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.

Filed Under: aiding the enemy, espionage, leaks, whistleblowers

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.