Amy Goodman presents an interview with Thomas Drake, in order to shed light on the U.S. war on whistle-blowers.
We speak with Thomas Drake, who was targeted after challenging waste, mismanagement and possible constitutional violations at the National Security Agency, but the case against him later collapsed. Drake was one of several sources for a Baltimore Sun article about a $1.2 billion NSA experimental program called “Trailblazer” to sift through electronic communications for national security threats. “My first day on the job was 9/11. And it was shortly after 9/11 that I was exposed to the Pandora’s box of illegality and government wrongdoing on a very significant scale,” Drake says. . . .
In a major embarrassment for the Department of Justice, his case ended last year in a misdemeanor plea deal. Now the former top spokesman for the Justice Department, Matthew Miller, seems to be reversing his stance on the prosecution of Drake, saying the case may have been an “ill-considered choice for prosecution.”
All of this comes amidst the Obama administration’s unprecedented attack on whisteblowers. “It’s a way to create terrible precedent to go after journalists and a backdoor way to create an Official Secrets Act, which we have managed to live without in this country for more than 200 years. And I think it’s being done on the backs of whistleblowers,” says Drake’s attorney, Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics adviser to the Justice Department.
Drake’s accusations are extraordinary:
THOMAS DRAKE: The critical thing that I discovered was not just the massive fraud, waste and abuse, but also the fact that NSA had chosen to ignore a 23-year legal regime . . . It was the prime directive of NSA. It was the—the—First Amendment at NSA, which is, you do not spy on Americans—
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you find?
THOMAS DRAKE: —without a warrant. I found, much to my horror, that they had tossed out that legal regime, that it was the excuse of 9/11, which I was told was: exigent conditions now prevailed, we essentially can do anything. We opened up Pandora’s box. We’re going to turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for the purpose of a—of dragnet, blanket electronic surveillance.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, in other words, now warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens by the NSA and other intelligence agencies is legal?
THOMAS DRAKE: . . . [Y]es, during that whole period, we’re talking a very, very super secret program, which is actually referenced—that program is referenced in James Bamford’s blockbuster article in—is the lead article in Wired Magazine for the month of April. That particular program was—in fact violated, on a vast scale, the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens . . . It didn’t matter. It was just used as an excuse, that the fair game that NSA had, the legitimate ability of NSA to collect foreign intelligence from overseas, well, now that capability is being used to collect against U.S. citizens and everybody else in the United States of America.
Drake’s attorney, JESSELYN RADACK, commented on the Obama war on whistle-blowers:
The significance is that he was the fourth person in U.S. history to be charged under the Espionage Act. The first, tellingly, was Daniel Ellsberg. And now there are six people. The most recent to be charged is John Kiriakou. And all of these people are not spies. They’re whistleblowers. And they are being—they’re the people who revealed torture and warrantless wiretapping, some of the biggest scandals that occurred in my generation. . . Really, I think it’s a way to create terrible precedent to go after journalists and a backdoor way to create an Official Secrets Act, which we have managed to live without in this country for more than 200 years. And I think it’s being done on the backs of whistleblowers. And it’s also meant to send a very chilling message to government employees not to speak out about fraud, waste, abuse and patent illegality.