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  • In the United States, around 3 million people work with classified information as part of their job.

  • That includes people who work in the military, for government agencies like the CIA,

  • or for private companies hired by those agencies.

  • Let's say you are one of those people.

  • And you learn something that bothers you.

  • Because this is your job, you know that the laws around classified information are serious.

  • But let's say the thing you learn is really bad.

  • Maybe a government program is wasting billions of taxpayer dollars.

  • Or a federal agency is spying on millions of ordinary Americans.

  • Or, the head of your government is making shadowy deals with foreign leaders for personal gain.

  • You have a decision to make.

  • A sort ofchoose your own adventure.”

  • But behind each door is a different set of risks.

  • If you decide to expose what you've learned, that's called whistleblowing.

  • And in the US, it's often regarded as a brave, patriotic thing to do.

  • There are laws to protect it.

  • But the reality, for the 3 million people who work with classified information,

  • is much more complicated.

  • What would you do?

  • This is Daniel Ellsberg, an American military analyst in the 1960s.

  • Ellsberg learned that the US government had lied to the public about why the US was at war in Vietnam,

  • and about how deadly the war was.

  • In 1971, he gave 7,000 classified documents that exposed those lies to the New York Times,

  • and then to 20 other newspapers.

  • Ellsberg took door #1: leaking your evidence of government wrongdoing, directly to the media.

  • His leak became known as thePentagon Papers.”

  • Three years later, the US pulled out of the war.

  • But leaking classified information to the media is illegal.

  • And in Ellsberg's case, the government made him a target.

  • We've got to keep our eye on the main ball, the main ball is Ellsberg.

  • We got to get this son of a bitch.”

  • The federal government charged Ellsberg under the Espionage Act, a law from 1917,

  • originally written to go after spies working with foreign governments.

  • But Ellsberg got lucky.

  • It turned out that the government had broken the law by spying on him, and a judge threw out the charges.

  • He was free to go.

  • But other leakers haven't been so lucky.

  • Chelsea Manning, an American soldier, leaked classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010,

  • including evidence that the US had committed war crimes in Iraq.

  • She went to prison for 7 years.

  • In 2013, the cybersecurity expert Edward Snowden leaked evidence

  • of a massive government surveillance program to international newspapers.

  • He fled the United States to avoid being prosecuted for espionage.

  • Leaking classified information to the media is one common kind of whistleblowing.

  • But it's also illegal, so it's treacherous for those that risk it.

  • Fortunately, in the US there's another option: to go through official, internal channels

  • for coming forward with a complaint.

  • This is door #2: legal whistleblowing.

  • In 1998, the US created a process for people who work with classified information to file complaints:

  • First to an inspector general, and then to the director of national intelligence, and

  • then on to Congress.

  • This is someone who worked in national security at the time.

  • His name is Thomas Drake.

  • Shortly after September 11th, Drake learned that the National Security Agency was part

  • of an unprecedented program inside the federal government, calledStellar Wind.”

  • The program collected emails, phone conversations, financial transactions, and the web activity

  • of millions of American citizens, without a warrant.

  • What are we doing violating the Constitution?

  • I knew that if I remained silent that I would be complicit in a crime.

  • Drake considered taking what he knew to the press, but knew it would put him at risk.

  • I knew that that was fraught with enormous peril.

  • I was extremely familiar what happened to Daniel Ellsberg.

  • Luckily, he had a legal route he could follow.

  • He brought his concerns to his supervisor, to his own agency's inspector general's office,

  • and eventually to Congress.

  • But his agency told him that no matter what the Constitution said,

  • the White House said the program was legal, and that that was good enough for them.

  • "I could feel the hair standing up on the back of my neck, because I was thrown back to the 70s, and Nixon.”

  • Drake's next problem was that the 1998 law he had been following

  • didn't do anything to protect him against retaliation.

  • Drake's identity became public within his agency, and he was gradually pushed out of his job.

  • I was increasingly isolated.

  • They finally removed me from all positions, all responsibilities, all programs.

  • There's no recourse, and no penalty if the agency decides to retaliate against you.

  • Finally, after Drake's complaints went nowhere, he chose a different path.

  • He went to the media.

  • And because he remembered what happened to Ellsberg,  he chose to share unclassified information,

  • which meant it was legal.

  • But then, in 2010, the Obama administration accused him of violating the Espionage Act,

  • the same as Ellsberg, who had leaked classified information.

  • "Thomas Drake is charged with violating espionage laws."

  • "Prosecutors claimed that Drake had betrayed his country."

  • Drake's case was only the fourth time in history that the Espionage Act

  • had been used to prosecute a whistleblower.

  • But since the Obama administration, it's become a lot more common.

  • Eventually the case collapsed because Drake did nothing illegal.

  • But his career in the government was over.

  • Today, he works at an Apple Store.

  • The price is enormous.

  • I have no retirement.

  • That's gone.

  • You lose your entire social network, in terms of work.

  • There's people who lost their jobs because of their association with me.

  • Those are burdens that I will carry with me the rest of my life.

  • In August 2019, an officer in the CIA filed a whistleblower complaint

  • saying that President Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of his political rivals.

  • Just like Drake, the officer followed the process laid out in the law.

  • He took the complaint to the inspector general.

  • The inspector general took it to the director of national intelligence.

  • Then it stopped.

  • The director of national intelligence never brought it to Congress.

  • So the inspector general went over his head.

  • "Deeply disturbing, what we read this morning."

  • "I'm announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry."

  • Testimony from witnesses in the impeachment investigation has backed up almost everything

  • laid out in the whistleblower complaint.

  • And whistleblower protections were updated in 2012 with more explicit language,

  • saying the government can't retaliate against a whistleblower the way they did against Thomas Drake.

  • So the whistleblower should be protected.

  • But where the laws still fall short is whether it's a crime to reveal a whistleblower's identity to the public.

  • That's what the president and his allies are hoping to do next.

  • "There's no law that prevents me from mentioning the name of who's been said to be the whistleblower."

  • "The whistleblower...

  • ...should be revealed."

  • The parts of the government that deal in secrecy are also the least accountable to the public.

  • And whistleblowers in those agencies are some of the only ways wrongdoing there might ever come to light.

  • But the system fails them.

  • And every retaliation sends a clear message.

  • If both leaking, and legal whistleblowing, leave government whistleblowers vulnerable,

  • this system will push more and more people who know something's wrong, into door number three:

  • doing nothing at all.

In the United States, around 3 million people work with classified information as part of their job.

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B1 INT drake whistleblower classified government inspector general espionage

How America fails its whistleblowers

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    林宜悉   posted on 2020/09/18
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