How The US Government Destroys The Lives Of Whistleblowers

from the there's-a-process? dept

One of the things we've heard over and over again from defenders of the NSA surveillance program is that Ed Snowden is somehow "not a whistleblower" because he could have just gone through "the proper channels" to alert people to abuse internally at the NSA. Of course, to most people, that seems quite laughable. They know what happens. The Washington Post has an article detailing how the government has destroyed the lives of various whistleblowers from within the intelligence community, who chose to go through "the proper channels" to voice their complaints. It's not pretty.

One of those discussed is Thomas Drake, whom we've written about often. He's now been reduced to working at an Apple store, because the government has more or less black-balled him, such that he can't get a job utilizing his actual skills. Bizarrely, he tells the story of Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in charge of the case against him that collapsed completely as it went to court, coming in to shop for a new iPhone:
Last year, he was working when he spotted an unlikely customer: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who came in to check out iPhones.

Drake introduced himself and asked: "Do you know why they have come after me?"

"Yes, I do," Holder said.

"But do you know the rest of the story?," he asked.

Holder quickly left with his security detail, Drake said.
They cover others, like Richard Barlow, who blew the whistle on the CIA lying to Congress about whether or not Pakistan could use some F-16s it was about to buy from the US to hold (and potentially launch) nuclear weapons. He went through the proper channels to alert officials of the mistake and three days later he was fired. Even though a GAO report vindicated Barlow and said his statements were reasonable and that he was clearly fired as a retaliatory move, he was unable to get another job in the government saying his "record was smeared." He now lives out near Yosemite Yellowstone in a mobile home and refers to himself as "seriously damaged, burned-out intelligence officer" who now suffers from PTSD.

The article has a few more stories like this one. Principled people who blew the whistle, and even when they were later vindicated, it made it impossible to get their jobs back or new jobs (or, in some cases, even to get money owed to them).

And people wonder why Snowden chose the path that he did? Sure, the other countries where he may end up don't have great track records either, but the US now has a well-established track record of doing serious harm to whistleblowers, especially within the intelligence community.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Mark Harrill (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:28am

    Rewrite the national anthem

    Land of the Free (to get out before they blow their whistle) and Home of the Brave (who know if they blow a whistle their new home will either be a 6 X 6 cell or in another country)...

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:37am

    Those are surprisingly soft 'vengeances' if you look both at Manning and at Snowden. Sadly. It's interesting how history repeats itself. People who fight for good causes, who denounce corruption are hunted and destroyed to some degree. Even if they are praised afterwards. Those in power get blind by it and end up making the same historical mistakes.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:11am

      Re:

      Of course it's comparatively soft vengeances. Lighter punishment is the "reward" for going through "proper channels".

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re:

        Lighter punishment is a relative term. I think 20 years in prison could be preferrable to a dumpster-home, a job-prospect at the same level as former child-rapists and murderers, a psychiatrical diagnosis and a constant somewhat justified fear of having a surveillance team far up his ass.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The thing is, all of those will still be true when you get out of prison. So it's that, or that plus 20 years in prison.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You may very well be right. I am, however reluctant to give the psychiatric diagnosis or the surveillance team as a given in that case. Getting punished has a way of making people put their psychological problems in perspective and at the end of the prison sentence there is something to look foreward to: A prospect of an improvement, which would not exist for the "drive people crazy by slowly breaking them dowm"-strategy.

             

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      PRMan, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      We don't know what kind of job Snowden might get in Venezuela yet. He will probably end up with better living conditions than a trailer next to Yosemite.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:15am

    I'd seriously like to know from those who keep defending government abuse; how do you define the term "whistleblower?" Or do you just believe there's no such term and that the government's perfect in every way?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:21am

      Re:

      Blowing a whistle only works when there is some authority to hear it with the will to act upon it otherwise it is just a calling for a beating.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        When they're busy listening to 350 million American's phone conversations, it kind of drowns out the sound from the whistle.

         

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      dennis deems (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:55am

      Re:

      When it's an issue of public good like food stamps or health care or planned parenthood, the government is completely incompetent and worse than the Soviet Union under Stalin. But when it's an issue of keeping the populace in line through surveillance and draconian control of information, why then the government is the only thing standing between us and The Terrorists, the only thing keeping us from total collapse into anarchy.

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:21am

    I do not understand why these whistleblowers do not get together an write a book. It would be a best seller, and they could retire ... and go on the talk show / lecture circuit.

     

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      RyanNerd (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:38am

      Re:

      Where would the talk shows be that they would not be in danger of arrest? In China or Saudi Arabia perhaps?

       

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      Michael, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      I do not understand why these whistleblowers do not get together an write a book

      They have all been reduced to low-level jobs or been rendered nearly homeless, so actually managing to collaborate with each other is an up-hill financial battle.

      Plus, they all know that as soon as there is a whisper of a book deal, all of the publishers will get a gentle push in another direction.

