By Jesselyn Radack
Government Accountability Project | June 11, 2010
The problem is many so-called "leakers" are whistleblowers who attempted to protect this country by disclosing illegal conduct. What's worse for the public and the whistleblowers being criminally investigated, charged, or indicted, is that the perpetrators of the exposed illegal conduct are avoiding prosecution completely.
For a President who preaches - inconsistently at times - both "looking forward" and accountability, it is beyond hypocrisy that the Obama administration has now taken to looking backward to prosecute those former government officials who tried to expose the truth about government misconduct rather than those officials engaged in the misconduct.
The "leak" prosecutions mentioned in today's New York Times article (which include the prosecution of former NSA official Thomas Drake under a rarely used provision of the Espionage Act) are an obvious whistleblower deterrent:
Mr. Drake was charged in April; in May, an F.B.I. translator was sentenced to 20 months in prison for providing classified documents to a blogger; this week, the Pentagon confirmed the arrest of a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst suspected of passing a classified video of an American military helicopter shooting Baghdad civilians to the Web site Wikileaks.org.
The Justice Department's response:
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Matthew A. Miller, said the Drake case was not intended to deter government employees from reporting problems. "Whistle-blowers are the key to many, many department investigations — we don’t retaliate against them, we encourage them," Mr. Miller said. "This indictment was brought on the merits, and nothing else."
What about the merits of prosecuting the government officials who authorized torture, or tortured detainees, or those that engaged in warrantless surveillance? It seems the only people from the Bush-Era that the Justice Department is interested in prosecuting are those that exposed the wrongdoing during the Bush-Era.
The Justice Department's vague statement that it "encourages whistleblowers" is belied by Drake's case:
[Drake] took his concerns everywhere inside the secret world: to his bosses, to the agency’s inspector general, to the Defense Department’s inspector general and to the Congressional intelligence committees. But he felt his message was not getting through.
Though he is charged under the Espionage Act, Mr. Drake appears to be a classic whistle-blower whose goal was to strengthen the N.S.A.’s ability to catch terrorists, not undermine it. His alleged revelations to Ms. Gorman focused not on the highly secret intelligence the security agency gathers but on what he viewed as its mistaken decisions on costly technology programs called Trailblazer, Turbulence and ThinThread.
This trend of prosecuting those who expose illegal behavior rather than those who engage in illegal behavior does nothing to encourage transparency, accountability or looking forward, three things the Obama administration is supposedly focusing on.