The latest in the Justice Department's war on whistleblowers again demonstrates the government's vast overreaching and unending animus toward employees who bring to light waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality.
Politico reports on the latest in the prosecution against former State Department employee Stephen Kim, accused of leaking information to Fox News reporter Jim Rosen:
This is more evidence of the retaliatory motives behind the recent spate of "leak" prosecutions under the Espionage Act. Even when the government already knows who "leakers" are, the Justice Department employs underhanded, entrapment-like tactics to bolster weak cases against them. With striking and disturbing consistency, the government overreaches when using the criminal justice system to attack and silence whistleblowers.
Like Kim, the Justice Department continued to take rare - and ethically questionable - steps to go after former CIA employee Jeffery Sterling, accused of leaking to Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jim Risen. Overzealous "leak prosecutor" William Welch (already disgraced from the botched prosecution of late-Senator Ted Stevens), used entrapment tactics eerily similar to those used in Kim's case and obviously not designed to determine the identity of a leaker. Welch subpoenaed Jim Risen to reveal his source (the subpoena was quashed), and subpoenaed Sterling's former attorney to testify before the grand jury despite the fact that the government already suspected Sterling had leaked to Risen. Welch's overkill continued when he argued (unsuccessfully) for Sterling's continued detention, claiming that Sterling was "more dangerous" than a spy selling secrets to a foreign country, despite the fact that Sterling had been free for years after the alleged leak occurred.
Former NSA official Thomas Drake suffered the same sort of government overkill. Drake was targeted as part of the years-long (and fruitless) investigation into the sources for the December 2005 New York Times article that revealed the Bush warrantless wiretapping scandal. Yet, while two admitted sources for the article (Thomas Tamm and Russell Tice) have not been indicted, Drake - who had nothing to do with the New York Times article, and has never been accused of being a source - is the only person indicted as a result of the multi-million dollar investigation. Drake's reporting massive NSA waste to the Department of Defense Inspector General was enough to make him a target of the leak investigation. There's nothing more sinister than the government using Drake's legitimate whistleblowing disclosures as an excuse to target and prosecute him.
Criminalizing and detaining whistleblowers and subpoenaing attorneys and journalists are the devices of dictatorships, not free societies, especially those with a First Amendment and especially those with a President who so likes to preach values of openness and transparency.
Though they are all charged under the Espionage Age, none of these defendants engaged in espionage. The Justice Department's priorities are disastrously out of whack. Perhaps the FBI should spend less time hunting down and prosecuting whistleblowers, and more time focusing on how to prevent violent tragedies like the Ft. Hood shooting.