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:32am

    British tyrants DUG UP Cromwell, HANGED AND QUARTERED his corpse!

    I'm still surprised that they didn't sent hit squads after the American Revolutionaries; they didn't actually give up on re-taking the US militarily until after the War of 1812, then began putting in place the fraudulent paper money banking system that caused various market collapses and NOW gets direct bailouts and is "too big to prosecute". People with power are insane but their technocrats have LONG memories, infernal innovations, and extensive reach.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Giving the vastness of the new data collection program, no one who ever speaks out openly about anything will ever get a government job again.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Proper channels? I was under the impression that if the proper channels worked there'd be no reason to blow a whistle.

     

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      btrussell (profile), Aug 6th, 2013 @ 3:45am

      Re:

      "One of the things we've heard over and over again from defenders of the NSA surveillance program is that Ed Snowden is somehow "not a whistleblower" because he could have just gone through "the proper channels" to alert people to abuse internally at the NSA."

      What would you be telling them that they didn't already know?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 8:38am

    instead of being given life-time jobs, or at least, life time salaries, what a shame it is that those two faced, selfish, back stabbing arse holes in the higher echelon of powerful positions dont have something similar happen to them. it maybe wouldn't make any difference other than to perhaps make them think. how can any government say in one breath 'we will encourage and protect whistle blowers' only to do the exact opposite in the other? sooner or later there will be something that really is serious as far as it's effects on the US government, but wont be passed on because the person who discovers the 'anomaly' will be too scared to say about it to his/her superiors for fear of being 'boxed up like a fucking kipper'! i wonder who them will be blamed. the person who found but didn't inform. basically, if you work for the government, particularly in intelligence, you are fucked if you do, fucked if you dont!!

     

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:04am

    And those really guilty of such breaches

    Do they ever get prosecuted, or punished? Heck no! They either get promoted, or plush jobs in the "security" industry! It is time we held these farkers accountable for their misdeeds!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:14am

      Re: And those really guilty of such breaches

      Misdeeds against whom? Who is the true damaged party here?

      The lying Govt officials or the People's Constitution?

      I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the State of (STATE NAME) against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:09am

    Correction

    "How the Obama Administration Destroys The Lives Of Whistleblowers"

    Daniel Ellsberg: ‘I’m sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case’
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/05/daniel-ellsberg-im-sure-that-presi dent-obama-would-have-sought-a-life-sentence-in-my-case/

     

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    myqjones, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Government is a necessary evil, existing solely because groups of human beings are unable to persistently cooperate. A government must use coercion and force to obtain the necessary cooperation. Individuals pointing out the obvious elephants in the room, that government is by nature evil, it uses excessive coercion, and destroys too much with its use of force, creates the possibility of cooperation without government. But, governments, once formed, become organized to protect their own existence, like parasites, even at the cost of damaging their host populace. Whistleblowers threaten the parasitical existence of governments, so must be destroyed.

     

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    limbodog (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:38am

    Ok, seriously...

    Are there any examples of whistleblowers who did not have their lives ruined by the US government?

    Have we *ever* protected *any* of them for doing the right thing?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:34am

    How do you blow the whistle against the people on top?

    'One of the things we've heard over and over again from defenders of the NSA surveillance program is that Ed Snowden is somehow "not a whistleblower" because he could have just gone through "the proper channels" to alert people to abuse internally at the NSA.'

    The NSA's wrongdoing is by design. It's not a question of people inside the NSA breaking its rules, but of the NSA itself behaving unethically. There's no way to address that sort of abuse by going through internal channels. Furthermore, since the NSA's surveillance involves all three branches of government, it would likely be impossible for Snowden to accomplish anything through official channels of any kind.

     

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    princefeliz (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:08am

    Whistleblowers

    Criminals are running this country. Punish the loyal citizens reward the evil doers.

     

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    Jake, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:45am

    I hope the next whistleblower learns from these examples and grabs something actually damaging -the names of some HUMINT assets in Iran, perhaps?- to use as a bargaining chip.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 4:38pm

      Re:

      it would be better to have direct evidence of wrongdoing by superiors, like blackmail of senators, or insider trading, typical examples of corrupt behavior.

       

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    I'm surprised you left Sabrina DeSousa off this list, Mike.

     

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    gorehound (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:16pm

    US Gov is out of control and Corrupted !
    I thank all Whistleblowers for doing the right thing and outing the info.They know the consequences and they do it all for us.

     

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    MadMatt (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 6:47pm

    Define a "Failed State" then look at the USA.

    The US meets many of the hallmarks of a failed state. In many ways it is indistinguishable from Somalia. (except in Somalia whistlebowers are shot)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 1:37pm

    Trust this

    Snowden held a top level security clearance, one that predisposes to the US government that he is above the normal reproach for breaches, leaking or disclosing sensitive data that perhaps safeguarded American lives and Allies. With such a level of trust granted to him, there is no wonder why he is in the world that he is now in. I don't feel one iota sorry for that dick.

     

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