In a just released, lengthy New Yorker article, Jane Mayer -- with the diligence and thoroughness she used to expose the Bush torture regime -- examines a topic I've written about many times here: the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers generally, and its persecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake in particular (Drake exposed massive waste, excess and perhaps illegality in numerous NSA programs). Mayer's article is what I'd describe as the must-read magazine article of the month, and I encourage everyone to read it in its entirety, but I just want to highlight a few passages. First, we have this:
When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as "often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government." But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks -- more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.When it comes to civil liberties and transparency -- cornerstones of the Obama campaign -- those two paragraphs are a perfect microcosm of what has taken place. And Mayer did not even include this quote about whistleblowers from candidate Obama: "Such acts of courage and patriotism . . . should be encouraged rather than stifled." Apparently, by "encouraged," he meant: "snuffed out with relentless prosecution and intimidation."
Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book "Necessary Secrets" (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, "Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history -- even more so than Nixon."
But for the real microcosm of the Obama legacy in these areas, Mayer offers this:
Jack Balkin, a liberal law professor at Yale, agrees that the increase in leak prosecutions is part of a larger transformation. "We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state," he says. In his view, zealous leak prosecutions are consonant with other political shifts since 9/11: the emergence of a vast new security bureaucracy, in which at least two and a half million people hold confidential, secret, or top-secret clearances; huge expenditures on electronic monitoring, along with a reinterpretation of the law in order to sanction it; and corporate partnerships with the government that have transformed the counterterrorism industry into a powerful lobbying force. Obama, Balkin says, has "systematically adopted policies consistent with the second term of the Bush Administration."If someone asked me to point to a single paragraph that best conveys the prime, enduring impact of the Obama presidency, I'd point to that one.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Cracking Down on Whistleblowers
In Salon, Glenn Greenwald writes about a very disturbing trend in the Obama administration: