War on Whistleblowers: How the Obama Administration Destroyed Thomas Drake For Exposing Government Waste

By Marcy Wheeler. Cross posted from Alternet


When Thomas Drake, then an official at the National Security Agency, realized that the agency’s decision to shut down an internal data analysis program and instead outsource the project to a private contractor provided the government with less effective analysis at much higher cost, he tried to do something about it. Drake’s decision to join three other whistleblowers in asking the agency’s inspector general to investigate ultimately made him the target of a leak investigation that tore his life apart.

In 2005, the inspector general of the Department of Defense, of which NSA is a part, confirmed the whistleblowers’ accusations of waste, fraud and security risk.

Earlier this year, former NSA Director Michael Hayden even conceded that TrailBlazer, the program for which the NSA paid over $1 billion to the Science Applications International Corporation, had failed. The agency, after killing its own program (called ThinThread) “outsourced how we gathered other people’s communications,” he said in response to a question from investigative journalist Tim Shorrock. “And that was a bridge too far for industry. We tried a moonshot, and it failed.”

Nevertheless, Drake’s efforts to expose that waste and abuse would ultimately lead to his being charged under the 1917 Espionage Act — a law intended for the prosecution of spies, not whistleblowers.

Drake, a subject of a new documentary, War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State, could have been put away for the rest of his life. “Speaking truth to power is now a criminal act,” Drake told filmmaker Robert Greenwald.

The investigation that would ensnare Drake began in 2006, under the Bush administration. But he wasn’t charged until 2010, when the Obama administration accused him of providing information to Baltimore Sun reporter Siobhan Gorman. In 2006 and 2007, she wrote a series of articles on NSA inefficiencies sourced to as many as 18 people, including Drake, who contends that he did not provide any classified information to her.

Rather than charging him with leaking classified information, the government charged him with retaining classified information. Over the course of the investigation, however, the government admitted that some of the documents in question had subsequently either been declassified or were never classified to begin with. Between that embarrassing revelation and the attention of good government groups, the case against Drake fell apart.

In 2011, the government dismissed all espionage-related charges against Drake, and he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge: unauthorized use of a government computer. The judge in the case, Richard Bennett, said the case against Drake “doesn’t pass the smell test,” when he sentenced him to probation. Today Drake works at an Apple retail store rather than serving the country in a high-level national security role.

In a speech at the National Press Club last month, Drake talked about being charged with a crime originally targeted at people who sold sensitive information to our enemies.

“When you’re painted with the Espionage Act, it’s the worst thing,” Drake said, “because you’re immediately put into the same category historically as the Aldrich Ameses of the world, or the [Robert] Hanssens of the world — the real spies.”

“That’s how that World War I statute was originally designed,” Drake continued. “Troubled as it is, in terms of the Constitution, it was designed to go after spies, not truth-tellers, not whistleblowers, and not people having contact with the press. It was not designed for that. But that’s what it’s turned into.”

Equating Whistleblowing With Spying

Thomas Drake’s prosecution is just the most egregious of a series of cases the Obama administration has pursued against whistleblowers. While a number of the cases were initiated under the Bush administration, the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama has used the Espionage Act far more expansively than his predecessors. All told, Obama’s DOJ has prosecuted six whistleblowers and a researcher under the Espionage Act (in addition to Drake, the Obama administration has charged Shamai Leibowitz, Jeffrey Sterling, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, Jeffrey Sterling, Bradley Manning, and James Hitselberger).

“The government, backed by the national security state influence, is using its powers and influence to threaten, scare and try to silence whistleblowers and journalists,” said Greenwald, whose film is a joint project with the War Costs project of the Brave New Foundation, which he founded. “Using its unlimited legal and financial resources the effort to scare [people] into silence even before going through the judicial process is a serious miscarriage of justice and democracy.”

The government effectively maintains that sharing information about American policies with the American public is as bad as secretly dealing top-secret information to one of our enemies.

In both the Sterling case, in which a former CIA officer allegedly provided information on a botched operation targeted at Iran, and the Manning case, in which Bradley Manning leaked information to WikiLeaks, the government has even said as much.

In the Sterling case, the government argued that providing information to the New York Times was “more pernicious than the typical espionage case where a spy sells classified information for money” because by just giving information to the press, “every foreign adversary stood to benefit from the defendant’s unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

In the Manning case, the government justified charging Manning with “aiding the enemy” — a charge that can carry the death sentence — by contending that passing information to either WikiLeaks or the Times still amounted to indirectly handing information to al Qaeda.

And it increasingly appears the government is extending that logic — whistleblowing equals espionage — in its investigative approach.

The government’s investigation of Drake began not for his role as a source for the Baltimore Sun series, but because it was searching for sources for the devastating 2005 New York Times story, broken by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, revealing the Bush administration’s widespread use of warrantless wiretaps.

Drake was not a source for that story; he wasn’t even “read into” the program. However, the FBI appears to have identified Drake, the former NSA whistleblowers with whom he had complained to the inspector general, and Diane Roark, a former House Intelligence Committee staffer, as people who had complained internally about ThinThread and TrailBlazer, as related programs. Once they did so, the FBI interpreted actions taken to submit the IG complaint as well as information given to the Intelligence Committee — which has oversight in such matters — as proof they were leaking classified information about ThinThread and TrailBlazer.

The investigation clearly ignored the extensive whistleblowing about ThinThread — whose rejection by NSA, Drake says, laid the groundwork for the warrantless wiretapping that the Bush administration initiated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

An affidavit justifying a December 2007 warrant for Drake’s emails makes almost no mention that Drake and his colleagues were sharing information, in large part, in an effort to report fraud, waste and abuse — waste the NSA Inspector General (and, ultimately, Congress) affirmed. Instead, it suggests Drake and the people with whom he was accused of conspiring were in search of profit. While the affidavit treats with skeptism their views that ThinThread performed better than TrailBlazer, it doesn’t appear to mention that the inspector general had investigated the issue and confirmed their views. It presents Drake’s printing of specifically unclassified documents as suspicious: “Drake was then seen rolling up [unclassified] documents … and placing the documents in the glove box of his vehicle, where they would not be visible to others,” the affidavit alleges, as part of the case for probable cause.

Fishing Expedition

Once the FBI discovered a group of people who had warned the appropriate congressional oversight committee, as well as the Pentagon, that NSA had made costly, ineffective choices, the bureau kept digging into their lives until it found something.

“My life was turned upside down.” Drake said at his National Press Club speech.“I know for a fact that everything you could find out or anything you could possibly imagine in your life — any transaction, all your e-mails, any and all subscriber information with any concern, including telecommunication concerns — was all exposed to the government.  Because they were looking for what was necessary to indict me.”

When the government designates whistleblowers as espionage targets, Drake said in an interview, that designation gives them “free rein to tear your life apart.”

Drake and most of the others charged by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act still either worked directly for or were contracted to the government at the beginning of the investigation, which means the government had broad access to information on them as part of their security clearance. Then the investigation proceeded using Title III (criminal, not intelligence) warrants.

But for investigative targets who don’t hold a security clearance, the label “espionage” may serve to give the government the same kind of investigative license it has with clearance holders.

Once the attorney general deems an investigation to be a counterintelligence (that is, espionage) probe, the government gains access to a whole set of secretive investigative tools, such as National Security Letters, which require recipients, such as telecom companies, retail outlets and even libraries, to turn over records of a target’s transactions — without notifying the target. Other tools include orders, authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, to turn over business records, up to and including cell phone GPS data. These tools effectively allow the government to camp out on someone’s life — read their e-mails, search their dwellings and computers, review their financial information — until the government discovers evidence of a crime.

Is Supporting WikiLeaks a Crime?

That may be what happened with WikiLeaks. On Dec. 6, 2010, Eric Holder confirmed what had been reported a week earlier in the media: among other theories, DOJ was considering prosecuting WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act. Holder announced this at the beginning of the investigation, not after finding evidence that anyone from WikiLeaks had solicited information from Bradley Manning.

In the same comments, Holder tied such theories to aggressive investigative techniques: “I personally authorized a number of things last week and that's an indication of the seriousness with which we take this matter and the highest level of involvement at the Department of Justice.”

In a statement before his court martial on February 28, Bradley Manning insisted that no one had solicited him to send information. “The decisions that I made to send documents and information to [WikiLeaks] were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Not long after Holder made his statement, the government reportedly reached the same conclusion. Yet the government continues its investigation into known associates of WikiLeaks. It appears that without having acquired any information showing evidence that WikiLeaks solicited the information in question, the government labeled WikiLeaks a spying entity, allowing the government expansive investigative powers.

To be clear, any investigation of Julian Assange — who is not an American citizen and not in the US — could easily use such tools. But to pursue, in the same heavy-handed way, any Americans involved, the “espionage” designation provides a very valuable tool.  

Jacob Appelbaum, an American who is a security researcher and volunteer for WikiLeaks, has been heavily surveilled for two and a half years in actions apparently related to the WikiLeaks investigation. He has been stopped and interrogated at borders more than four times, subjected to physical surveillance, and had his communication metadata collected by administrative subpoena. The information collected ranges from the unique identifier assigned to every Internet user, the identifying number assigned to one’s Internet provider, cell phone service provider, general local information, phone numbers of recipients of the target’s calls and texts, e-mail addresses to which communications were sent, and more. And, the FBI once hinted, a National Security Letter was likely served on his Gmail account. Appelbaum has also talked about the danger the investigation has done to those associated with him, which in his case includes democracy activists in authoritarian countries.

Guilt By Association

The other thing that comes with some of these counterintelligence investigative techniques is a very expansive standard for collection: information need only be “relevant to” an investigation to require a third party to turn over the information requested by the government. In this way, the government can also collect information on associates of a whistleblower who may have no evident ties to a leak or crime. This permits the government to collect personal information on associates of a target or whistleblower, on the theory of guilt by association.

In Drake’s case, the government, using ordinary Article III search warrants, investigated everyone who had ties with him, Drake said in our conversation, undermining their First Amendment right of assembly.

“Everybody that was associated with me, either because they used to work for me or had links to me or had ties to me by mere association — assembly, that freedom to do so under the First Amendment — were investigated, were interrogated,” Drake said. “And some of those same people lost their jobs and their livelihood because of their association with me. Mere association meant they were guilty. And they were going to be punished — punished — because of that association.”

Worse may have happened in the WikiLeaks investigation. In response to a Freedom of Information request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center for information on investigation into supporters of WikiLeaks, the government refused to turn over information, in part, because it was statutorily prohibited from doing so. Yet it wouldn’t reveal the statute in question, because “to disclose which statute or further discuss its application publicly would undermine interests protected by [the ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks], as well as by the withholding statute.”

The government went so far as to plead with the judge not to reveal the statutes under which the government was investigating WikiLeaks supporters, writing: “Defendants respectfully request that the Court not identify the Exemption 3 statute(s) at issue.”

That the government clearly doesn’t want to reveal what statutory theories it is using to investigate not just Bradley Manning, but mere supporters of WikiLeaks, strongly suggests it is relying on one of the national security statutes that would be triggered by an espionage investigation, which would come with a gag order.

Your Data in a Driftnet

The government has three other relatively new tools it could wield against whistleblowers.

As the ACLU’s senior policy counsel Mike German pointed out in an interview, the government’s compilation of massive databases of information on U.S. persons data makes it possible to find evidence of “wrongdoing” on a person as soon as they expose themselves as whistleblowers. These databases are assembled through what is known as a “driftnet” process, where the government just collects everybody’s metadata, much as the fishing industry uses mile-long driftnets to catch everything that wanders into the net.

“A big part of the problem of the driftnet collection is that the information just sits in a pool waiting for a reason to exploit it,” German told me. “So whistleblowers are at great risk because, as they used to say in the FBI, no one is ‘administratively pure.’ Once a person becomes a whistleblower, agents have deep databases they can reach into to find anything that justifies firing them.” 

Additionally, in 2011, the FBI changed its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide to make it easier to identify any government officials who might be talking to the press. Previously, the government had required attorney general approval before accessing a journalist’s communications. But with the new DIOG, the FBI held that the policy only applied to journalists’ communications accessed via a search warrant. As the DIOG makes clear, the FBI asserts the right to access a journalist’s toll records (a record of everyone a person has called or e-mailed) using National Security Letters. And since those aren’t warrants, they don’t fall under the previous policy.

While the DIOG redacts most of the details about under what circumstances FBI agents can use NSLs to get journalists’ contact information, it makes it clear it is permissible in at least some situations. “If the NSL is seeking telephone toll records of an individual who is a member of the news media or news organization … there are no additional approval requirements other than those set out in DIOG Section”

In other words, even as the government has increasingly been targeting whistleblowers as spies, it has made it easier — potentially far, far easier — for law enforcement to access the contact information of journalists the government deems to be witnesses, via their communication with sources, to a “crime.”

Then, last year, the director of National Intelligence added a question to the polygraph personnel with security clearances would undergo, that asks specifically about contacts with “unauthorized recipients,” including the media. As with Drake, this raises the likelihood a national security official will be fired solely for sharing unclassified information with the press.

The effect of demonizing whistleblowers and throwing invasive investigative techniques at both the whistleblowers and journalists who report on them is to sow fear.  

“This arbitrariness in enforcement serves as a serious deterrent to whistleblowing because all employees know that if you become a target they will find something, even though all other agents who engage in the same act or omission aren’t punished at all,”said the ACLU’s German.

The Obama administration has set out to brand those who share information publicly as spies, even asserting sharing of information with the public is worse than sharing it with our worst enemies. But underneath that demonization, there’s an entire apparatus of invasive investigative tools that mean any national security insider can have his or her life ripped apart, under the guise of law, as retaliation for trying to expose wrongdoing.

To order a free DVD of the documentary, War on Whistleblowers, click here.

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  1. psychohistorian

    This is how they are keeping the current system propped up.

    Vilifying folk that try and do good IS an effective deterrent to others.

    And so the insanity continues………………….. but is well chronicled.

    1. pws

      One of the things I have trouble with when looking at Holder is taxonomy. I know he’s an arachnid, but I’m not sure what species.

