John Kiriakou, who is in jail for blowing the whistle
on the CIA's torture program, has written a compelling op-ed for The Guardian about how President Obama's war against whistleblowers
, including calling whistleblowers spies
is like modern-day McCarthyism
, where if you're not careful, the government will denounce you as a "traitor" or a "spy" when all you really did was expose questionable behavior by the government. Kiriakou recounts the details of his own case:
In early 2012, I was arrested and charged with three counts of espionage and one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA). (I was only the second person in US history to be charged with violating the IIPA, a law that was written to be used against rogues like Philip Agee.)
Two of my espionage charges were the result of a conversation I had with a New York Times reporter about torture. I gave him no classified information – only the business card of a former CIA colleague who had never been undercover. The other espionage charge was for giving the same unclassified business card to a reporter for ABC News. All three espionage charges were eventually dropped.
So, why charge me in the first place?
It was my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture program and for confirming to the press, despite government protestations to the contrary, that the US government was, indeed, in the business of torture.
He notes, of course, that there's a massive double standard. If someone powerful reveals information for other reasons (i.e., not to blow the whistle on abuse) there's no problem:
Nearly a century later, when the deputy director for national intelligence revealed the amount of the highly-classified intelligence budget in an ill-conceived speech, she was not even sent a letter of reprimand – despite the fact the Russians, Chinese, and others had sought the figure for decades. When former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta boastfully revealed the identity of the Seal Team member who killed Osama bin Laden in a speech to an audience that included uncleared individuals, the Pentagon and the CIA simply called the disclosure "inadvertent".
There was no espionage charge for Panetta. But there was a $3m book deal.
The situation is pretty clear. The administration uses espionage charges to scare whistleblowers away and to permanently damage the reputation of anyone who dares even the slightest whistleblowing which might embarrass the administration.