Trump versus Whistleblowers
January 11, 2017
Roots Action & Cheryl K. Chumley / The Washington Times & Jesselyn Radack / The New York Times
Revealing the truth from inside the US government is about to become harder than ever, with a president who has scorn for facts. John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake know what's at stake. As CIA and NSA whistleblowers, Kiriakou went to prison for two years and Drake was dragged through years of prosecution. "After looking at Trump's own words," Kiriakou says, "I fear for the country, for whistleblowers, and for those considering bringing to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality in government."
ACTION ALERT: Trump and Whistleblowers:
"You know what we used to do to traitors"
Whistleblowers Public Education Campaign / Roots Action
(January 10, 2017) -- Telling difficult truth from inside the US government is about to become harder than ever, with a president who has scorn for facts.
John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake know firsthand what's at stake. As a CIA whistleblower, John went to prison for two years. As an NSA whistleblower, Tom was dragged through years of Espionage Act prosecution.
John told us recently: "Tom Drake and I take very seriously the positions we've found ourselves in as de facto whistleblower 'spokesmen.' We speak at colleges and universities around the country, often for free and sometimes going out of pocket to get the word out."
People of all ages need to hear John Kiriakou and Tom Drake, but their personal finances were wrecked by legal persecution. As the Trump regime is about to take power, you can provide vital support now with a tax-deductible contribution; half of every dollar will go directly to John and Tom, while the other half will go to the Whistleblowers Public Education Campaign that they co-chair.
On the brink of the Trump presidency, John Kiriakou just sent us this letter:
In only a few short days, Donald Trump will take the oath of office as President. Many of us have spent the past two months trying to wrap our minds around the notion. I've finally come to accept the fact that we're going to face a very rough four years. Imagine what things will look like in four years for the environment, for a woman's right to choose, or for health care, for example.
Thinking closer to home, what does a Trump presidency mean for "national security" whistleblowers? After looking at Trump's own words -- and the words of those around him in the national security structure -- I fear for the country, for whistleblowers, and for those considering bringing to light evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality in government.
Speaking about Ed Snowden -- who, like my dear friend Tom Drake, revealed to all of us that NSA was spying on Americans -- Trump told Fox News in 2013, "I think Snowden is a terrible threat. I think he's a terrible traitor. And you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country -- you know what we used to do to traitors, right?" The interviewer answered, "Well, you killed them, Donald." Trump finished, "Well, he's damaging America. This guy is really doing damage to this country, and he's also making us look like dopes."
Trump's nominee for CIA director, Michael Pompeo, said in an interview on C-SPAN that Snowden was "a traitor," and added that, "He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence."
Tom and I were both charged with espionage -- one of the gravest crimes with which an American can be charged, one that can include the death penalty -- for blowing the whistle. Others like us will not have an easy time of things during the Trump Administration.
This is what we're up against. This is the fight that we have to prepare ourselves for over the next four years. We can't do it without your help.
Please help us remain out there, in the public, speaking, writing, and shouting from the rooftops that whistleblowers must be protected, that whistleblower protection laws must be comprehensive, and that when a person makes the right moral, legal, and ethical decision -- to blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality -- he or she will not risk house and home.
Please support the Whistleblowers Public Education Campaign. Thank you for your generosity.
The Washington Times: "Donald Trump on Edward Snowden: Kill the 'Traitor'"
Washington Examiner: "Lawmaker: 'Traitor' Snowden Deserves Death Penalty"
Jesselyn Radack, The New York Times: "Whistleblowers Deserve Protection Not Prison"
The Huffington Post: "The One Man Jailed for CIA Torture Tried to Expose It"
Jane Mayer, The New Yorker: Thomas Drake -- "The Secret Sharer"
Donald Trump on Edward Snowden:
Kill the 'Traitor'
Cheryl K. Chumley / The Washington Times
(July 2, 2013) -- Edward Snowden, the man at the heart of the NSA information leaks, is nothing but a "traitor" -- and America ought to recreate history in dealing with him, real estate mogul Donald Trump said on a "Fox & Friends" interview.
In other words, execute him, Mr. Trump implied.
"I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he's a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country -- you know what we used to do to traitors, right?" Trump said, Politico reported.
"Well, you killed them, Donald," said fill-in host, Eric Bolling.
Mr. Trump's response: Well, he is damaging America.
"This guy is really doing damage to this country, and he's also making us look like dopes," he said, Politico reported. "We can't allow this guy to go out there and give out all our secrets and also embarrass us at every level. We should get him back and get him back now."
Whistle-Blowers Deserve Protection Not Prison
Jesselyn Radack / The New York Times
(December 18, 2013) – Edward Snowden should not be prosecuted for mishandling classified information, and certainly not under the Espionage Act.
The Justice Department has led an unprecedented crackdown on "leakers," who more often than not are whistle-blowers -- public servants who expose fraud, waste, abuse and illegality. (And information that has been classified to cover up government wrongdoing has not been properly classified.)
I represent John Kiriakou and Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on two of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration -- the use of torture, and secret domestic surveillance, respectively.
After disclosure of the warrantless wiretapping, the government retroactively legalized it and immunized the telecoms.
Torturers have been glorified in movies (which benefited from close government cooperation and a cascade of government leaks), written books divulging classified information (including sources and methods), and been given a pass by President Obama's "look forward, not backward" policy.
Meanwhile, the government launched a series of Espionage Act prosecutions against the people in the intelligence and national security community who spoke out against the secret, dark side of US conduct post 9/11.
The Espionage Act is a century-old law that is meant to go after spies, not whistle-blowers. The government dropped all the espionage charges against Kiriakou and Drake, but continues to use the Espionage Act as a blunt instrument to bankrupt, isolate, intimidate and silence whistle-blowers. Even when the government drops all felony charges against them, as it did in Drake's case, the stigma of being labeled an "enemy of the state" is indelible.
As happens in every whistle-blower case, the government attacks the messenger rather than listening to the message. Whistle-blowers like Snowden are invariably smeared as being deviant misfits who are out for fame, profit, revenge, or self-aggrandizement. Already, Snowden has been called a "grandiose narcissist" and traitor, and he's been public for 72 hours.
Focusing on Snowden is a distraction from the government's law-breaking massive domestic surveillance program. Criminally prosecuting Snowden has little to do with Snowden's alleged crimes and everything to do with making an example of him and sending the most chilling of messages to anyone even thinking about exposing government wrongdoing, especially criminality.
There is no such crime as "leaking." Snowden may have violated a secrecy agreement, which is not a loyalty oath but a contract, and a less important one than the social contract a democracy has with its citizenry.
A war on information that targets whistle-blowers and journalists is more characteristic of a totalitarian state than a free and open democratic society.
Jesselyn Radack is national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project. She is the author of Traitor: The Whistleblower and the 'American Taliban'.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.