Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Leaking is NOT 'aiding the enemies of the United States,' Mr. President

A new investigative report offers a creepy look inside Obama's Orwellian war on whistleblowers,

Leaking is NOT 'aiding the enemies of the United States,' Mr. President

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. 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.

-- Obama-Biden transition team white paper on Ethics, 2008-09.

OK, so I think so far we've already established here that President Obama lied, massively. Now the only question is whether he and his transition team were lying when they published that over four years ago, or are they lying now as they take their war on whistleblowers and an aggressive free press to levels that are starting to rival Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

In the past, I've mentioned Obama's "war on whistleblowers," with more government employees charged with espionage for talking with reporters than every previous administration put together. The so-called offenders include officials who went public on torture policies during the Bush years and on warrantless wiretapping of phone calls. The wide net cast for leakers had also lead to more aggressive First-Amendment-be-damned sweeping investigations of reporters and news organizations like Fox News and the Associated Press, which reports today the probe has had a chilling effect. Today, a national security reporter must feel like a journalist in some faraway banana-republic dictatorship.

Now it gets worse. There's a new report out today from McClatchy News Service co-authored by Jonathan Landay -- the people who blew the lid off the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, except that no one listened. Maybe they'll listen this time. Because it turns out that the current assault on the First Amendment right now in Washington is more creepy, more Orwellian than you thought:

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. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“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

Not all leaks are created equal -- most of us can agree that there are certain kinds of leaks, about troop movements during wartime or the identity of an undercover international spy, that can aid the enemy. But most leaks are not in that category -- they concern things like the immoral conduct of the Vietnam War (as revealed in the Pentagon Papers), prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, favoritism toward big banks, or the unlawful domestic spying, from ear of  the Martin Luther King wiretaps and COINTELPRO to the era of the NSA's massive data grabs.

The First Amendment to enshrine a free press was centered on the notion of holding the government accountable, and that simply can't be done without leaks, the kind of behavior that the Obama administration is now waging war on. What's more, the encouragement of government workers to essentially spy all the time on their co-workers is something that reeks of the heyday of East Germany and the Stasi secret police. The vast majority of news leaks are for the benefit of one group: The American people.

Is really that who the Obama administration considers "the enemies of the United States"?

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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