National Security

Obama's War on Whistleblowers

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Glenn Greenwald rips into Eric Holder's Justice Department:

Last April, the DOJ served a subpoena on New York Times reporter James Risen, demanding to know his source for a story he published in his 2006 book regarding a "reckless" and horribly botched CIA effort to infiltrate Iran's nuclear program.   That subpoena had originally been served but was then abandoned by the Bush DOJ, but its revitalization by the Obama administration was but one of many steps taken to dramatically expand the war on whistleblowers being waged by the current President, whoran on a platform of "protecting whistleblowers"…

But it's the DOJ's increasing willingness to target journalists as part of this crusade that has now escalated its seriousness.  Last month, the DOJ claimed it had found and arrested Risen's source:  Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent who left the agency in 2002 (he now works in the health insurance industry).  As part of Sterling's criminal proceedings, it was revealed yesterday that federal investigators had secretly obtained Risen's bank records, information about his phone and travel activities, and even credit reports to unearth his source…

…what makes this conduct particularly indefensible is how the Obama DOJ is venturing back into the past to dredge up these forgotten episodes.  Sterling hasn't worked for the Government or had a security clearance in more than 8 years.  The alleged leak took place in Bush's first term.  Disclosure resulted in substantial embarrassment for the U.S. but—given the utter failure of the operation—no identifiable national security harm. 

For a President who insists that we must "Look Forward, Not Backward"—when it comes to investigating war crimes by high-level Bush officials—this anti-whistleblower assault reflects not only an obsession on preserving and bolstering the National Security State's secrecy regime, but also an intense fixation on the past.  And increasingly extremist weapons—now including trolling through reporters' banking and phone records—are being wielded to achieve it.  

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  1. J. Edgar Holder has a nice ring to it

  2. I’m Shocked!!!

  3. I welcome his comments. But I also feel that Greenwald himself bears a lot of responsibility for the war on leakers whistleblowers.

    He correctly notes that the Espionage Act was widely ignored by many successive Administrations, who declined to aggressively prosecute leakers or journalists. However, Glenn himself pressed to change that when it came to the Valerie Plame leaks. Glenn Greenwald argued strenuously that:

    It is illegal to disclose classified information to individuals who are not cleared to receive it. Period.

    He repeatedly dismissed all efforts to qualify the offense by saying that the information was relevant or important to the public, was already publicly known and merely being confirmed, that Plame was not actually covert, or that the information should not have been classified. No, for Greenwald the very fact that the information was classified was enough to make it illegal “period” and something that should be prosecuted.

    At the time I warned him and others (including the New York Times) that this insistence on reinvigorating the Espionage Act and changing DoJ policy to more aggressively pursue leakers would inevitably backfire. Could he really seriously believe that the government with these reinvigorated powers would go after “bad leakers” that were serving those in power instead of “good leakers/whistleblowers” that were leaking information that Glenn (and indeed, I as well) think that should be made public?

    Apparently so, as Greenwald is somehow shocked that after his many calls for the government to pursue Espionage Act cases to find leakers, that the government is using those powers on leaks that embarrass the government rather than finding leakers leaking friendly information.

    1. Take it away, RC Dean’s Iron Law!

      1. Which one?

        Me today, you tomorrow. seems to be getting a workout lately. But the full set includes:

        1. You get more of what you reward and less of what you punish.
        2. Money and power will always find each other.
        3. If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
        4. The less you know about something, the easier it looks.
        5. You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.
        6. Me today, you tomorrow.
        7. Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.

        1. 5. You aren’t free unless you are free to be wrong.

          This should be #1, in my opinion.

        2. That’s a shitload of Iron. Do you own a smelter?

          1. For those only able to handle small doses of Iron, try a daily fortified supplement

          2. For those only able to handle small doses of Iron, try a daily fortified supplement

        3. Shouldn’t #6 be “You today, me tomorrow”?

          1. No, he’s got it right. Because it’s never you today.

        4. I’m gonna cut and paste that into a BIG poster.

    2. Yup. And many people said as much at the time. But Greenwald being an unprincipled hack dismissed them. I can’t think of anyone’s suffering and knashing of teeth I enjoy more than Greenwald’s. He is the most dishonest writer on the web.

      1. Not only is Greenwald is a dishonest hack, he’s also an ultra-paranoid nutcase. It’s hard to believe, but he is STILL obsessed with this notion of his that the 2001 anthrax murderer Bruce Ivins is the victim of a government conspiracy.

        1. He is just Andrew Sullivan without the vaginia obsession.

          1. For your information, Mr. Greenwald has written a New York Times bestselling book on executive authority, broken a story on his blog about wiretapping that led to front-page stories on most major newspapers in the country, and Russ Feingold read from my blog… uh, I mean HIS blog … on the Senate floor.

            1. Right on! Not enough people appreciate Greenwald’s towering intellectual prowess. Well, not enough Americans, at least. In Brazil, all the cabana boys recognize his brilliance.

              1. I hadn’t realized “dick” was spelled that way in Portuguese.

        2. It’s hard to believe, but he is STILL obsessed with this notion of his that the 2001 anthrax murderer Bruce Ivins is the victim of a government conspiracy.

          Given that government first wrongly accused Steven Hatfill, I’m not sure why this is so far-fetched. Not to mention that a recent NAS panel determined that the government vastly overstated the science in its case against Ivins.

          1. There’s no doubt the feds screwed up royally when they violated the Privacy Act on Hatfill. They made the mistake of listening to people who apparently had a personal and political vendetta against him, and they paid a big price for that mistake, as they should have.

            Have you read the entire file of all the evidence the government got on Ivins, like how he attempted to frame some of his co-workers using an ecrypted secret code from the book “Godel, Escher, Bach” which he later tried to throw in the trash once he realized he was a major suspect?

            Sorry, but Ivins was the anthrax mailer, and unlike Hatfill who fought the law and won, Ivins killed himself rather than face justice once he was cornered like the cowardly little rat that he was. And the man was so mentally disturbed that he openly fantasized to not one, but two of his therapists about murdering his co-workers.

        3. Not only is Greenwald is a dishonest hack, he’s also an ultra-paranoid nutcase. It’s hard to believe, but he is STILL obsessed with this notion of his that the 2001 anthrax murderer Bruce Ivins is the victim of a government conspiracy.

          I never said it was a “government conspiracy.” I’ve argued that the case against Ivins is incredibly unpersuasive and needs an independent investigation — along with all of these other “ultra-paranoid nutcases”:

          So dubious was the FBI’s case that even the nation’s most establishment media organs, which instinctively trust federal law enforcement agencies, expressed serious doubts and called for an independent investigation (that included, among many others, the editorial pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal). Mainstream scientific sources were equally skeptical; Nature called for an independent investigation and declared in its editorial headline: “Case Not Closed,” while Dr. Alan Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation — representative of numerous experts in the field — expressed many scientific doubts and also demanded a full independent investigation. . . .

          Doubts about the FBI’s case were fully bipartisan. In August, 2008, The New York Times documented “vocal skepticism from key members of Congress.” One of the two intended Senate recipients of the anthrax letters, Sen. Patrick Leahy, flatly stated at a Senate hearing in September, 2008, that he does not believe the FBI’s case against Ivins, and emphatically does not believe that Ivins acted alone. Then-GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, at the same hearing, told the FBI they could never have obtained a conviction against Ivins in court based on their case — riddled, as it is, with so much doubt — and he also demanded an independent evaluation of the FBI’s evidence. And in separate interviews with me, GOP Sen. Charles Grassley and Democratic Rep. Rush Holt (a physicist who represents the New Jersey district from which the anthrax letters were mailed) expressed substantial doubts about the case against Ivins and called for independent investigations. . . .

          In addition to reigniting doubts, the [new scientific] report [referred to by Balko above] has also reignited calls for an independent investigation into the entire FBI case. Yesterday, Rep. Holt re-introduced his legislation to create a 9/11-style Commission, complete with subpoena power, with a mandate to review the entire matter. Sen. Grassley told the Post: “There are no more excuses for avoiding an independent review.” Ivins’ lawyer added that the report confirms that the case against his client is “all supposition based on conjecture based on guesswork, without any proof whatsoever.” All of that has been clear for some time, and yesterday’s report merely underscored how weak is the FBI’s case.

          Links to those sources all provided here.

          1. Glenn,

            Your rebuttal is transparently dishonest. Your Salon article clearly indicates your belief that the anthrax attacks were either conducted by the government or, more likely, used by the government to instill a panic about Islamic terrorism. Your last sentence gives it away:

            “Other than a desire to avoid finding out who the culprit was (and/or to avoid having the FBI’s case against Ivins subjected to scrutiny), there’s no rational reason to oppose an independent, comprehensive investigation into this matter.”

            I’m sure in your little comic book, fantasy world Karl Rove ordered the anthrax attacks so Bush could avenge his daddy. But to those of us in the reality-based community, that begs a few questions:

            – Why didn’t the government have an Army lab concoct some anthrax samples to give them a genetic “fingerprint” indicating Iraqi origin? We could have blamed Iraq and had overwhelming support for war.

            – Why did the FBI investigate Hatfill (first) and Ivins (second) in connection with the attacks? Neither of whom had any connection with Islamic terrorists. Again, why not try to pin it on Saddam or Bin Laden?

            – You write: “anthrax was exploited in the aftermath of 9/11 to ratchet up the fear levels toward Saddam Hussein.” What a ridiculous statement. See points one and two above. There was plenty of opportunity for Bush and Co. to exploit the anthrax attacks and they didn’t. Just because you feverishly wish your adolescent Bush=Hitler fantasy was true doesn’t make it so. And the actual weight of evidence makes you look like a fool.

            – It is delusional to think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had anything to do with the anthrax attacks. We went to war in Afghanistan in late 2001 because Al Qaeda was there and they committed 9/11. (And yes, I realize you probably believe Al Qaeda is a scapegoat and Bush carried out 9/11. Or was it the Jews?)

            Conspiracy theories always have an achilles heel. One which the faithful adherents never see. Other than a brief period of panic, the anthrax attacks played no long-term role in shaping the “war on terror” and all the foreign and domestic policies that ensued. Those flowed from the horrors of 9/11. Whether those policies are misguided, counterproductive or immoral is a separate discussion. But this Orwellian revisionist fantasy is pathetic.

      2. Glenn is anything but unprincipled or a hack. He relishes taking Democrats on, and doesn’t seem to have the slightest allegiance to them, despite the apparent disconnect here (not that he’d say there was one).

        1. Ahhhh-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!

          Gasp, snort, wheeze.

          That’s a good one.

          The *only* time Gleen “takes on” Democrats is when they don’t want to hop on one of his many hobbyhorses.

          1. For your information, Mr. Greenwald has written a New York Times bestselling book on executive authority, broken a story on his blog about wiretapping that led to front-page stories on most major newspapers in the country, and Russ Feingold read from my blog… er, of course I mean HIS blog, Greenwald’s blog that is, on the Senate floor.

            Now, good DAY, sir!

          2. Uh… yeah. That’s what it means to be a liberal, but not a hack. Hacks criticize the other team, but are silent when their own team does the same thing.

            Greenwald, whatever his faults may be, openly and loudly criticizes other liberals who don’t live up to his standards (especially when those standards are supposedly their own, as well).

    3. “It is illegal to disclose classified information to individuals who are not cleared to receive it. Period.”

      And this from the guy who now thinks Bradly Manning is a political prisoner. HAHAHA

      That is the post of the year so far John. Well done.

    4. That is extremely disappointing.

    5. I pointed out this same hypocrisy to Glenn during a conversation with him on his blog once. I do think he’s become kind of a wikileaks cultist. He made a somewhat convincing case on Colbert last night, but he sort of begs the question when he calls them whistleblowers and journalists. Both have some measure of responsibility in our society, for which they receive a measure of protection. The sort of anarchist ethos of wikileaks not only seems to go too far in the direction of shedding light, it doesn’t seem to be a good strategy for winning converts. And defending anonymous hackers taking down legitimate websites and such, just because they are sticking it to the man, not a good strategy either. Accusations of “cyberterrorism” will become more salient to people the more such attacks begin to disrupt their lives.

      1. whistleblowers and journalists. Both have some measure of responsibility in our society, for which they receive a measure of protection.

        My copy of the First Amendment doesn’t mention anything about the press having responsibility. Maybe you’re using an annotated version?

        1. True. We’ll see how long the first amendment has teeth if journalists start spilling state secrets willy-nilly.

        2. Tony’s using the New Living Translation of the Constitution. Haven’t you heard of it?

      2. The government also has a responsibility not to abuse its power of secrecy to protect its members from accountability. Shit happens.

  4. Win The Future!!!

  5. Greenwald bears no responsibility whatsoever for the war on whistleblowers. He believed then as he does now that “It is illegal to disclose classified information to individuals who are not cleared to receive it.” What he does not believe (and never has believed) is that it is illegal to receive such information, which is what Wikileaks and Julian Assange did. He DOES NOT consider Bradley Manning to be a political prisoner. He is concerned with pre-trial punishment of Manning in order to get him to turn dime on Assange and Wikileaks. I can’t believe that John Thacker and the others in agreement with his uninformed screed are unable to apprehend this most basic and obvious fact.

    1. WTF does Wikileaks have to do with anything. They are going after the whistleblowers for leaking classified information. If Greenwald thinks that is a crime, what is his bitch about Holder?

      Your post makes no sense. And were you asleep when Greenwald went after Wired over the interview transcipts with Manning? It is pretty clear Greenwald doesn’t think Manning is guilty of anything.

    2. Err, did you read the post above? The whistleblowers Greenwald refers to are leakers. Yes, he’s more upset about going after journalists– as am I– but he’s certainly complaining about Jeffrey Stirling, former CIA agent, being arrested for leaking material.

      There is a consistent viewpoint of wanting to go after all leakers and whistleblowers, but not journalists. I’m not sure it’s a sustainable situation, though, as the government so far has tended to treat it as one investigation. Remember that the Plame investigation ended up serving subpoenas on journalists in order to find leakers there too. (Something that horrified the New York Times, which was calling for a robust Plame investigation but also then didn’t like the result.) In any case, though, that’s not Glenn’s position.

    3. The proper phrase is “drop a dime on” not “turn dime on”.

    4. The proper phrase is “drop a dime on” not “turn dime on”.

  6. Makes one wonder which of puppet masters pulling obama’s strings was economically damaged by the original leak.

  7. It is incorrect to state that Greenwald doesn’t think Manning’s leak is a crime. From the outset, he’s acknowledged that the actions Manning is accused of constitute criminal activity:

    http://www.salon.com/news/opin…..14/manning

    “Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime.”

    He just doesn’t believe the government should coerce prisoners in pre-trial detention by employing methods widely considered to be psychological torture to get them to make false statements in order to prosecute Wikileaks. That’s what WL has to do with it.

    It seems you were asleep when Greenwald went after Wired. If you weren’t you’d know that he merely wants them to release withheld portions of the transcripts which will either support or refute Lamo’s and Paulsen’s assertions about how Manning came to leak these classified documents.

    1. I bet you a dollar this is Greenwald’s sockpuppet.

      1. Greenwald is a published writer and an expert. Russ Feingold read from my – er,his – blog during the Censure hearings. I love how you all are so critical of Greenwald but don’t even have your own blogs. Jealous, much?

  8. I wonder how much of this effort by Holder is an attempt to batten down the hatches before the next presidential campaign heats up. The number of times that Obama has completely gone against what he promised during the last campaign should really surprise no one, as this is what politicians do, but considering the precariousness of Obamacare from a Constitutional standpoint, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that there are plenty of leaks about certain flashpoint issues politically that if exposed would harm Obama’s re-election chances substantially.

  9. Besides spending money at an even more alarming rate, has any discernable differences been found between Bush and Obama? It’s almost as if someone set out to design a president that would incorporate Bush’s faults and then multiply them and add in a few extra ones for good measure. What kind of president makes me wish that John freaking McCain won?

    1. Maybe it isn’t the people, but the process of electing a politician, that leads to about the same outcome time and again.

  10. This is yet another sign that the Democrats and Republicans have a lot more in common than either of them like to admit.

  11. No “betrayal” by Obama here, right Neu Mejican?

    1. Holder is a pimp. But I didn’t know until this day that it was Obama all along.

      1. You forgot the part about how he could never have outfought the NYT.

        1. I edited that out because I couldn’t think of it. I shall amend: “Holder is a pimp. He never could have outfought the Times. But I didn’t know until this day that it was Obama all along.”

          Of course, the problem with this is that I don’t think Obama’s the brains behind anything, which, of course, Barzini was.

  12. When somebody as obssessive as Obama is about hiding his own past comes to power it should surprise no one that he would also seek to squash revelations about the government.

    1. Point.

  13. Or it might be a good idea, if you have a security clearance, to live up to its terms.

  14. Say,

    What ever happened to that liberaltarianism I was hearing so much about.

  15. Prosecute a 9-year-old leak about Iran nukes? Check.

    Actually prevent Iran nukes? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  16. The comment above by John Thacker — quoting from a post I wrote 7 days after I began blogging — is a complete fabrication.

    I never argued any of the things he attributes to me (other than the one sentence quote pointing out — correctly — that leaking classified information is a crime for government employees).

    I never argued Libby should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. I never argued that Libby should have been prosecuted at all for the leaking of Plame’s name. I most certainly never argued in favor of “reinvigorating the Espionage Act and changing DoJ policy to more aggressively pursue leakers”.

    Claiming I argued — or believed — any of that is a pure falsehood.

    Indeed, in the very post from which he quotes, I wrote: “there are many potential reasons why Fitzgerald may have opted not to seek an indictment . . . Any of these are perfectly legitimate (and hardly unusual) reasons for Fitzgerald not to have sought indictments directly arising out of the outing of Plame.”

