White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had an almost unbelievably lame non-response when ABC's Jake Tapper asked how the Obama Administration squared lauding freedom of the press and internet freedom abroad while engaging in a record-setting campaign to silence "leakers" a.k.a. sources a.k.a. whistleblowers.
Carney refused to answer the questions, referred Tapper to the Justice Department, and said "I'm not making the assumption" that the Espionage Act prosecutions suppress whistleblowers. The Justice Department is using the prosecutions for exactly that purpose. In the now-failed case against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, Justice Department prosecutor William Welch II requested a harsh sentence for Drake specifically to "send a message" to other Intelligence Community employees.
But speaking at the Conference on Internet Freedom at the Hague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:
[T]he right to express one's views, practice one's faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change . . . these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room.Meanwhile, back in the U.S. the Justice Department is doggedly pursuing Espionage Act prosecutions against whistleblowers, thereby labeling them spies and traitors. Not to mention the State Department's retaliation against author Peter Van Buren.
No wonder Carney had a difficult time explaining the glaring hypocrisy. For those who want the visual:
Want to take bets on whose White House press credentials will be yanked next? Or at least Tapper's seat in the front.
Carney also bumbled:
I . . . as for other cases, again, without addressing any specific case, I think that there are issues here that involve highly sensitive classified information,The specific Espionage Act prosecution he must have not been talking was the spectacularly failed case against NSA whistleblower Drake because the case against Drake involved Espionage Act charges based upon what former classification czar J. William Leonard called the most "deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document" he had ever seen.
Maybe we should take Carney's advice and ask the Justice Department, but DOJ's conflicting, confusing, and contradicting bluster about Drake offers no clarity.
The Justice Department's spin on its ungraceful nosedive in the Drake case was that dropping all the felony charges against Drake was needed to protect national security because the case was "too classified to try." Assistant Attorney General Lanney Breuer said in a Justice Department press release:
we must always strike the careful balance between holding accountable those who break our laws, while not disclosing highly-sensitive information that our intelligence agencies conclude would be harmful to our nation's security if used at trialThat might make a marginal amount of sense, except that, in April 2010, when Drake was indicted, AAG Breuer himself told us that going forward with the case against Drake using the Espionage Act was necessary to protect national security:
Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here . . . be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously.Is this the sort of answer Carney wanted Tapper to seek from the Justice Department? Ockham's Razor provides an explanation for all of this confusion. The Obama administration touts freedom of the press abroad and protecting whistleblowers at home, but the unprecedented Espionage Act prosecutions send the opposite message to potential whistleblowers. There is no easy spin for "we're saying one thing and doing another."
UPDATED: Fox News reported today on Obama's crackdown on so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers:
The Obama administration . . . . is cracking down on intelligence leaks with unprecedented vigor.
But open government groups and watchdogs are raising alarm, claiming the administration is taking a heavy-handed approach that could "chill" whistleblowers and those who cover their claims.
Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights for the Government Accountability Project, also said the law is "meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers."
"I'm not saying whistleblowers have carte blanche or should have carte blanche to divulge anything they want," she said. But Radack said they should be "punished appropriately."
She said the prosecutions will have the effect of chilling coverage. "We're back to the good old days of underground parking garages," she said.
. . . "The knee-jerk reaction is to go after the whistleblower first and really not be concerned with what they might be telling us," [Joe Newman, spokesman with the Project on Government Oversight] said.