Obama Administration Has Declared War On Whistleblowers, Describes Leaks As 'Aiding The Enemy'

from the going-a-bit-far dept

In 2008, now President Obama ran with the following as a key plank in his campaign:

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

None of that has happened. Instead, as we’ve discussed repeatedly, President Obama has been the most aggressive President ever in attacking whistleblowers and bringing the full weight of the law down on them. In fact, in 2012, rather than promote protecting whistleblowers in his campaign, the campaign bragged about how it cracked down on whistleblowers:

President Obama has done more than any other administration to forcefully pursue and address leaks of classified national security information…. The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all other administrations combined. Under the President, the Justice Department has prosecuted six cases regarding national security leaks. Before he took office, federal prosecutors had used the Espionage Act in only three cases.

The above paragraph is true — and we’ve pointed it out in the past as well — but we thought it was shameful, not something worth bragging about. Furthermore, since he was elected, President Obama has never praised a single federal employee who was a whistleblower. When asked by a reporter from the Huffington Post for an example of President Obama supporting a whistleblower, the White House refused to respond.

Given all of that, it will come as little surprise to read a piece by reporters Marisa Taylor and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, in which they reveal that the White House has a special attack program to deal with whistleblowers called Insider Threat Program (ITP). And, no, contrary to what the administration has claimed, it’s not just about “national security” issues. It goes way beyond that:

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments.

And, as the reporters note, the program may emphasize classified material, but actually goes way beyond that to cover leaks of just about anything. Furthermore, it encourages the ridiculous view that leaks which expose questionable behavior to the public are the same as aiding the enemy.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

Yes, informing the American public of misdeeds by the US government is considered “aiding the enemies of the United States.” The reality, of course, is what they’re saying is that they really mean “the current government” when they refer to “the United States,” and “the enemies” are the American public.

And, part of the program seems to be to put pressure on anyone to snitch on their colleagues if they suspect potential leakers. Government employees who fail to report colleagues who exhibit “high risk” behaviors may be subject to criminal charges. Basically, snitch on anyone who acts suspiciously, or else… And, of course, it’s not just the Defense Department. The Agriculture Department has an online tutorial teaching people how to spot potential whistleblowers, entitled “Treason 101.”

As becomes obvious, this massively discourages whistleblowing. It massively discourages anyone raising any alarm about programs that might be out of control, for fear that they might be declared a “high risk” person or even guilty of espionage for trying to blow the whistle. President Obama not only has not supported the “courageous” whistleblowers he praised, he’s made it so scary to report any malfeasance that when it eventually does come out, it takes the dramatic form of someone like Edward Snowden, rather than someone willing to go through all the “official channels.” It’s a complete failure and does little to promote good government.

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Comments on “Obama Administration Has Declared War On Whistleblowers, Describes Leaks As 'Aiding The Enemy'”

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Loki says:

Re: Re: Re: So...

Because they don’t want him impeached, at least not for that. If they impeach him for that, then they might be forced to roll back their laws, and the next President can’t fight the war on “Terrorism”.

Oh, and for those who think this is still just about fighting jihadists, there are those claiming you can be a terrorist for:

1) Complaining about drinking water. From the article: “We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” said Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, according to audio recorded by attendees. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.” (and he’s on tape saying it).

2) Protesting. And mind you, if Alan Grayson’s analysis of TPP (“This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.) is accurate, your going to see a lot more corporate use of this legislation in coming years.

LVDave (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So...

Well the House does the impeaching, and the Senate does the convicting.. So I think if the majority of R’s in the House were to quit being afraid of their shadow, and man up, I think an impeachment would be doable, but to get Mr Soetero-Obama ousted from office, you gotta get the Senate to convict, and with the Senate firmly in the hands of Mr Soetero-Obama’s party, you know conviction is NOT in the cards..

randomjoe (profile) says:

Re: Re: So...

Storm the streets and protest heavily instead of staying home watching MAFIAA’s garbage?

Storming the streets does nothing but justify increasing the violence of the response by the government.

The American way is to get candidates that support your point of view elected to state and federal legislatures.

I think it’s odd that people who sat in tents in the mud and smoked joints are looked up to, while the tea party got their candidates elected to congress and are considered a bunch of kooks. Go figure.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: So...

