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Both the Washington Post and New York Times reported on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees' recent outrage at the volume of "authorized, intentional leaks" of classified sources and methods from the Obama administration.

I have a particular interest in this issue as I represent half-a-dozen whistleblowers either being criminally prosecuted, investigated, or threatened with prosecution for making whistleblowing disclosures exposing government waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, illegalities, or a danger to health and public safety.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committees are rightfully ticked off about the disparate treatment for so-called "leaks," especially considering the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the heavy-handed Espionage Act than all past presidents combined. Using the criminal justice system to target whistleblowers is damaging enough, but doing so while simultaneously "leaking" classified information that provides a political benefit is brazen hypocrisy.

Senator John McCain wrote on the Obama administration's hypocrisy:

“The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the Wikileaks matter and former CIA employees in other leaks cases but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable,” Sen. McCain said.
The Intelligence Committees promised legislation to stop the flow of leaks:
Citing “the accelerating pace of such disclosures,” the two committees said in a joint statement that they planned to “act immediately” by bolstering legal restrictions and putting new pressure on the Obama administration to stanch the flow of secrets.
The Intelligence Committees should be sure to distinguish between whistleblowing disclosures, which do a public service, and the authorized, intentional "leaks" of classified information for political gain. Congress should focus any efforts to curb disclosures on the leaks which serve a political interest, rather than on whistleblowing in the public interest.

I articulated the distinction between leaking and whistleblowing years ago:

Unfortunately, the terms "leaking" and "whistle-blowing" are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety.

Additionally, the Obama's administration's "leak" policies demonstrate an undemocratic desire to control the flow of information to the public - not for the purpose of protecting intelligence sources and methods - but in order to protect or benefit the officials currently in power.

The New York Times analyzed the "authorized" leaks on cyberattacks and drones strikes, which some members of the Intelligence Committees asserted were timed to give the most political benefit to the Obama administration:

Mr. Aftergood said drones and cyberattacks were “extreme examples of programs that are widely known and yet officially classified.” That, he said, has prevented informed public discussion of some critical questions.  . . . .

The administration’s inconsistency, however, has been particularly evident on the drone program. Officials routinely give reporters limited information on strikes, usually on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Obama spoke explicitly about the strikes in Pakistan in an online appearance in January, arguing that they were precisely aimed at Al Qaeda.

Yet the drone attacks in Pakistan are part of a C.I.A. covert action program designed to be “deniable” by American leaders; by law they are in the most carefully protected category of secrets that the government keeps. In court, the administration has taken the position that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of such operations.

“There’s something wrong with aggressive leaking and winking and nodding about the drone program, but saying in response to Freedom of Information requests that they can’t comment because the program is covert,” Mr. [Jack] Goldsmith [a Harvard law professor and Bush administration Justice Department official who writes about national security and the press] said.

Using these "authorized leaks" from "anonymous administration officials" to release pro-government information, while denying the existence of programs in court (and actively fighting court oversight of Executive action) does a disservice to the classification system, which is supposed to be used to protect intelligence sources and methods, the American public, which is entitled to know its government's actions, and our democracy, which depends upon an informed electorate.

While making sure that any pro-administration talking points make it onto the front page, the Obama administration has aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who exposed government illegalities like warrantless domestic surveillance and torture.

Stifling dissent while promoting propaganda is not transparency.
Transparency is not limited to pro-government information. Real transparency means letting the public see their government's triumphs as well as its mistakes, so the public can make an informed decision based upon complete and accurate information.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If McCain is to be believed, (0+ / 0-)

    then there's one thing that would have been different if McCain had won in 2008.

    The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

    by chipmo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 05:47:44 AM PDT

  •  When folk start quoting John McCain to attack (0+ / 0-)

    Obama around here, it really signals the anti-Obama rhetoric has reached its zenith.... Yesterday your diary topic was Obama, "drone murderer", today its Obama the persecutor as per Mr. "Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran" McCain.

    •  some folks might be a tad bothered by such brazen (12+ / 0-)

      hypocrisy.......

      Using the criminal justice system to target whistleblowers is damaging enough, but doing so while simultaneously "leaking" classified information that provides a political benefit is brazen hypocrisy.

      Daniel Ellsberg, “It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam.”

      by allenjo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:12:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is what I think is brazen hypocrisy.... (0+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        Hidden by:
        2020adam

        It's interesting that the argument previously espoused by many of you folk here was one of deep disagreement with what the administration termed "leaker" versus what many here termed "whistleblower" or an individual who is the disseminator of classified information for the benefit of the public's right to know or the public good....

        I can assure you that the individual you have cited  as some type of champion against the abuses of governmental power, John McCain, and Diane Feinstein who you have cited in this thread, would disagree with your assessment of who is a "whistleblower" and who is a "leaker", and would more than enthusiastically prosecute many of the same people you attack the administration for prosecuting. But that is not important here....

