National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake has been mentioned by name in editorials in all the major newspapers - the Washington Post (here and here), L.A. Times (here), and New York Times yesterday, which is worth quoting:
Treating potentially embarrassing information as a state secret is the antithesis of healthy government.
Today, WaPo publishes Drake's first solo op-ed since he was sentenced to community service and probation after the Justice Department's Espionage Act case against him imploded days before trial. Drake and I did a joint op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer a few weeks ago, but now, after being silenced for the better part of a decade, Drake speaks on his own, in his own powerful words:
The government’s penchant since Sept. 11, 2001, for operating in secrecy and hiding behind an executive branch “state secrets” doctrine has damaged our long-term national security and national character. It has, by sacrificing Americans’ general welfare and civil liberties, given rise to a persistent military-industrial-intelligencecongressional surveillance complex.
Do not let Drake become a footnote in history. We have gone too far down the path of becoming a secrecy surveillance society, but it is not too late. Drake's case should be a turning point and his op-ed a rallying cry that our government can non longer hide its malfeasance behind the national security hysteria that has corrupted its institutions since 9/11.
Drake's op-ed describes what happened at NSA after 9/11:
Shortly after Sept. 11, I heard more than rumblings about secret electronic eavesdropping and data mining against Americans that bypassed the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — the exclusive means in the law for conducting such activity, with severe criminal sanctions when violated.
Had this vital and actionable intelligence been properly analyzed and disseminated by the NSA, it could have led to the capture of the Sept. 11 hijackers and prevented the attacks.
The significance of both the NSA behavior he exposed and his experience as a whistleblower under criminal prosecution is not lost on Drake:
Once exposed, these unconstitutional detours are justified by vague and undefined claims of “national security,” aided and abetted by officials’ shameless fear-mongering while they cover up their own actions and keep them secret from the public.
It should not be lost on us either. We need to listen. At the end of the Constitutional Convention a group of citizens asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the founding fathers had created to which Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." Today, Drake asks us, in light of the path we have taken since 9/11:
Before the war on terrorism, our country recognized the importance of free speech and privacy. If we sacrifice these basic liberties, according to the false dichotomy that such is required for security, then we transform ourselves from an oasis of freedom into a police state that crucifies its citizens when they step out of line or speak up against government wrongdoing. These are the hallmarks of despotism, not democracy. Is this the country we want to keep?
It is past time to answer this question correctly.