Storming the streets does nothing but justify increasing the violence of the response by the government.

The American way is to get candidates that support your point of view elected to state and federal legislatures.

The American way is also storming the streets. Both are needed to effect change.

I think it’s odd that people who sat in tents in the mud and smoked joints are looked up to, while the tea party got their candidates elected to congress and are considered a bunch of kooks

Perhaps because most people care a bit less about the method of getting the message out than they do about the message itself?

It’s also possible that getting their candidates elected to office was what cemented the public opinion of the tea party: a higher-than-normal percentage of those candidates are outright kooks. Perhaps the OWS folks had an advantage there, in that they didn’t have anyone in office to act kooky and make them look bad.

Eponymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So... Options?

What if the problem is representational democracy in that the power of authority corrupts regardless of who you elect to office, what do you do then? I’d think it woukd be tare down the old system of proxies and create a new system of direct representation without the middlemen… some would call this anarchy, others would claim it chaos or insanity. Me, I think it the next step in a post-democracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So...

Hun Tzu:
When your enemy is stronger harass and evade.

Just keep leaks coming, protect and help any whistle blower in anyway you can 🙂

That is how you fight back.

Talking about leaks anybody saw the new Anonymous claim that they hacked North Korea and are about to dump the Norks missile program on the internet?

Will Obama crackdown on Anonymous again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So...

Those that would stand up against corruption, as you suggest, would be labeled by Obama’s supporters (Left & MSM) as a RACIST! You dirty RACIST, how dare you question this President. Same with Holder.

Then the IRS, DHS and others will come knocking, as we saw, with this President’s enemies list…

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So...

I am not claiming any racism at all. But (ignoring a small group of unimportant people in the peanut gallery) I have also never heard an accusation of racism leveled against anyone simply for speaking up against the administration. The few times I have heard such charges leveled, they seemed justified.

Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

This is unfair to Obama, not that I’m defending the president or his actions.

It’s a domino effect. As more whistle blowers step up to stand for their cause, others feel empowered to do the same.

Obama could have easily have had only three, if other whistle blowers hadn’t come forward first and empowered more.

I doubt we’ve seen all the dominoes fall.

Should be interesting, this future of America.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, given he was quite clear that protecting whistlblowers was a key, vitally important thing, the fact that his administration has gone completely nuts each and every time one has shown up… yeah, I’d say it’s all on him, either for ordering it done, or not doing anything when he found out what was happening.

Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What you fail to realize, is that regardless what he said, there are more whistle blowers under his watch.

Who knows. Maybe it’s because the first three didn’t get protection, the other 3 decided to retaliate.

Any which way it stands, this news isn’t surprising. I’ve never known any government to protect a whistle blower and I doubted Obama would despite the hypocritical statement.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What you fail to realize, is that regardless what he said, there are more whistle blowers under his watch.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, so what? You’d think then it would be even easier to come up with an example of a whistle-blower that he doesn’t hate.

This is part of the mosaic that Obama presents: a very secretive administration that has no problem with spying on the American people and punishing all who dare to cry fowl.

In fairness to Obama, nearly every president has been this way to one degree or another. Obama stands out because it’s 180 degrees apart from his rhetoric, and because he’s more energetic about it than usual.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I feel little to no sympathy for the man.
a) The presidency is a punching bag position, is not were the decision really happen.
b) He has done little to nothing to actually change anything in that regard and we all saw it.
c) His own actions is what probably creates the right conditions for this to happen, people everywhere are growing worry of their own governments.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Add a word and it makes sense

‘Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in [other] governments is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out.

He was committed to helping whistleblowers, right up until he found out that his government, and his administration might be a target, making him look bad, and then suddenly it’s ‘Crush whistlblowers as the traitors to the government they are!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, there are traitors in the US. The Constitution defines what constitutes treason, and nothing any of the whistle-blowers has done even comes close.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_Three_of_the_United_States_Constitution#Section_3:_Treason

The Constitution defines treason as specific acts, namely “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” A contrast is therefore maintained with the English law, whereby a variety of crimes, including conspiring to kill the King or “violating” the Queen, were punishable as treason. In Ex Parte Bollman, 8 U.S. 75 (1807), the Supreme Court ruled that “there must be an actual assembling of men, for the treasonable purpose, to constitute a levying of war.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I know, but that’s a hard argument to make for two reasons.