        What is important is that they are now attacking President Obama, and for that you would gladly embrace these political hawks who would speak gleefully of bombing countries like Iran and starting a Middle East war....  A case of the old truism...."The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

        Brazen hypocrisy you say?

        •  Let's just stay on the issue of the diary. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chipmo, NonnyO, aliasalias

          I do agree with the below.....

          Beyond the expression of outrage, Sen. McCain’s statement had a number of other interesting features.
           
          He noted the “unacceptable” incongruity of prosecuting lower-level personnel such as Bradley Manning, Jeffrey Sterling or John Kiriakou for allegedly leaking classified information while holding senior officials blameless for what appear to be comparable offenses.

          “The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the Wikileaks matter and former CIA employees in other leaks cases but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable,”
          Sen. McCain said.

          Daniel Ellsberg, “It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam.”

          by allenjo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 09:00:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The issue of the diary is faulty, in my humble (0+ / 0-)

            opinion, and the issue of someone leaking to the press that the Obama administration is doing this or the other thing is not the same as some of these individuals you claim to be "whistleblowers" who are selling or leaking tons of classified documents to third parties.... Once again, John McCain is not a source I hold highly.

            Remember your gleeful citing of John McCain when you accuse President Obama of wanting to fight wars....  

        •  Truth is not a partisan issue n/t (4+ / 0-)

          My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

          by Jesselyn Radack on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 09:37:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  This kind of personal politics bullshit has no... (0+ / 0-)

          place on this site. Jesselyn is a real patriot and you better check what the hell you're saying before you start spouting off about shit you don't know.

          Jesselyn has been the paragon of consistency from the last administration to this one. The problems she cares about are exactly those she so vigorously fought for during the last administration, when she helped expose DOJ lies, war contractor fraud, and now abuse of the espionage act.

          HR'd because you simply cannot so viciously harass people for caring when it becomes politically inconvenient. This nonsense has to end somewhere.

  •  Biggest source of 'leaks' (13+ / 0-)

    is the Executive Branch. Playing high stakes political games for political gain is rank hypocrisy. Use of classified information as a show of executive 'manhood' further corrupts an already broken system. When classified information is used to artificially enhance executive stature then the thin fig leaf of protection becomes all too transparent in the leaking.

    "Truth is treason in the empire of lies." - George Orwell

    by Thomas Drake on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 06:44:58 AM PDT

    •  harshly punishing whistleblowers while blazenly (4+ / 0-)

      leaking those national security secrets themselves......

      latest in a long line of leaks about classified programs that have two attributes in common:  (1) they come from senior Obama administration officials;
       and (2) they are designed to depict President Obama, in an Election Year, as a super-tough, hands-on, no-nonsense Warrior.
      Put another way, the administration that is pathologically fixated on secrecy and harshly punishing whistleblowers routinely leaks national security secrets when doing so can politically benefit the President.
      http://www.salon.com/....

      Daniel Ellsberg, “It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam.”

      by allenjo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:23:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You know a whole lot about why this game... (0+ / 0-)

      is so deeply hypocritical. Yours was one of the few unambiguously selfless acts of patriotism undertaken by an individual in our civilian defense and intelligence apparatus in this new century. So many appear to have sat idly by, for fear of ending up like you.

      The few political heroes of the 2000s - whistleblowers like you and Jesselyn - have not only been marginalized by this and the last administration. You have had your lives turned upside down.

      All the while, both Administrations have used significantly more cynical leaks to burnish their image while conducting illicit wars.

      The story of your life in the current century is the embodiment of our Government's deep hypocrisy on what it means to Protect National Security.

      Thank you for joining us here.

  •  Sure. Certainly. But John McCain is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler

    more of a comedian nowadays, than a public servant.

    Maybe Jon Stewart will have him on the show.

    H'mm. I'm not terribly into this, anymore.

    by Knarfc on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 06:46:15 AM PDT

    •  It is not just McCain (5+ / 0-)

      The outrage from the Intelligence Committees is bi-partisan.

      My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

      by Jesselyn Radack on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 06:50:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's good. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        truong son traveler

        Perhaps it will be a campaign issue this year. We can hope.

        H'mm. I'm not terribly into this, anymore.

        by Knarfc on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 06:55:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Feinstein Statement on the National Security Leaks (5+ / 0-)

        "disclosures of this type endanger American lives and undermine America’s national security"

        June 5, 2012

        Feinstein Statement on National Security Leaks

        Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, today released the following statement regarding recent leaks of sensitive national security information:

        “I am deeply disturbed by the continuing leaks of classified information to the media, most recently regarding alleged cyber efforts targeting Iran’s nuclear program.
        Today I sent a classified letter to the president outlining my deep concerns about the release of this information. I made it clear that disclosures of this type endanger American lives and undermine America’s national security.
        I have spoken with Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, about the possibility of a joint hearing to investigate these leaks.

