Targeting Whistleblowers: Truth Telling Endangered

by Stephen Lendman / June 14th, 2010

On April 16, journalist John Cole wrote:

The message is clear – you torture people and then
destroy the evidence, and you get off without so much as a sternly
worded letter. If you are a whistle blower outlining criminal behavior
by the government, you get prosecuted.

In fact, it’s worse. Under Bush, torture was official policy. It
remains so under Obama who absolved CIA torturers, despite unequivocal
evidence of their guilt. But leaking it risks criminal prosecution for
revealing state secrets and endangering national security.

On June 7, New York Times writer, Elisabeth Bumiller,
headlined, “Army Leak Suspect Is Turned In, by Ex-Hacker,” explaining
that US Army intelligence analyst Specialist, Bradley Manning, told
Adrian Lamo that he leaked the following materials to WikiLeaks:

– “260,000 classified United States diplomatic cables and video of a
(US) airstrike in Afghanistan that killed 97 civilians last year,” and

– an “explosive (39 minute) video of an American helicopter attack in
Baghdad that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the
Reuters news agency.” Manning called it “collateral murder,” a crime he
felt obliged to expose.

Lamo told the military, saying “I outed Brad Manning as an alleged
leaker out of duty. I would never (and have never) outed an Ordinary
Decent Criminal. There’s a difference.” He didn’t explain or how any
criminal can be decent.

On June 7, the military command in Iraq arrested Manning, saying in
Pentagon boilerplate:

“The Department of Defense takes the management of classified
information very seriously because it affects our national security, the
lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad.”

So far, Manning is uncharged and is being held in Kuwait pending
further action.

On June 6 in wired.com, Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter broke the story
in their article headlined, “US Intelligence Analyst Arrested in
WikiLeaks Video Probe,” explaining:

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division arrested Manning after
Lamo outed him. The State Department said it wasn’t aware of the arrest.
The FBI had no comment, then later the Defense Department confirmed his
arrest for allegedly leaking classified information. According to army
spokesman, Gary Tallman:

If you have a security clearance and wittingly or
unwittingly provide classified information to anyone who doesn’t have
security clearance or a need to know, you have violated security
regulations and potentially the law.

Manning said:

Everywhere there’s a US post, there’s a diplomatic
scandal that will be revealed. It’s open diplomacy. World-wide anarchy
in CSV format. It’s Climategate with a global scope, and breathtaking
depth. It’s beautiful and horrifying. (The documents describe) almost
criminal political back dealings. (They belong) in the public domain,
and not on some server stored in a dark corner in Washington, DC. (Our
government is involved in) incredible things, awful things.

He exposed cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians and reporters,
the perpetrators laughing on video like it was a game – the public
unaware that Pentagon rules-of-engagement (ROEs) target Iraqi and Afghan
civilians as well as alleged combatants.

On June 11, New York Times writer, Scott Shane, headlined,
“Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press,” saying:

In 17 months in office, President Obama has already
outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions,” citing
actions against Thomas A. Drake (discussed below), and Times columnist
James Risen, subpoenaed (by Bush and Obama) to disclose his sources for
his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush
Administration.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director for Reporters Committee for
Freedom, explained: The message they are sending to everyone is ‘You
leak to the media, we will get you.’ As far as I can tell there is
absolutely no difference (between Bush and Obama), and (he) seems to be
paying more attention to it. This is going to get nasty.

Attorney General Eric Holder approved the subpoena, his Justice
Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, saying: “As a general matter, we
have consistently said that leaks of classified information are
something we take extremely seriously.”

Risen’s lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, explained that the subpoena relates
to his report about covert CIA measures to subvert Iran’s alleged
nuclear weapons program. “We will be fighting to quash” it, he said.
“Jim is the highest calibre of reporter and adhered to the highest
standards of his profession. And he intends to honor the promise of
confidentiality he made to (his) source or sources.”

Risen’s publisher, Simon and Schuster, is handling the matter, but a Times
statement said:

Our view, however, is that confidential sources are vital
in getting information to the public, and a subpoena issued more than
four years after the book was published hardly seems to be important
enough to outweigh the protection an author needs to have.

First brought in 2006 by Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the
grand jury session expired without resolution. Holder will impanel a new
one. Risen faces possible prosecution and jail time for honoring his
confidentiality commitment, what no reporter should ever violate.

WikiLeaks: What It Is, How It Operates

Calling itself “the intelligence agency of the people,” WikiLeaks
says it’s “a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect
whistleblower, journalist and activists who have sensitive materials to
communicate to the public” that has a right to know.

