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.


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  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 23 May 2016 @ 8:13am

    For a man who carries the Constitution with him...

    We the People ... believe we should have a say in the cases of Manning, Drake, Snowden, Crane, et al;

    We the People ... believe that we had both need and right to know the information they provided;

    We the People ... believe our government is out of control in these and many other cases;

    We the People ... believe these individuals have been "targeted" and "punished" far and above their supposed "crimes";

    We the People ... believe in one law - not one for the oligarchy and one for the proletariat - this is the USA and we should have neither;

    We the People ... believe these individuals deserve to be free to pursue a career and family;

    We the People ... believe it far better for them to be wage-earning, tax-paying citizens of the USA;

    We the People ... believe that millions of dollars of our tax money should NOT be wasted on their incarceration;

    We the People ... hereby request their immediate pardon and release - or we request the immediate arrest and incarceration of those of "high" class who have committed the same "crimes" and been forgiven;

    We the People ... believe we will exercise our right to vote OUT of office any of our representatives siding against the will of the people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 9:39am

      Re: For a man who carries the Constitution with him...

      Considering the US government is teaching people that believing and knowing about their constitutional rights makes someone a domestic terrorist. That the founding fathers were terrorists to be reviled.

      Why would you expect your constitutional rights to be relevant when those in charge have clearly shown they will not honour or acknowledge their citizens have any such rights

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 8:38am

    Damn 1984 lookin' BS is what this is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 8:39am

    "We the People ... believe we will exercise our right to vote OUT of office any of our representatives siding against the will of the people."

    never happen, we are too complacent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 8:45am

      Re:

      The real problem is getting votes when you approach politics by asking what should we do about this, or as should be done with many issues, say that its up to you to make your your mind as to what you should do. Politicians who say what they will do look more like leaders, even though everybody knows that they are self serving liars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy2020 (profile), 23 May 2016 @ 9:45am

      Re:

      The system works well. If people started voting them out, the laws would change to make voting more and more inconvenient.

      The only thing to do is wait until they go too far and enough people are ready for the unpleasantness involved in forcing the issue by any means necessary.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 8:40am

    That's hilarious.
    For a whistleblower to keep their freedom, they have to run away from the very government who says they're doing all these terrible things "for our freedom".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 9:37am

    It is a tyranny pretending to still be a democratic republic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 9:59am

    When they leave whistleblowers no choice but to leak EVERYTHING, they shouldn't be surprised when that actually happens.

    Protect the whistleblowers or don't whine later that they "endangered national security".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2016 @ 11:23am

    there's a reason official channels look and act like traps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 May 2016 @ 11:28am

    Telling possessions and more telling responses

    Carrying around a copy of both the Constitution and the Whistleblower Act(and from the sound of it using both quite often) gives a very strong impression that those he was dealing with neither knew about nor cared about either. And keep in mind these were government officials dealing with whistleblowers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 24 May 2016 @ 5:31am

      Re: Telling possessions and more telling responses

      You know that mantra I'm always repeating, "Due process is not an impediment to justice?" Well if you said that to them, they'd reply, "Oh yes it is, that's why we disregard it as much as we can."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 7:34am

        Re: Re: Telling possessions and more telling responses

        Their view of what constitutes "justice" is "whatever outcome we prefer". If that's the definition, then due process certainly is an impediment to "justice".

        Never mind that the definition is absurd.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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