      Grey recluse? Scorpion? Something combining the worst traits of each?

      Whatever it is, I know it’s particularly venemous.

      1. diane

        I kind of like Grey Recluse, as it’s been said there’s no such thing, yet acknowledged that some Violin spiders are actually greyish in color, and because the damage they do is very long lasting. I’ve talked to a few people bitten by them and they’ve said it takes a very long time to heal.

          1. diane

            I’d bet on it. I’d also bet a person would be hard put to prove it. … Though, who knows, … perhaps someone can.

            Breuer, whose nomination requires Senate confirmation, also lists among his clients tech and Internet bigs including Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco Systems, as well drug makers Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and the pharmaceutical lobby PhRMA. Other corporate giants include Johnson & Johnson, Goodyear, ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo and Koch Industries.

  2. from Mexico

    When the Constitution was adopted, there were three federal crimes: treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Now, there are more federal crimes than we can count — literally. The Congressional Research Service tried to tally the number of crimes sprinkled throughout federal codes, but gave up at 4,450. That does not include more than 10,000 regulations that carry criminal penalties. It’s a wonder anyone can survive 24 hours without violating some obscure statute or rule, so when the government sets out to get someone, it typically can come up with some obscure law that someone has broken.

    Complicating this is the fact that most people involved in criminal justice in the United States these days, although they may not be full-fledged psychopaths or sociopaths, are at least some sort of characteropath. These are people who have an authoritarian bent and are in love with power and control. These trump justice, fairness and common sense, and what we find is that these people play fast and loose with the truth.

    By unpinning criminal law from its moral roots, we now impose the harshest sentences on activities that are deemed improper by those with the loudest voices. Both sides of the political spectrum are equally guilty, and each side sees no foul when it is the other side which falls victim to the slowly expanding (well maybe it isn’t expanding so slowly anymore) US police state. This is government by whim, and these “whim” crimes are not based on evil intent. In fact, they require no intent at all. They are “strict liability” crimes — you don’t have to know you are acting unlawfully to be sent to prison.

    Alexis de Tocqueville warned that the greatest danger to a democracy was “soft despotism”:

    It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

    1. McMike

      We just got rid of (finally) our local DA. Classic authoritarian, piled on EVERY SINGLE case with every possible charge (and them some). Wrote LTEs denigrating the constiutional role of public defenders. Encouraged cops to push the boundaries in evidence collection and turned our little rural county into a penny ante police state. The whole works.

      Problem was, his over the top piling on and throwing the kitchen sink at every single jaywalker clogged up the courts and clogged up the cases. Slowed everythign to a crawl. Got him and the cops in trouble for bungling evidence and inevtiable snauf’s associated with overreach.

    2. banger

      Well put, well written. This is the crux of the issue. Do we really want to live in a society where everywhere we turn there is the state? I suggest that we probably don’t. The state does have a function but it has turned, at this time, into a means of oppression that justifies itself by claiming to “protect” us. Most of the state functions, laws and regs do nothing of the sort.

      A. deTocqueville wasn’t just a great observer of American life but a deep political and sociological thinker.

      1. Lord Koos

        “Do we really want to live in a society where everywhere we turn there is the state?”

        We already live in a society where everywhere we turn is the multi-national corporation. Given that corporations and the state are now basically the same thing, it’s a moot point.

    3. Capo Regime

      Desde Mexico,

      Great insights. Additionally as has been chronicled here at NC the federal judiciary is a sight to behold. Federal prosecutors have a 99% conviction rate. The process is onerous and the judges are drawn from the ranks of the prosecutors. The process is so loaded against defendants that most (even if not guilty) take a plea rather than put up a fight which they simply cannot afford. The guys at the procuradia federal in mexico can only dream of such success.

    4. Doug Terpstra

      De Tocqueville really nails our malaise—anesthetized paralysis. There is no more effective prison than one we inhabit unaware.

  3. Middle Seaman

    One wonders after the fact of these post become clear as sun shine, then remember the huge increase in undocumented workers that took place under Obama and the often written upon total abuse of the non rich using unemployment and home forecluser, who the hell is Obama.

    Is he a Martian, an undeclred enemy of the people or maybe an extreme right wing Republican?

    1. McMike

      Obama is the natural extension of the corporatist takeover that started with Carter and went public with Reagan.

      It is an almost perfect arc since then.

      Obama is its culmination, the apex of the trend. The last in the line who could pretend to be about one thing and then actually be about something else entirely, perfectly.

      The next one will have to be something else. There is no further to go out on that limb.

      1. rps

        “Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of the day, but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing [a people] to slavery” Thomas Jefferson. Rights of British America, 1774

    2. pws


      He’s a complete monster.

      Ask any tortured and murdered human rights activist in Honduras.

      Well, if you have access to an Ouija board.