Only when they’re told “the true plans and behavior of their
governments” can they decide whether or not they deserve support, or as
Jack Kennedy said on April 27, 1961:

The very word secrecy is repugnant in a free and open
society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to
secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided
long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of
pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers, which are cited to justify
it.

WikiLeaks believes that “Principled leaking has changed the course of
history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the
present; it can lead us to a better future.” It can expose abuses of
power by “rel(ying) upon the power of overt fact to enable and empower
citizens to bring feared and corrupt governments and corporations to
justice,” and help make nominal democracies real ones.

Secrecy and Targeting Whistleblowers and Journalists Under
Obama

More than ever under Obama, we live in a secret society, in which
whistleblowers and journalists are targeted for doing their job — why
Helen Thomas, unfairly pilloried by the pro-Israeli chorus, last July
said his administration was “controlling the press,” during a White
House Robert Gibbs briefing, then afterwards added: “It’s shocking. It’s
really shocking….What the hell do they think we are, puppets? They’re
supposed to stay out of our business. They are our public servants. We
pay them.”

In a July 1, 2009 interview with CNSNews.com, she said even
Nixon didn’t exert press control like Obama, saying:

Nixon didn’t try to do that. They couldn’t control (the
media). They didn’t try…. I’m not saying there has never been managed
news before, but this is carried to (a) fare-thee-well for town halls,
the press conferences. It’s blatant. They don’t give a damn if you know
it or not. They ought to be hanging their heads in shame.

In February 2009, the Free Flow of Information Act was introduced in
the House and Senate. In March, the lower body passed it overwhelmingly,
after which it stalled in Senate Committee.

At the time, the Obama administration weakened it in opposition to
strong congressional support — on the pretext of national security
considerations over the public’s right to know, to let prosecutors
judicially force reporters and whistleblowers to reveal their sources.
Though the bill never passed, the administration uses it to prevent
exposure of information it wants suppressed, more aggressively than any
of his predecessors, another measure of a man promising change.

Thomas Drake was an Obama administration target, a former National
Security Agency (NSA) “senior executive,” indicted on April 15, 2010, on
multiple charges of “willful retention of classified information,
obstruction of justice and making false statements,” according to
Assistant Attorney General, Lanny A. Breuer, of the Criminal Division.

The 10-count indictment alleges he gave Baltimore Sun
reporter, Sibohan Gorman, classified NSA documents about the agency. In
fact, she wrote about waste and mismanagement in its “Trailblazer”
project (a program analyzing data on computer networks), and illegal
spying activities, saying on May 18, 2006 in her article headlined, “NSA
Killed System That Sifted Phone Data Legally” that:

Once President Bush gave the go-ahead for the NSA to
secretly gather and analyze domestic phone records – an authorization
that carried no stipulations about identity protection — agency
officials regarded the encryption as an unnecessary step and rejected
it.

Her stories, however, focused mainly on the Trailblazer $1.2 billion
initiative that one insider called “the biggest boondoggle going on now
in the intelligence community,” what the public had every right to know.

Drake’s leaks exposed illegal NSA spying, its enormous amount of
waste and fraud, and the formation of a public/private national
security/surveillance state, incentivizing profiteers to hype fear for
their own bottom-line self-interest.

As a candidate, Obama promised transparency, accountability, and
reform of extremist Bush policies. As president, he usurped unchecked
surveillance powers, including warrantless wiretapping, accessing
personal records, monitoring financial transactions, and tracking
e-mails, Internet and cell phone use to gather secret evidence for
prosecutions. He also claims Justice Department immunity from illegal
spying suits, an interpretation no member of Congress or administration
ever made, not even Bush or his Republican allies.

As a result, his national security state targets activists, political
dissidents, anti-war protestors, Muslims, Latino immigrants, lawyers
who defend them, whistleblowers, journalists who expose federal crimes,
corruption, and excesses who won’t disclose their sources, and
WikiLeaks, cited in a 2008 Pentagon report as a major US security
threat, important to shut down by deterring, discouraging or prosecuting
its sources. More on that below.

At a time of extreme government secrecy, lawlessness, and betrayal of
the public trust, exposes and public debate more than ever are vital —
whistleblowers, WikiLeaks, and courageous reporters essential to an open
society, one endangered without them.

WikiLeaks March 15, 2010 Release: “US Intelligence planned to
destroy WikiLeaks”

The group’s founder, Julian Assange, described a 32-page February
2008 counterintelligence investigation “to fatally marginalize the
organization.” However, after two years, without success, at least so
far.