First, “Aid and Comfort” is a term of art that means “Any act that deliberately strengthens or tends to strengthen enemies of the United States, or that weakens or tends to weaken the power of the United States to resist and attack such enemies is characterized as aid and comfort.”

The key word in there is “deliberately”. The government would have to show that the leakers were intentionally trying to assist an enemy of the US. Incidentally assisting them doesn’t count.

Second, the US is not actually at war, so we have no Enemy to give Aid and Assistance to.

Eponymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Could we not turn this game of semantics around on them?

They play this semantic game trying to conflate these leaks with aiding the enemy, but couldn’t we turn it around on them pointing out the implication in that: that our Democracy isn’t robust and strong enough to withstand the damage done by such leaks. It’s the reverse semantic game of “so you’re saying our democracy is frail?” “No, I’m saying…” “Well then if our democracy isn’t frail can’t these leaks help to strengthen and fortify it then? The people are now more empowered by such knowledge, and an empowered people equals a more powerful nation! So what’s the problem?” “But…”

art guerrilla (profile) says:

check it out at boiling frogs...

interview with former spook russ tice who says they were wiretapping obomber, judges, lawyers, etc out the fucking ying-yang YEARS ago (when choco jesu was running for senate)…
*AND* that is one of the big uses: these masters of the universe are ALWAYS plotting against each other, so it would not surprise me that 90% of the taps are against ‘players’, not stupid, useless chumps like us…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

What happened to...

What happened to “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”?

The gov’t sure seems to have a lot they want to hide and since they work FOR the people and are paid BY the people, we have every right to know what all their dirty little secrets are.

I can’t think of any President’s campaign promises that were more meaningless Obama’s. He’s gone back on nearly every one.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When a supposedly healthy Democracy spends more time and effort fighting enemies from the inside than it does fighting enemies from the outside, you know that you don’t live in a Democracy any more.

Looking at the your government’s actions over the last few administrations I’ve come to the conclusion that the US is not any kind of democracy, but in fact a re-enactment of Animal Farm…

Sadly this is becoming more and more true of most “democracies”, but the US usually paves the way

Anonymous Coward says:

I think its quite impressive how good a liar he is considering howmany he duped into voting for him, verging on the cult-like tbh, then again it was a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich. I just dont think he cares anymore since its his second term. Or maybe whichever speech writer he had was fired

TheLastCzarnian (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is my concern. Obama did a serious 180 within two weeks of entering into office. Hiring lobbyists now seems to be one of the lesser of his changes.
Now, what would make a person change like this? A simple “change of heart”? Did he not intend to keep his promises? Or had the intelligence community come across something in his background which they could use to blackmail him.
Regardless of your opinion of him, you have to admit that a career politician doesn’t publically break a campaign promise in 2 weeks without some sort of extenuating circumstances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Its just absurd. We have lazy politicians and functionaries who seem too bothered to keep the ‘facade’ of lawful government. From my perspective the way they keep playing the treason/aiding the enemy card is starting to lose is opacity.

Apparently they are too lazy to try and gague the effects of their actions as well…

… it must be laziness. No engaged government in their right minds would make themselves the enemy so quickly as have ours.

If the power-tools in government today want to keep their power, they’d best start a regimine of introspection, and cause and effect.

Attempts to engender chilling effects start to stand out to the general public when seen in rapid succession as we have seen in the US in the past year.

With regards to our government, they are their own worst enemy. They should really roll up their sleeves and begin to pull their heads out of their asses.

Brett says:

One Solution: Vote Independent

One solution that would help (although not solve everything of course) is for The People to refrain from voting for a Republican or Democrat in elections, and instead vote for Independents. This way we won’t be voting for the lesser of two evils, which is still corrupt, but for someone who actually represents our individual ideals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: One Solution: Vote Independent

A third party candidate getting above 3 % is not going to happen in any election unless the person has gained fame in one or the other party. The libertarian party has a republican base, same goes for the constitution party. The green party has a democratic base. Any other party is completely irrelevant. None of the third parties has gotten more than 2 % of the votes overall in any national election for the last 40 years (except for Nader in the Green party year 2000 and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and John B. Anderson 1980). It is incredibly unlikely that USA will see an independent or third party president with the current financial laws on elections.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Where do they come from?