  4. profoundlogic

    “When the tide goes out, you not only get to see who is naked, you see who they are naked with. And so the smokescreen goes up”. Jesse

    I suspect David Malone could have a rather interesting discussion with Mr. Drake as well. The rot in the system has now become so pervasive, that the weasels in power are forced to take more drastic measures. We can’t have little things like the truth getting in the way of the stated message. While reading Yves’ post on the gold smack-down, it strikes me that even she underestimates the calculated measures being taken to protect the status quo.


  5. Johnny Fraudclosure

    Folks don’t compartmentalize effectively by placing big ol’ Banksters together with the SAICs and the GEs and General Dynamics. Sunny Sheu was a bit of a whistleblower but that wasn’t loudly broadcast. Chris Van Hollen got all hot n’ bothered smelling the opportunity in this one. What’s sickening about this case is the flag waving to justify the righteous blowin’ of the whistle, the undercurrent of patriotism the provides cooked patriotism:
    ‘A corporation that went to far. Gotta keep the secretive spooks more Gov’mint than Private’. It’s such crap, the whole country is run on GE and Lockheed and JP Morgan and you have this idea of separation that is attractive in it’s idiotic simplicity. Don’t be fooled.

  6. allcoppedout

    These cases are less obvious in the UK – solely on the grounds we do secrecy by default. Even our NHS spent £14 million on gagging orders recently. Soon all we will have to rely on will be a Samizdat equivalent.
    It’s time we turned the metadata haul on the banksters and corrupt politicians.

  7. banger

    Whistleblowing is espionage if it is taken outside the organization–the government believes it cannot function efficiently if management has to face public scrutiny. Few people know the extensiveness of government secrecy or why so much is secret. Most of the government (and I speak as an ex-government contractor) is in business to serve the central authorities only, not the public.

    I believe that, for the U.S. to continue as a viable society we must gradually dis-empower the federal government at most levels. It has, in my view, become the reason for its existence and no longer, on balance, good for society as a whole.

    There is no motivation in Washington to care about the public–all the rewards and punishment are set up to ensure the continuation and relative power of particular organizations even particular offices within those organizations. I saw major abuses in my work and I can assure you I reported them up the ladder where they were almost always ignored.

    To be fair, there are many people in government, with all the right motivations but the system does not favor good motivations.

    1. Massinissa

      The same way capitalism weeds out honest and responsible employers.

      Both our economic and political systems essentially reward psychopathy.

      1. banger

        Yes, but it wouldn’t do that if the people had not been willing to close their eyes to what has been going on.

    2. Jeff L

      So if releasing info to the public is prosecuted the same as releasing classified info to enemy governments, then that must mean the public is an enemy to our government and vice versa.

      1. banger

        Yes, exactly. That’s the basis for the entire system it’s not legitimate and even Confucius said that we are not required to support an illegitimate state. I believe we have just that.

  8. McMike

    Well, of course we live in a police state that feels free to act with impunity. The American right has spent the last forty years asking for it. And we got it.

    This grotesque caricature of totalitarianism was not born overnight with the election of Obama, it was built methodically, as our democracy was deliberately dismantled piece by piece over the last couple decades – each step cheered, no, demanded, by the right.

    I can recal countless instances across the years where the right throatily cheered as the government crushed this or that group or person. Denounced due process as “technicalities”, screeched that the word “habeus corpus” is not in the Constitution, shouted that if you are innocent then you have nothing to fear, cowed legislators with taunts of being soft on crime, demanded that muslims be preemptively rounded up, cheered the entrapment of clearly inept low rent crooks, laughed as police smashed peaceful protests or coraled them into pens, adopted incoherent arguments in favor of secret surveilance and secret detentions and secret courts and secret trials, accepted the use of torture with glee, joked as the mentally retarded and children were executed, and cheered the Bush adminstration as they laid the groundwork for all of this.

    Just as with the banking meltdown where we witnessed the natural extension of right wing anti-regulatory extremism, we are also witnessing the natural extension of right wing anti-Constitutional authoritarianism.

    1. pws

      Sure, but the important thing is despite very, very superficial differences between he and the Right, Obama is firmly ensconced as part of the American Right Wing.

      In fact, them calling him a Marxist is the best thing they can do for their cause, so maybe they even know what they’re doing?

      (We always assume they are too dumb to realize that he’s actively pursuing their policy goals, but why do we have to believe that? I still think they threw the last Presidential election. Don’t assume that the party bosses are overly concerned about who people are “domestically partnering” with, just because the rubes are.)

      1. McMike

        Lord knows.

        We of course always need to seperate our analysis of party leaders from that of the lumpenwingnuts.

        My cynicism usually stops short of throwing elections. The POTUS is simply too big a Golden Ring.

        On the other hand, half-hearted and aborted efforts is something else. After all, when the fix is in, you stop caring who actually wins, becuase you win either way.