It called WikiLeaks “a potential force protection,
counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information
security (INFOSEC) threat to the US Army, (jeopardizing) DoD personnel,
equipment, facilities, or installations. Such information (could help)
foreign intelligence and security services (FISS), foreign military
forces, foreign insurgents, and foreign terrorist groups (by providing
them) information (they could use to attack) US force(s), both within
the United States and abroad” — typical Pentagon boilerplate to hype
threats and deter whistleblowers from exposing government crimes and
excesses, what the public has every right to know.

In response, WikiLeaks said protecting the identity of leakers takes
high priority. It operates “to expose unethical practices, illegal
behavior, and wrongdoing within corrupt (government agencies and)
corporations (as well as) oppressive regimes” abroad, some in collusion
with Washington.

The goal — expose wrongdoing, demand accountability, and support
democratic principles in a free and open society — what governments are
supposed to do, but when they don’t, organizations like WikiLeaks
exhibit the highest form of patriotism, to be lauded, not spied on,
pilloried, or destroyed.

Among its many accusations, DOD claimed WikiLeaks:

  • has possible DOD moles giving it sensitive or classified
    information;
  • uses its site to post fabricated and manipulated information;
  • has 2,000 pages of leaked army documents with information about US
    and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,
  • including on the kinds and numbers of equipment assigned to US
    Central Command;
  • Julian Assange wrote and co-authored articles, based on leaked
    information, “to facilitate action by the US Congress to force the
    withdrawal of US troops by cutting off funding for the war(s);”
  • leaked information “could aid enemy forces in planning terrorist
    attacks, (choose) the most effective type and emplacement of improvised
    explosive devices (IEDs)” and use other ways to target US military
    units, convoys, and bases;
  • data published is misinterpreted, manipulated misinformation,
    disinformation, and propaganda;
  • a November 9, 2007 report said US forces “had almost certainly
    violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC),” and has 2,386 low grade
    chemical weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • the same report charged DOD with illegal white phosphorous use in
    the 2004 Fallujah attack;
  • the Bush administration was accused of torture and denying ICRC
    representatives access to Guantanamo detainees;
  • details were provided on DOD’s use of asymmetric tactics,
    techniques, and procedures in the April 2004 Fallujah assault; and
  • many other accusations and concerns were listed, including whether
    “foreign organizations… foreign military services, foreign insurgents,
    or terrorist groups provide funding or material support to
    Wikileaks.org.”

DOD concluded that successfully identifying, prosecuting, and
terminating the employment of leakers “would damage and potentially
destroy” WikiLeaks’ operation and deter others from supplying
information. It also stressed “the need for strong counterintelligence,
antiterrorism, force protection, information assurance, INFOSEC, and
OPSEC programs to train Army personnel” on ways to prevent leaks and
report “suspicious activities.”

Julian Assange is a man with a mission — total transparency.
WikiLeaks is a vital resource by providing key information on how
governments and corporations betray the public interest. Given America’s
tradition of war crimes, corruption and other abuses of power, no
wonder DOD is concerned, thankfully so far without success, or according
to WikiLeaks:

Its activities are “the strongest way we have of generating the true
democracy and good governance on which all mankind’s dreams depend,” and
may have a chance to achieve from their work and others like them —
grassroots activism, power and determination, the only way change ever
comes, never from the top down, a lesson to internalize, remember, and
act on.

A Final Note

On June 10, Daily Beast writer, Philip Shenon, headlined,
“Pentagon Manhunt,” saying:

“Anxious that WikiLeaks may be on the verge of publishing a batch of
secret State Department cables, investigators are desperately searching
for founder, Julian Assange.”

In early June, he was scheduled to speak at New York’s Personal
Democracy Forum, but was advised against it for his safety. Instead, he
appeared via Skype from Australia.

Interviewed about Assange, famed whistleblower Daniel, Ellsberg,
believes he could be in danger, saying:  “I happen to have been the
target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA
assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban emigres, were brought up from Miami
with orders to ‘incapacitate me totally.’ ” Ellsberg asked if that meant
to kill him, and was told “It means to incapacitate you totally. But
you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’ ”

Is Assange now in danger?

Absolutely. On the same basis, I was…. Obama is now
proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner
of Americans without due process” at home or abroad, besides
non-citizens anywhere as well, the rule of law be damned. “No president
has ever claimed that and possibly no one since John the First.”

Ellsberg’s advice to Assange:

“Stay out of the US. Otherwise, keep doing what he is doing. It’s
pretty valuable…. He is serving our democracy and serving our rule of
law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws
in most cases, in this country. He is doing very good work for our
democracy,” something Obama, like his predecessors, works daily to
subvert.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
Also visit his blog site
and listen to The Global Research News Hour on
RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for
cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are
archived for easy listening. Read other
articles by Stephen
.

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