It’s funny how much time the government spends in defending it’s unlawful laws regarding whistleblowers.

If it weren’t for whistleblowers, we’d have not known about Watergate and so many other things. We’d never have a clue, and the government likes it that way.

After all, they wouldn’t want us to get upset about their criminal negligence in performing their duties-and they certainly wouldn’t be telling us about them.

Of course they don’t like it when others do their duty.

Too bad there aren’t more brave people willing to do it. Edward Snowden is one of thousands of people working for the NSA. Must be a lot of others who know about this, and never spoke up.

Nope-just duck and run for cover when the truth finally comes out. Just be sure to understand that what you thought was telling the truth is actually treason to the government despite the fact that whistleblowers are supposed to have special protection from retaliation.

Doesn’t seem to be working does it?

Jason says:

I blame the Nobel committee

I mean here’s a guy who got a Nobel Peace Prize his second day on the job without doing anything. The rest of us get a probationary period.

I don’t like it, but it makes sense. He’s an internationally recognized hero. Of course he hates opposition. Of course dissenters are villains. He’s friggin Kal-El, so obviously anyone who feels they need a small stock of kryptonite are plotting to destroy the world.

You just hope at some point that–I dunno, maybe Michelle would just turn and say “Dammit babe, this shit is fucked up! You gotta dial it down, and you gotta do it now.”

My wife does that kind of thing for me whenever I’ve just gotten out of a superhero movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It is a newspaper’s duty to print the news and raise hell,” said Wilbur F. Storey, editor and publisher of the Chicago Times.

Even the news reporters have been treated like they are the enemy. If you can’t give Obama and crew a brilliant and sterling news article, his staff will call you and cuss you out on the phone… according to previous news reporters stating how they’ve been treated.



The White House news staff has been pitching a bitch fit about not having access to the president over news and speeches. Instead the White House has been doing an end run around the reporters and issuing it’s own glowing reports.

All this reflects secrecy and no intention of owning up to what is happening. Mostly we are finding that the MSM is in cahoots with the White House in order to continue to get anything in the line of news out of this administration. They will voluntarily hold the news pending official permission to release it. The link as only one of many incidents owned up to.


It was investigative reporting that kept politicians honest. That’s pretty much been killed off. There is no one to really keep the executive powers in check, without oversight. It appears to be the intention of this administration to control any leaks it doesn’t want out through preventing whistle blowers from holding this administration and government accountable for it’s misdeeds. None of this stuff coming out is actually harmful to the enemy but is embarrassing to this government. Were it not doing misdeeds, there would be no embarrassment.

This issue with what is being done to whistle blowers is a sign of just how badly our government is not obeying the law and not living up to the intents of the constitutional guarantees.

Zangetsu (profile) says:

Aiding the Enemy

I am terribly sorry, Mr. Masnick, but by informing us, the public, of the misdeeds of the current administration you have just now “aided the enemy”. Please be advised that the Secret Service, the NSA and the MPAA, will be arriving at your place of work (or wherever your cell phone may be currently located) within moments to perform a discrete yet thorough examination of all body parts and orifices. Do not attempt to use your phone as you will just receive busy signals and, as per usual, your WiFi access will be compromised. Thank you for being a resident of Penal Colony 26.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ahh, it looks like Obama is finally ready to roll out America’s newest war: “The War on Truth.”

If the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” have shown us anything, it’s that we’re in for a wild ride as we shed further constitutional rights in the name of “security”. By the way, whenever the government mentions that they’re doing things in the name of “National Security” or “Safety”, they’re using a form of code and what they actually mean is that they’re doing what they’re doing to ensure their own security and safety.

They don’t give a fuck about you, or me or anyone else that isn’t in their elite little club. Pathetic fucks.

Jlafunk says:

Not helping conspiracy theorists.