        I think with both McCain and Romney, the poobahs started crepping backwards into the shadows near the end, because the writing was on the wall. There was no reason to fight a losing battle, since even when their guy loses, they win.

      2. traveler

        “In fact, them calling him a Marxist is the best thing they can do for their cause, so maybe they even know what they’re doing?”

        Of course they do. It’s all about confusion. Obama is a socialist, he’s a Marxist – whatever works to spread misinformation and distort meaning.

    2. banger

      The right did ask for it but so did the left–they just did it in different areas. Of course, it much depends on your definition of left and right.

      1. McMike

        Can you offer some examples of how the left asked for it?

        Also what are your definitions of r & l? I do agree its important to be using the same language.

        1. banger

          Democrats including Labor supported the expansion of state power and the military industrial complex. Also expanded state power through regulation of everything from education, industry (sometimes for the better), health-care (very mixed), family life and so on. Not all state power is in itself bad even those of us who want to place severe limitations on state power believe that but the left, in general, supported, starting in WWI the expansion of central authority whether it was social welfare, civil rights, war-making powers, the limitation of civil liberties and so on. The left was divided over the Patriot Act and today much of the left supports Obama who has expanded state power in the area of extra-judicial killings without oversight.

          1. McMike

            I’ll make a thorough answer later, but it seems clear to me that there is very little that is “left” or “liberal” about the support for Obama at the policy level, or in the Democratic party leadership’s actions and inactions.

            I do not think it is accurate to equate the Democratic party with the left anymore. The terms should not be used interchangably

            Most of the defenses I hear of Obama are not at all liberal, even if they come from Democrats. Generally they use coopted and hybridized language and principles from the right. And within even the scope of twenty years would once have been considered as coming from the right, even the far right. They only seem to the left by virtue of the right’s tremendous success in dragging everyone off their cliff.

            With the limted exeptions around some social issues like abortion over which they are still pretty well on the left. And gay marriage, which while possibly a partisan ploy, is actually the “right” thing to do. But even that is arguably more libertarian than liberal. Because it is not asking for government action, it is asking for government inaction.

            I would also add that in broad strokes, the classic liberal prescription for an activist central government tended to devole into bureaucracy as a matter of entropy and unintended consequences, while the right’s enthusiasm for totalitarian authoritarianism was very much explicity the point.

            When the left argued for a srong FDA, they did not intend that it would someday morph into an anti-consumer captive tool of the corporatations. On th eother hand, when the right argued that Bush should have the right to kidnap citizens in the night and send them to legal limbos to be tortured and maybe someday face secret trials in secret courts with secret evidence, that is exactly what they wanted.

            But the bottom line is the liberals lost with the election of Reagan, and this has been a right-wing show ever since.

          2. jrs

            Extreme wealth inequality is probably inevitably totalitarian. That has been the right’s project (though a few on the right were probably too naive to know it) Some liberals may have been along for the ride, sure, but they are not to be confused with the left.

          3. jrs

            Although fundementally I’m not concerned who is to blame, I don’t care very much, it’s tedious, boring, and overgeneralizing if applied to the masses (to specific political figures it may be quite accurate). I am concerned about how things reenforce each other systematically.

            Extreme wealth inequality, reenforces complete (not partial which is probably inevitable in any system) capture of the government, reenforces extreme wealth inequality, etc. Extreme wealth inequality reenforces the police state (to avoid unrest when you can’t buy the people off with a good lifestyle anymore). And the police state reenforces the powerlessness of everyone but the powerful (can’t protest etc.) – reenforces our powerlessness on issues like the environment, maintaining programs like social security, etc. etc.

          4. McMike

            re jrs. Sure, blame for blame’s sake is of little use.

            But understanding the mechanisms are important. The self-perpetuating wealth disparity used right-wing “ideological” propoganda as the rationale to build that wealth and to neuter regulation and scrutiny.

            A willing right-wing populace served their purpose to lend legitimacy, to stifle opposition, and to provide votes. The fact that now in the wake of that effort the right is still being prodded to blame the liberlalism boogeyman is proof of the power and importance of that mechanism.

            If we are to break the cycle that interests you, will will have to break the ideological justifcations that brought it to us and that still seek to perpetuate it.

            Otherwise we’ll get exactly what we’ve got: more of the same insanity – and even doubling down.

