Senate Intelligence Committee A Lot More Interested In Punishing Whistleblowers Than In Investigating Why They're Blowing The Whistle
from the but-of-course... dept
A few weeks back, we noted how ridiculous it was that Senator Dianne Feinstein seemed a lot more upset that information about questionable US activities abroad was being leaked than she was about the fact that the US was involved in questionable activities abroad. And, now the Senate Intelligence Committee (of which Feinstein is the chair) has pushed out new rules targeting those who leak information to the press (what most of us call whistleblowing). The Secrecy News blog does a good job highlighting how this seems to be much more about sweeping bad activities under the rug and blaming whistleblowers, rather than actually stopping bad behavior by government:
In an earlier generation of intelligence oversight, leaks led to leak investigations in executive agencies, but they also prompted substantive oversight in Congress. When Seymour Hersh and the New York Times famously reported on unlawful domestic surveillance in December 1974, the urgent question in Congress was not how did Hersh find out, or how similar disclosures could be prevented, but what to do about the alarming facts that had been disclosed.
In contrast, while pursuing leaks and leakers, today’s Senate Intelligence Committee has not held an open public hearing for six months. The Committee’s investigative report concerning CIA interrogation practices from ten years (and two presidential terms) ago has still not been issued. Upon publication — perhaps this fall — it will essentially be a historical document.
Most fundamentally, the Committee’s new draft legislation errs by treating “classification” as a self-validating category — i.e., if it’s classified, it warrants protection by definition — rather than as the flawed administrative instrument that it is.
Effectively, the new rules would make it that much harder for anyone in the intelligence community to blow the whistle if they come across illegal activities by the government. It effectively treats all activity by the government as good and any “leak” as bad, even if it would serve to highlight massive government abuse. That’s pretty scary. Not only will it create massive chilling effects for anyone seeking to stop illegal government behavior, but it will actually provide even more cover for the government to ignore the laws.