The Obama Administration’s Disturbing Treatment of Whistleblowers
Over the past three and a half years the Obama White House has instead shown a ferocious hostility to many whistleblowers and earned itself the ire of progressive columnists like Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and whistleblower defence groups like the Project on Government Oversight and the Government Accountability Project.
Danielle Brian, of the PGO, has said the US department of justice in the Obama administration “sent a clear of message of fear and intimidation” to whistleblowers in the national security field. This is how the GAP’s Jesselyn Raddack – herself a former whistleblower at the DoJ – put it: “While the Bush administration treated whistleblowers unmercifully, the Obama administration has been far worse. It is actually prosecuting them,” she wrote recently.
To do that it is using the bluntest of tools: the Espionage Act, a first world war-era law intended to combat the threat from spies, not internal dissenters. So far six whistleblowers have been charged under the draconian law with the last one – CIA veteran John Kiriakou – being indicted on 3 April.
Kiriakou, who was a counter-terrorism expert in Pakistan and helped capture senior Al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah, has been a vocal critic of waterboarding. He spoke to journalists and wrote a book about it, calling it torture and exposing it as a deliberate policy, rather than the actions of a few rogues. Now a hefty jail term could be his reward.
Others, from across a spectrum of government departments, include people who have exposed wrongdoing at the National Security Agency or fears at the FBI that Israel might attack Iran. Another at the state department spoke out about North Korean nukes and, of course, there is the suspected WikiLeaks source, army private Bradley Manning.
Defenders of Obama’s record on these whistleblowers point to a national security defence and say they actively encourage people to speak out about wrongdoing elsewhere. Whistleblowing may be one thing, they say, but intelligence leaking is another. Every government has a right to protect its secrets. But one can also point to other areas where the Obama administration has shown a love of secrecy that should shame the Democrats who slammed President George Bush for a similar attitude.