  9. TomDor

    Would it be considered a national security concern that the banks have been allowed to launder money of drug cartels and money of identified terrorist entities. Could I be prosecuted for making conclusions and accusations based on publicly disseminated information such as:
    banks, regulators and the security organs of the state are working together both domestically and internationally to round up terrorists. They are searching all communications and transactions without proper authority to meet their ends. It is why no bank prosecutions have been met out, why criminal activity is not looked at, why DoJ and administrations have continued with no oversight under the secrecy acts and patriot acts.
    Crimes have been committed at the highest level of government as recently released reports of the complicity in torture by the bush administration show.
    Clearly, the establishment of dirty hands doctrine is being systematically imposed on every US citizen through information gathering in violation to our fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure…thus rendering the right of redress moot.
    Information technologies allow real time video manipulation of live stream video – a dangerous undermining of witness accounts and a dangerous inroad for propaganda – programs like raptor have long ceased to be part of the American news. Real time video manipulation has been around for a decade but, I assume this has had the cloak of secrecy pulled over it and the Raptor program.
    Financing has been, and continues to be a form of warfare against international and domestic suspects.
    The undermining of our economy is a direct undermining of our security, by fact that this financial warfare was deliberate and planned, was not stopped at our borders and used domestically should be prosecuted as a treason level offense.
    Crimes against humanity should be prosecuted – See Bush and Cheney.
    Secrecy (turning out the lights) undermines the ability of citizens to be well informed – this undermines a democracy or republic…..cockroaches, pathological predators and cowards operate in secrecy.
    If you have nothing to hide then…whistleblowers should not be a problem.
    Incidentally, the best way to put an end to all wars is not to begin any.
    He isn’t really a big time crook unless you must let him alone to prevent the loss of public confidence.

    “We, the People, are the rightful masters of both the Congress and the Courts. Not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who have perverted it.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be … The People cannot be safe without information. When the press is free, and every man is able to read, all is safe.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.” -Alexis de Tocqueville

    “War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it.” -George Orwell

    And the reality of this all is described below

    “A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.” -Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

  10. Dr. Pitchfork

    Well, at least we know they’re keeping good tabs on the terrorists, too. Stopping bombings and whatnot. It’s the price we have to pay to keep safe, right? /S

    1. TomDor

      In 1755 (Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, Tue, Nov 11, 1755), Franklin wrote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

      This phrasing was also the motto in Historical Review of Pennsylvania, attributed to Franklin

      It’s important to note that this sentiment, with many variations, was much used in the Revolutionary period by Franklin and others.

  11. TomDor

    These events, the corrupting of our Constitution, the general decline in human freedoms and subversion of our justice system are not just one administration’s fault. Nor are they a left and right issue. I am a little tired of the petty blame game being foisted about like kids fighting with sticks. These issues are down at the foundations of our society at the roots of our republic. We the people are culpable in our elective form of government and our responses and aid to fellow citizens…. I agree that many of us have no time to truly delve into the legal, constitutional, moral and educational details of the mass of information coming over the gunwales of our collective boat but, it should not serve as an excuse to stand passively by…just taking potshots or throwing peanuts as one pleases instead of actively participating and standing up to defend the Constitution and honoring those who have strived before us.
    Transparency is a great concern and, instead of snarking about it – speak up about it, look at those who represent you, look at those who refuse to represent their citizens who voted them in to represent you. Speak, write, support and admonish directly those representatives you elected. Take responsibility for informing your selves. Reject the easy path of token infighting and value the larger picture.

    Sorry for the rant – for I have also been guilty of small thinking and off-hand criticism and spewing vindictive palliatives. None the less – I will not blame ‘the other side lightly’ I will, however, stand up for our Constitution and stand against perversions.

    As far as going after whistleblowers – I hope that juries will nullify charges against the whistleblowers due to the outrageous conduct and injustice being waged against these brave people. May we also prosecute the folks in our previous admin re torture. We should also charge the TBTF captains of crimes wherever they are found.

    1. McMike

      Re jury nullification. You ought to study Tim Dechristopher and watch Bidder 70.

      The jury was never allowed to hear his defense. Nor to hear that he was vindicated by the very agency that was prosecuting him, when they later admitted the leases were indeed illegal.

      In any case, after years of being bullied and harassed by the Feds, and having your trial delayed time after time, by the time comes for your day in court, you no longer can hold a job, your former coworkers resent you, your neighbors are suspicious of you, your bank accounts have been frozen, your home foreclosed, your computer seized and home ransacked, you have tens of thousands in legal fees due, you have no health insurance, your face has been plastered all over the media and your life history of missteps and bad days publicized along with a pile of outright lies, you’ve spent weeks in jail pre-trial and hocked yourself to a bondsman costing thousands in fees, your children are terrorized and taunted in school, and your wife left you. You’ve been audited by the IRS, harassed by the local cops, your credit cards canceled. You’ve sat through literally weeks of interogation and depostions. You’ve been screamed at and shoved. You’ve been frog-walked and stuffed head-first into back seats of sedans. You’ve walked in leg irons.

      Now you drink too much, you have a bad back and migraines, you’ve gained or lost fifty pounds, you can’t sleep, you have an ulcer, and dogs bark at you on the street. Someone through a dead racoon through your front window.

