Another Whistleblower — One Who Tried To Protect Other Whistleblowers — Says The 'Official Channels' Are Worthless
from the an-empty-complaint-box-is-not-an-indicator-of-a-well-run-spy-agency dept
There are no safe routes for intelligence community whistleblowers. The proper channels are pretty much guaranteed to end your career. The same goes for the unofficial channels, which route through countries uninterested in complying with extradition requests.
The administration has prosecuted more than its share of whistleblowers over the last eight years. (In fact, its share of prosecutions outnumbers all those in previous presidential administrations combined.) Another whistleblower has come forward to provide details on… the government’s treatment of whistleblowers.
John Crane, a former senior Defense Department official, details his firsthand experience with the government’s zealous pursuit of previous NSA whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and William Binney. He was part of the “official channels” and actively fought to protect these individuals from government retaliation. As Mark Hertsgaard of The Guardian notes, Crane carried with him at all times two essential documents: a copy of the Constitution and a copy of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. These were often pulled out to settle disputes over treatment of whistleblowers.
According to Crane, these whistleblowers followed all of the correct protocols when expressing their concerns about warrantless domestic surveillance and the NSA’s failure to move forward on communications it had collected from the terrorists who would go on to perform the 9/11 attacks. While this did budge the Congressional needle on a couple of NSA programs, it did nothing to protect the whistleblowers from FBI raids, criminal charges, and the end of their careers with the US government.
The person most instrumental in the prosecution of these whistleblowers was the DoD’s general counsel, Henry Shelley. It was Shelley who stripped away the protections granted to whistleblowers in order to serve them up to a highly-irritated Bush White House.
According to Crane, his superiors inside the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office were eager to help. Henry Shelley, the general counsel – the office’s top lawyer – urged that the IG office should tell the FBI agents investigating the Times leak about Drake and the other NSA whistleblowers.
Crane fought back, pointing out that whistleblowers are supposed to be protected (using the copy of the Whistleblower Act he always carried with him). Shelley was unimpressed by Crane’s citation of applicable statutes and told him he was in charge and would do things his way.
There were no further discussions between Crane and Shelley. The next move was made by the DOJ, which sent the FBI after four NSA whistleblowers. Crane suspected Shelley had used information obtained from the Inspector General’s office to identify the whistleblowers. Shelley refused to discuss the raids with Crane. Four months later, the FBI raided Thomas Drake’s house based on an indictment that seemed all too familiar to Crane.
The complaint from Drake’s lawyers seemed to confirm his suspicion that someone in the IG’s office had illegally fingered Drake to the FBI. Worse, the indictment filed against Drake had unmistakable similarities to the confidential testimony Drake had given to Crane’s staff – suggesting that someone in the IG’s office had not simply given Drake’s name to the FBI, but shared his entire testimony, an utter violation of law.
Crane also claims the Inspector General’s office told him to stonewall a FOIA request crucial to Drake’s defense against the government’s charges until after his trial. The IG’s office also “accidentally” destroyed records related to Drake’s retaliation complaint against the government. Crane was told by Shelley that this “wasn’t a problem” and could continue not being a problem if Crane was a “good team player.”
Crane — like other whistleblowers and those who fight for them — was forced out of his job. The Inspector General’s second-in-command ordered him to resign in 2013. He’s been fighting back ever since.
Crane filed a complaint against Shelley and Halbrooks, detailing many more alleged misdeeds than reported in this article. The Office of Special Counsel, the US agency charged with investigating such matters, concluded in March of 2016 that there was a “substantial likelihood” that Crane’s accusations were well-founded. The OSC’s choice of the term “substantial likelihood” was telling. It could have ruled there was merely a “reasonable belief” Crane’s charges were true, in which case no further action would have been required. By finding instead that there was a “substantial likelihood”, the OSC triggered a process that legally required secretary of defense Ashton Carter to organise a fresh investigation of Crane’s allegations.
Unfortunately, the investigation is back in the DOJ’s hands because the Department of Defense — like other government agencies — isn’t allowed to investigate itself. The DOJ is being entrusted with investigating yet another whistleblower’s claims, but its history of zealous prosecutions suggests it’s far more comfortable investigating the whistleblowers themselves.
John Crane was part of the “proper channels” for whistleblowers and, despite his best efforts, several whistleblowers were raided, indicted, and prosecuted. Crane himself was ousted from his position. The logical conclusion whistleblowers like Ed Snowden will reach is that the official channels are no less dangerous than the “unofficial” options. The latter option may be more unpredictable, but it gives whistleblowers a much better chance of being heard.