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In its third editorial about the Espionage Act prosecution against National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake, the conservative Washington Post (WaPo) editorial board opines that the Drake case demonstrates how dysfunctional the classification system has become.

Just before the Justice Department's case against Drake collapsed in spectacular fashion days before trial last summer, WaPo ran two editorials critical of the prosecution. (here and here).Then, former classification czar under G.W. Bush, J William Leonard, was slated to testify as a defense expert for Drake and called the case the most "deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document," he had ever seen.

In the year since the prosecution fell apart, WaPo obtained one of the documents that formed the basis of an Espionage Act charge against Drake, which prompted WaPo to opine again - this time sarcastically - on the flimsy evidence the government used to threaten Drake with spending "the rest of his natural life" behind bars:

A document at the center of the Drake case was a classified e-mail summarizing an agency meeting. The e-mail was titled “What a Wonderful Success.” It is an innocuous, self-congratulatory message to a team for its presentation to the director, Gen. Keith Alexander. Two paragraphs were classified “secret.” Now that the e-mail has been released, everyone can see what was so sensitive. One of the paragraphs included the hush-hush fact — be careful if you finish reading this sentence — that Gen. Alexander left a conference room and greeted people in a lab who had worked to make sure the demonstration was a success.
Last summer, WaPo articulated the chilling effect the Drake case has on potential whistleblowers:
Mr. Drake’s prosecution smacks of overkill and could scare others with legitimate concerns about government programs from coming forward.
Again, the WaPo editorial board understands the larger implications of using the classification to cover-up embarrassing government conduct:
The more that classification is used to hide the trivial, inconvenient or embarrassing, the less useful it is for genuine national security secrets.
Prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act (an action the Obama has taken twice as many times as all past presidents combined) serves neither the public - it chills potential whistleblowers - nor national security - it undermines the classification system.

The fact that even the conservative WaPo editorial board recognizes the grave implications of charging employees under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling improperly-classified, innocuous information should serve as a wake-up call to the Obama administration, which is currently doggedly pursuing four other Espionage Act cases against alleged so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers.

The threats are beyond those to whistleblowers. Attuned to the hypocrisy of the Obama administration prosecuting low-level and mid-level employees for alleged "leaks" while feeding simultaneously pro-government information to the press, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a series of measures to crackdown on employees, which are more likely to chill legitimate free speech than stop so-called "leaks."

I have long-warned that the Espionage Act cases could be used as a back-door way of going after journalists. The Justice Department's Espionage Act case against former CIA official Jeffery Sterling has already swept up New York Times reporter James Risen, who was subpoenaed three times to testify about his alleged source. In that case, the Justice Department most recently argued that, despite the fact that legal precedent clearly dictates otherwise, there is no reporter's privilege in a criminal case.

The latest revelation that the information used to prosecute Drake under the heavy-handed Espionage Act was so obviously innocuous and unclassified should give the Justice Department pause before continuing to pursue similar whistleblowers, such as CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, whose case is set for trial in November.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 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 Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:40:07 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for the efforts here, did you see (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, gooderservice, aliasalias

    this RT video yet?

    It is exactly what you've been talking about for months now.  It's finally getting the attention it needs.

    -7.62; -5.95 The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.~Tesla

    by gerrilea on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 06:13:07 AM PDT

  •  We need more attention paid by the Public to the (0+ / 0-)

    war on whistle blowers, and those that dare expose waste, fraud ,abuse, and criminal acts by the govt. these days are truly brave people.
     I wonder how many people are out there today struggling with their conscience over what they know but can't risk their life and their family's future by exposing criminal acts or massive fraud.
    It wasn't supposed to be this way, but the chilling effect of prosecutions are a big threat to Democracy, more so than any terrorism threat.
    Thanks for all your work btw.

    The US is now apparently working on flipping none other than Private Bradley Manning. The US soldier is facing 22 federal charges for allegedly leaking 700,000 documents and videos to WikiLeaks. He's one of six Americans, the Obama administration has charged with espionage.

    “If one of those cases makes it to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court upholds the Espionage Act as an act which essentially criminalizes any whistleblower, anybody who exposes war crimes, anybody who challenges the official narrative of the lies of the state, then that's it. Because that would mean that any leaker could automatically be sent to prison for life. And at that point any idea of freedom of information is over. We will only know what the state wants us to know,” Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author told RT.

    “It’s supposed to be about protecting the national security of the United States. But that is not the way the journalism industry will view it. They will view it as being a message to them. ‘Be careful who you talk to. Be careful what you write because you can be next.’ I think a number of reporters will say ‘I am not risking it,’” Moore believes.
    Critics say the Obama administration's unprecedented “war on whistleblowers” may ultimately deliver a death sentence to freedom of the press in the US. If people and or publishers are criminally convicted and jailed for exposing the truth, more journalists may prefer to abandon First Amendment privileges and reserve the right to remain silent.
    (emphasis mine)

    without the ants the rainforest dies

    by aliasalias on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:09:09 PM PDT

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