      Or… you are a highly trained intelligence analyst that now sells iPhones to high school kids and is facing life in prison for telling the truth.

      By the time your trial comes, and you are facing decades in prison, and the government has made it clear it is taking this to the limit and it has unlimited time and money, and your lawyers tell you there’s always a chance you can lose, about that time, you’ll take any plea deal the Feds offer.

      Around that time suicide starts looking good.

  12. diane

    The fact that upper echelon at the APA (American Psychological Association) aided, abetted, and defended Psychological and Physical Torture, exposed, in a hideous and horrifying fashion, how systemic Torture is to our ‘system of Government’:

    April 2007 Psychoanalysis, The American Psychological Association, and the Involvement Of Psychologists at Guantanamo Bay

    By Dr. Frank Summers

    The question that has plagued me throughout my efforts to overturn the APA position is: Why is the APA so insistent on finding a way to rationalize and protect behavior that is clearly unethical and in violation of basic ethical precepts? Koocher’s letter gave me a clue. He seemed to be unashamedly excited in anticipation of psychologists playing the major behavioral science role for the DOD. Since World War II, psychological research has received large amounts of DOD funding, some of it going to former APA presidents, to investigate techniques applicable to coercive interrogation (McCoy, 2006). As long as it does not oppose the ethics of military activities, psychology can establish itself as the primary recipient of DOD research money as well as consulting contracts, especially now that psychiatry has adopted an unequivocal moral stance against some DOD facilities. While I do not and could not have definitive evidence that research and consulting funds are the motives for the bond between psychology and the DOD, the behavior of the APA leadership strongly suggests that this is the case. So, in the end, the elderly gentleman at the drug store near where I grew up had a time-honored insight that may explain the puzzle. “Boys,” he used to tell us, “when something doesn’t make sense, just follow the money.”

    1. diane


      04/11/13 Where Accountability Goes to Die – Guantánamo and the APA


      As psychologists distressed by the involvement of our own profession in detainee abuse,[pdf] we are especially troubled by the failure of the American Psychological Association (APA) to sanction one of its members, Dr. John Leso, a psychologist and Army officer who served at Guantánamo from June 2002 to January 2003. Six long years ago one of us (Trudy Bond) filed a complaint against Dr. Leso with the APA’s Ethics Committee. Providing detailed and comprehensive documentation, the complaint identified Dr. Leso’s role in developing abusive and torturous detention and interrogation procedures at the facility, as well as his direct participation in the mistreatment of prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani. Remarkably the Ethics Committee has still not adjudicated this case.

      The evidence of Dr. Leso’s ethical violations is quite considerable and thus difficult to summarize. While much information is still classified, ample evidence of wrongdoing by Dr. Leso is publicly available in a wide range of official government documents. Of particular note is a 2008 Report from the Senate Armed Services Committee[pdf] (SASC), based on the Committee’s extensive inquiry into the treatment of detainees held at Guantánamo and elsewhere. The Report discussed the activities of a military psychologist – identified in supporting documentation[pdf] as Dr. Leso – and psychiatrist Paul Burney as the lead members of the first Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT) at Guantánamo, tasked with using their professional expertise to advise interrogators.

      According to the SASC Report, after three months of monitoring interrogations at Guantánamo, Drs. Leso and Burney traveled to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for training in interrogation techniques modelled on the Army’s program of Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE). SERE is an intensive training program for U.S. service members at high risk of capture. One component teaches how to resist the type of interrogation employed “by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions.” Thus SERE trainees are exposed to torture techniques as a form of inoculation training. As the SASC Report documents in detail, during the period after the 9/11 attacks, CIA and military psychologists reverse-engineered these SERE training techniques to be used as “enhanced interrogation techniques” against U.S. “war on terror” prisoners. With this maneuver the U.S. military joined those powers that “refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions” in interrogations.


    2. diane

      (Very sorry, posted the above on the wrong thread, can it be deleted? I’ll post it on the Torture thread.)

      1. Blunt

        I wouldn’t be too much concerned, diane. The abuses are of a piece and are indicative of the way government, oligarchy and military command/supply/consultants are all the same with different names, segments.

        I find myself hopeful that we’ll soon storm the Bastille; although sometimes I think it’s easier to feel hopeless. (No doubt the impetus for the actions taken by the various arms of TPTB.)

        Perhaps a way of making things better is to found a resource-based economy wherein resources are held as common: air, water, intelligence, creativity; and ditch the money economy. Just a thought.

        1. diane

          Yes, ditching the money economy will always have my support.

          Needing money to literally survive has been a catastrophic system for humankind. I can’t imagine how many millions of toxic ‘products’ and ‘occupations’ wouldn’t be in existence if those ‘inventors’ and ’employees’ hadn’t felt it necessary to ‘make’ money in order to eat and keep a roof over their heads; let alone all of the killings.

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