This went has not helped the government to alleviate conspiracy theorists.
I’ve always had a healthy skepticism of my government “looking out” for MY best interest.
This is clearly a statement that the government (starting long before Obama) is run by one party, not two as it seems and that the government is clearly taking part in destroying our constitutional liberties that even it’s own citizens are all potential terrorists.

Eponymous Coward says:

The inevitable outcome:

What you’re going to get is an active witch hunt of pre-leaks, in some twisted version of Minority Report, which will create a caustic atmosphere where everyone is assessing each others party loyalty. How is this any way to properly govern? In the end this will encourage silence among employees for fear of being wrongly labeled an insider threat, and thus enable government malfeasance to go unabated.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Author misinformed

The author needs to read sections 827 & 828 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. This was signed by the President.

Not misinformed. Well aware of his signing the whistleblower protection act (both the earlier one and the latest update). Point is, they’re meaningless given how the administration has acted. Papering over despicable actions with a weak law that is mostly useless is not particularly helpful, don’t you think?

Gary Mont (profile) says:

Snoozers are losers

“Yes, informing the American public of misdeeds by the US government is considered “aiding the enemies of the United States.” The reality, of course, is what they’re saying is that they really mean “the current government” when they refer to “the United States,” and “the enemies” are the American public.”

Well, its about time somebody finally realized that YOU the People, are the “enemy of the state”.

The corporate-owned federal Government has been waging a war against its people for a decade or more and the very people its been attacking and destroying, are the folks PAYING for the war effort with their tax dollars.

Maybe now the American Puplic will begin thinking about defending itself against this monstrous entity that has invaded and conquered their government and their nation.

Somehow though, I doubt even such a blatant example as this will manage to wake “We the People” = “Enemy of the State” from its beer and TV induced stupor.

To enjoy the American Dream, apparently, Americans must remain asleep.

Michael Guy (profile) says:

Betrayl of our veterans by aiding Free Syrian Army

In the 1700’s Princess Eleonore von Schwarzenburg and the Marquise de Sade (from whom we derive the word, “sadism”) were able to personally inflict brutal horrors upon the peasants with impunity , due to their status as members of the elite nobility. Today we have royal personages who are able to perpetrate even greater atrocities upon people all over the globe, yet none of our politicians or media personnel dare to bring up these promoters of world-wide terrorism. The aristocratic, Sunni, oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf, men who are by birth and nature brutal tyrants, aid , arm and support various sects of Wahhabi terrorist like Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood and Free Syrian Army. Historically, these royal oil princes, our ostensible allies, have supported the killers of our sailors on the USS Cole, our mutilated Blackhawk down soldiers in Mogadishu and many others. It was a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia who orchestrated 9-11 in which we lost over 3,000, yet, we responded by attacking a rival to Riyadh. Ever since the 1990’s unto today, 90% of all the terrorism against Americans, Africans in Darfur and Nigeria, Hindus in India and Shia throughout the Middle East has been perpetrated by “old men of the mountain of Alumet” assassins, financed and controlled by the oil oligarchs of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Now, however, our Democratic leaders want to betray every victim of Sunni violence and betray every wounded American Veteran who served on the USS Cole, or in Somalia ,Iraq and Afghanistan. Every wounded or killed service man or woman since George W. Bush, like those at Benghazi, has met such a fate by a Sunni, Wahhabi terrorist sponsored and supported by the oil sheiks of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf.

Why has our President and State Department become the obedient vassals and Janissaries to those sheiks who wish to recreate the Sunni Caliphate of Suleiman the Magnificent? Is it because the Persian Gulf oil royalty threaten to devalue or abandon the dollar on the petro market? Or is it because these plutocratic sheiks, much like the Chinese leaders, subsidize so much of the national debts incurred by the profligate, progressive leaders of Europe and America? ( Loans are made with terms, conditions and with pledges of collateral favorable to the lenders.)

Jumbo says:

Goodness gracious!

Lordy almight gracious me! SIX prosecutions instead of THREE? Lord have mercy!

When I read this article, touted as there being ‘double’ under Obama as under any administration, I just KNEW it would be some tiny insignificant number 2x some other insignificant number. I’m just surprised it wasn’t 1 vs 2 prosecutions. Seriously techdirt, when did you start becoming so sensationalist..

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