        The Intelligence Committee will soon mark up the FY13 Intelligence Authorization Bill, and it is my intention to include provisions requiring:

        A timely notification of authorized disclosures and the rationale for those disclosures;

        More forceful investigations of unauthorized disclosures;

        Additional authorities and resources for the U.S. government to identify and prosecute those who violate various federal laws and non-disclosure agreements by revealing highly classified information.

        Daniel Ellsberg, “It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam.”

        by allenjo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:02:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Maybe the administration is using the press? (0+ / 0-)

    What if the "leak" is designed to force the targets of Flame and the "kill list" to discuss how they plan on reacting to these programs?

    Both of these "leaks" came very shortly after the cyber-attack called "Flame" was discovered and reported in the press.  If you recall, Flame not only allows its controller to listen in on conversations by turning on the infected computer's microphone, but read instant messages and documents by taking screen shots of what is happening on the computer when programs of interest are open.  Flame can download files from infected systems and is spread from computer to computer in a controlled fashion by its developers.  There is also a lot about Flame that is not understood.

    These recent "leaks" definitely give the targets something urgent to talk about.  While Flame is still viable, it gives the Flame controllers an opportunity to see how its targets react to these revelations, who leads the response, and insights into what the targets will do the next time a cyber-weapon is aimed at them.  

    Honestly, I am not trying to be snarky here, what happens to your premise if the “leaks” are part of the intelligence program?  What if the Flame team needs to "use" the press in this fashion to beat the clock?  Does there now become something between whistle blowing and propaganda, and who polices that area?

    I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

    by Hey338Too on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:55:23 AM PDT

    •  Then why not reveal the legal justifications (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NonnyO, aliasalias, 2020adam

      for the drone program? And why prosecute more whistleblowers than all past presidents combined?

      Also, the Intelligence Committee members all have security clearances. There is no reason why the administration couldn't inform them of "leaks" that are part of some intelligence program.

      My book, TRAITOR: THE WHISTLEBLOWER & THE "AMERICAN TALIBAN," is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Human Rights Books for February 2012.

      by Jesselyn Radack on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 09:36:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The freaky-scary part... (0+ / 0-)

        ... is that uber-idiot Michele Bachmann [R-TeaParty-LalaLand] is on the Intelligence Committee.  I still remember the MN Media feeding frenzy when she was observed going into the building that held the photos of OBL after death that were there for the members of the "intelligence committee" to look at.

        The STrib's story of Bachmann's elevation to membership on the Intelligence Committee is fantastically funny with satirical remarks about her "intelligence" - or lack thereof.

        I have a problem linking the name "Michele Bachmann" to "Intelligence Committee."  Whatever "respect" I might have had for the Intelligence Committee before she was put on it evaporated into thin air.  She-of-the-mentally-deficient-religico-craziness-who-preaches-politics-in-churches has a "security clearance"?

        Rrrriiiiiiiiiiight....

        [Yet MN Dist. 6 people keep electing her while the rest of us in MN look on, aghast.  Proves some people in MN are also mentally deficient and most live in her district.]
        Gast is Flabbered

        I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

        by NonnyO on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 10:44:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Then our media is just one big psy-ops campaign. (0+ / 0-)

      Okay, so what if? Are you cool with that?

      Personally, I'd like to be kept up to speed on what my representative government is doing in my name, not be made a pawn in some James Bond novel.

  •  Bradley Manning was a whistleblower (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Walrus, NonnyO, 2020adam

    his intent is clear in the emails he wrote about the information he was handling. But the government has charged him as a leaker, spy, traitor with "aiding the enemy."

    If the truth is the enemy, that would make sense.

    ❧To thine ownself be true

    by Agathena on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 09:36:44 AM PDT

  •  The problem with any legislative solution... (0+ / 0-)

    is that it assumes someone somewhere will be interested in pursuing such a prosecution.

    In your professional experience, would you say there are many folks in the DOJ hoping and praying for the day this becomes law so they can start taking their own Administration to Court?

    It seems the problem is creating a firewall so it would be harder for politics to so clearly influence prosecutorial decision-making.

    •  only the courts can help (0+ / 0-)

      The courts could prevent the administration from blocking the release of information that they've already leaked. They can't have it both ways, saying the very existence of the drone program is a secret but then lining up every reporter in town for juicy "scoops" about how they are killing the bad guys.

      Perhaps this tactic might succeed because of an alliance of judges who have some principles, and judges who hate Obama.  OK with me; I want Obama to win when he is doing the right thing and to lose when he is doing the wrong thing.

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