    I say exactly the same thing in the case of Manning and every other government whistleblower whose prosecution I oppose: namely, while it is illegal for government employees (as opposed to non-government entities such as newspapers or WikiLeaks) to leak classified information, there are good reasons not to prosecute (some of the reasons are set forth in the quote I included in the latest post from Candidate Obama).

    There is, in my view, a big difference between Libby and the whistleblowers targeted by the Obama DOJ: there was no public value in blowing Plame’s cover, but the whistleblowers targeted by the Obama DOJ exposed waste, fraud, ineptitude and even illegality.

    But it is nonetheless true that even good whistleblowers commit crimes. Daniel Ellsberg committed a crime. Bradley Manning — if he’s the leaker — committed a crime: exactly the same way that whoever leaked Plame’s name committed a crime. There’s no denying that. And I’ve said that many times; here’s what I wrote in April of last year when objecting to the Obama DOJ’s prosecution of whistleblower Thomas Drake:

    It’s true that leaking classified information is a crime. That’s what makes whistleblowers like Drake so courageous. That’s why Daniel Ellsberg — who literally risked his liberty in an effort to help end the Vietnam War — is one of the 20th Century’s genuine American heroes. And if political-related crimes were punished equally, one could accept whistle-blower prosecutions even while questioning the motives behind them and the priorities they reflect. But that’s not the situation that prevails.

    That’s completely consistent with what I wrote about Libby: it’s illegal, but there may still be good reasons not to prosecute.

    The contradiction is created by the commenter above only by inventing ideas that I never argued and then dishonestly attributing them to me.

    1. there was no public value in blowing Plame’s cover

      Exposing a rift between a sitting President and the Agency responsible for collecting and evaluating intelligence serves a public value.

      1. How was revealing Plame’s classified employment status necessary to reveal the rift between the CIA and POTUS?

    2. Richard Armitage released Plame’s name and status. At the time she was not a covert employee of CIA, and as I recollect, had not been for several years.

      1. The CIA asserted that her employment status was classified. It makes perfect sense that an agent’s status would remain classified for some time after they stop being covert, or even after their employment with the CIA ends, so that their contacts won’t be retaliated against.

        Also, just because Armitage illegally revealed Plame’s status, does not mean that he was the only one to do so.

  17. “But it’s the DOJ’s increasing willingness to target journalists as part of this crusade that has now escalated its seriousness…”

    It’s such events as these that expose the extreme naivete of amateurs in the press playing at the serious business of backing a dangerous would-be tyrant while believing it to be for the good of the country. Our president realizes that the power of a free press is too dangerous to be left in the hands of foolish journalists. The shock of Greenwald reveals that they still don’t understand the extent to which they have been used and the risk to the president of leaving them unrestrained.

  18. They told me that if I voted for John McCain we’d have a tyrant in the White House, and they were right!

  19. I completely agree with Glenn’s post above.

    Guys, Greenwald only has a New York Times Best Selling Book on the Bush Administration and its abuses of power. And he had one of the most-read blogs on the Internet after 9 months of blogging. And Senators read from his blog at Senate hearings and his posts lead to front-page news stories in major newspapers.

    His credibility is above reproach.

    1. I agree completely.

    2. I agree completely.

    3. Mr. Ellensberg: That is important information you provided; it makes me realize that I must never doubt Mr. Greenwald again. I bow before his intelligence and knowledge.

    4. Whether or not Greenwald is correct on this issue is in no way related to the things you note in your post. So what is your point?

    5. I completely agree with Mr. Ellensburg, above. Also, I vouch for him, even though we have never met.

  20. They have so many employees they have to find something for them to do. They are going to need a Bush Issue in the 2012 election so they will find one. Boy isn’t it great having holder in power?

  21. I am shocked that investigators and prosecutors are looking into the bank records and phone calls of those that they are investigating.
    Why, before we know it, we’ll see this being part of the script on shows such as “Law & Order” and “NCIS”.
    Oh, the Humanity!

  22. “Of course, the problem with this is that I don’t think Obama’s the brains behind anything, which, of course, Barzini was.”

    So that makes George Soros Obama’s Hyman Roth? Compare and contrast. You can use a second bluebook if necessary.

  23. They told me that if I voted for John McCain we’d have a tyrant in the White House, and they were right!

    Heck. You will never believe what they told me. They said if I voted for that stupid Palin chick some one really stupid would be in the White House. At least part time.

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