to push for legislation that essentially legalizes what they are doing illegally.
SS: And as far as you can tell, with at least a better awareness of these issues than people who have not been exposed to what you've been exposed to, is there anybody out there who is fighting against the essentially making legal what has since been illegal?
JR: Well, first of all, you have to remember that when they're trying to make legal what supposedly is illegal, that's often a sign that they are already dealing it as legal from history. But there are groups like the ACLU and the Government Accountability Project and ETHIC and EFF and DCP [?], a number of surveillance groups who are interested in transparency and care about privacy rights who are trying to make this public and trying to get to the heart of what is going on here. Unfortunately, those groups are not typically representative of what most Americans are feeling. I think most people are not nearly as worried enough about this as they should be. And so you have these groups trying to do what they can, working very valuably to do so, but it's falling on deaf ears, as you said. One sees a legislation that's problematic already [?] that has been approved by the Senate, and it looks like it's going ahead and sail on through, to the extend the FISA Amendment Act, not only to extend it beyond expiration, but to expand it.
SS: Jesselyn, the espionage case against Thomas fell apart in June of last year (2011). Why did it fall apart, and why, do you thnk, it was brought in the first palce?
JR: I think it was brought in the first place because the administration thought it could send a strong message to intelligence community and national security whistleblowers to shut up. It fell apart because it was based on sand. I mean they had alledged the part espionage council alledged that Tom had improperly retained allegedly classified information when in point of fact none of that information turned out to be classified after all, and then it collapsed, the case collapsed in spectacular fashion. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to deter the Jusitce Department to continue its ill-advised campaign of bringing such cases and it has deterred not only whistleblowers but also journalists.
SS: Well yes, I want to get to the journalists part here, but it is clear that bringing these cases may be the intent is not necessarily, it's not as much about carrying out justice as much as intimidating others within the government from providing this type of information. Thomas, what are the forms of intimidation and reprisals that you have been subjected to?
TD:Well, you've a couple of hours? It started after 9/11, when it became clear that I was cooperating to the first [of two] 9/11 congressional investigation it has been very clear for me that I was not to cooperate. They were laiding [?] me off. They did not want me to talk about what I knew from inside NSA. That in itself sent an extraordinarily chilling message. And then they begin to pick apart the key ...[?] and then isolated me in a box, take away responsibility, openly reorganzing the entire office which I was part of, and I ended up with a no nothing job. So, the message was very, very clear. Never mind the message to all the people I worked with that I was singled out. An open form of that was when they actually prosecuted me. Believe me, by virtue of prosecuting and then so publicly indicting me a couple of years ago, that already [?] sent the message. I talked to people privately who [were] still working in the government, and said "Well, they went after you like that what I have to do is I mustn't say anything to anybody, I must keep my head down, I don't want to jeopardize my retirement, I don't want to jeopardize my mortgage, I got kids in college. They saw what happened to me.
SS: And you had worked for the CIA before this, is that correct?
TD: Yes, I had. I had also been in the military, both Air Force and Navy.
SS: And now you are without any type of pension -
SS: - I imagin it has severely curtailed it, this making an example of you, I imagin it has curtailed your opportunities now in the private sector.
TD: Yes, because I'm considered [no] good, radioactive and by virtue of what's happened to me and because it is more than a passing note in history it is extraordinarily challenging to me to seek employment either in areas in which I used to work -obviously my clearance was taken away- , yes, it's important to note for the audience, part of all of this has destroyed the whistleblower's life. I mean, they went to great length to do that. I think, people don't fully appreciate how much the individual whistleblower actually suffers as a result of the government putting everything they've got. They had quite an arsenal, ok, essentially when they were doing it for other reasons and not for justice, when they come after somebody in such an egregious] manner as they did with me. I've got lots of debt, I had to take a second mortgage, I spent upwars of a hundred thousand dollars for private attorney, I ended up qualifying illegent [?] before the federal court which meant by now I could only be represented by federal public defendors. So that's only skimming the surface.
SS: And, Jesselyn, the government basically got you fired from your first job outside the government and continues to this day to attempt to get you disbarred, is that correct?
JR: Yes, that's correct, and I also racked up not a hunderd thousand dollars in legal bills trying to fend off these attacks by the government, and while you're trying to spend this money to lawyers to defend yourself, at the same time you're not bringing in any kind of income stream [?]. So, it's a really double ...[?] on people financially to get through this, and that sends another message, why you should not even think about disclosing wrongdoing by your government.
TD: It is very dangerous today in the US for the whistleblower to be right when the government is so wrong. It is a corrupt system, is very injustice, it not justice by any means. What you're really facing here -you got to get right down to the ...]?]- you have this expansion, burgeoning expansion of a national security state. National security has become the new state religion. It is sacrosanct. You do not question it, you do not violate it, and any oath you may have taken, I say oath ok to the Constitution, it doesn't matter. The agreements you signed, ... [?] that national security state ... [?] you have to shut up, Do your job, follow orders and don't worry about what you see that takes palce in front of you. And yet I had an obligation under the Constitution to defend it and to ... [?] all the people in. I could not sit back and say nothing. If I did, I would have been complicit in the subversion of our own constitution.
SS: And, Jesselyn, we have seen, and you mentioned this, an unprecedented use of the Espionage Act, an unprecedented attack on whistleblowers by the Obama administration. Why, do you think, they are going even further than the Bush administration did?
JR: Initially I thought it was so Obama could establish a connection with [?] the national security and intelligence establisment, which thought he was weak coming into office. But it became pretty obvious as these cases proceeded that it was to create that precedent for going after journalists. And I think, in the grand scheme of things it's a backdoor way of creating a message of secret facts [?] which we don't have in this country.
SS: ... as opposed to Britain. So, tell me, how is it that it would set precedents for going after journalists?
JR: Well, right now we're already seeing it e.g. in the case of Jeffrey Sterling, another CIA whistleblower, who's being prosecuted. Jim Risen of the New York Times is being asked to testify against his source. So far at the lower court he's ruled that there is the report'er's priviledge not have to testify against your source and that is on appeal before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative court in the country, and no matter what the ruling is coming out of the Fourth Circuit, I think it may go up to the Supreme Court and that is a huge question. 31 states have reporter ...[?] shield laws, but there is no federal reporter shield law. You can see what all of these cases, every single one of them, involves. The leak, the supposed leak to a media news outlet and journalists are sprinkled throughout the indictments of the news men [?]. So, I think it very much about going after the media. making the media surely [?] realize that ... [?]. Jim Risen could be held in contempt of court for refusing to testify against his source if the court rules he has to do that ...]?] to go to jail or reveal his confidential source.
TD: That's really the threat here. ... I knew that when it happened. I also knew when I would rely on the criminal side of our justice system that defending would be insufficient. I had to find a way to influence the record of the public opinion. That's why openly the main stream media, but particularly alternative media became so crucial in getting the word out about that something's going wrong. I will tell you that I had off the record conversations with reporters and journalists. They said by virtue of my case alone all subsequent cases against whistleblowers under the Espionage Act that this already sent the message, and then in many respects journalists and reporters have been given "off-the record" access to key government officials and in some cases long-standing. They were increasingly locked into not saying anything, even off the record. So the chilling effect is already happening. Now that becomes a form of censureshi, a kind of pretextual censorship, and that's what this country is all about.
SS: Do you think that there is an increased fear within the context of the security state apparatus of entities like -not specifically but may be specifically- Wikileaks, that the changes in technology that both allow agencies like the NSA to abuse and to break the laws and abuse the rights of individuals in this country? At the same time they perceive a greater threat because of technology that has in some way inspired this attack on journalists. Because it seems to me that the - you go for the higher hanging fruit when you talk about the New York Times it is that much easier to prevent any type of entities like Wikileaks, say. Jesselyn, what are your thoughts on that?
JR: I think Wikileaks has complicated this whole thing, because it was such a massive disclosure that occurred during the middle of these prosecutions brought , but I think it's disingenuous for the administration to say "Well, this is really that Wikileaks!", because the adminsitration gives a damn about people going through Wikileaks. Then the easiest solution would be to pass meaningful whistleblower protection laws. Which they have not done.
SS: So they wouldn't necessarily have to go outside of the government if they could get the genuine protection within the context of the government.
JR: Yes, exactly. Meaningful, effective and enforceable whistlblower protection. We have a whistleblower protection enhancement act right now that has been passed through the Senate through unanimous consent, but we'll see what happens. It's been pending for 12 years now ....[?]. So, I'd be curious to see if it gets through.
TD: If you become a whistleblower you become a target. I can tell you that. This is one of the problems. I mean that many many years ago even when I was called subpoenaed, and then even when I was part of DoD, I being a subpoenaed witness [?], I became a target.
SS: And do you think that there is any type of statutory protection that could change that culture and that sense that whistleblowers are going to become such a target?
TD: Yes. A law that's enforcible. It can't be on paper. It has to be meaningful protection. It has to give access to the courts and due process. It can't be a case to rely on on your own. When they decide to compromise you, like they did in my case by turning over my name and my collegues names to the Department of Justice for prosecution, I mean tvery hat's a complete compromise of the means by which you're supposed to have a protected channel ...[?] court wrongdoing illegalities [?] and threats to public safety and health.
SS: Jesselyn, I can't help to think like where are the senators, where are the congress people. They are theoretically outside of the bureaucratic system and they're the ones who are supposed to be offering checks, they are the ones who a sitting on the oversight committees, and I don't know if it requires a certain amount of bravery on their part, they seem to me to be the best positioned players in all of this to make sure that these whistleblowers statues and these internal investigations are kept legitimate.
JR: Well, you are correct. They are in the best position for that, but unfortunately a lot of them are compromised. For example Easter Monaco testified to the national security division at [?] that the war on leaks was being exonerated by the Senate intelligence committee, which certainly has its own interest and [?] and involvement in the warrantless wiretapping program at issue. I think the reason Congress has not been doing anything is because of their own liability. So yes, the people who are in the best position to actually have oversight and have enforcement to find out why this is happening, are too compromised to do so.
SS: Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, the book is "TRAITOR and the American Taliban", we'll put a link to that up at Majority.fm, and if there is anything else you think we should link to or where people could get more information, we'll link to the Government Accountability Project, which covers keeping the government accountable, particularly on this issue of whistleblowing, we will do so.
I appreciate your time today.
JR: Thank you for covering this important topic.
TD: Thank you for having us.
Host of Majority Report and Ring Of Fire on weekends.
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Version: 25 December 2016
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