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Charging Wikileaks Source: The Nail in the Coffin of Whistblowers

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Even the Washington Post gets it. In its article on the criminal charges brought against Army intelligence analyst Pfc. Bradley Manning, the sub-headline to the article reads:


The opening paragraph states that the military charging Bradley Manning

is likely to further deter would-be whistleblowers.

I don't care if it's Bush or Obama at the helm. The biggest crimes of our generation--torture, warrantless wiretapping, and extraordinary rendition--would not have come to light but for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. For the hand-wringing "but we can't willy-nilly reveal classified information" crowd, do you think Abu Ghraib wasn't classified?

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We are told (though there has been not a shred of evidence other than the government saying this, and even the charges do not reflect this number) that Manning gave some 250,000 classified State Department cables to All we really KNOW is that the website published a horrific video of an American helicopter massacring unarmed Iraqi civilians, including children, and the shooters cheering on each other as if it were a video game.

And the former senior National Security Agency (NSA) official Thomas Drake? The party line is that he "leaked" classified material to a newspaper. If you read the indictment, he has really been indicted under the Espionage Act, a 93-year-old law meant to catch spies, for allegedly "retaining" classified information. What the government is really mad about is that an article appeared in the Baltimore Sun describing how and why the NSA opted for an billion-dollar, failed invasive surveillance program called "Trailblazer" over one that could more adequately collect intelligence information without violating people's privacy.

Short of killing someone (think Karen Silkwood, and more recently, of the "worldwide manhunt" for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange launched by the Pentagon), this is the worst, and increasingly popular, form of retaliation that can be taken against a whistleblower: criminal prosecution for revealing the truth--which in both the Manning and Drake cases did no harm to national security, but instead committed the far worse "crime" of embarrassing the government. In fact, both these men were trying to expose conduct they thought, and that was, illegal.

I urge you to "like" the Save Tom Drake page on Facebook and to check out the Help Bradley Manning website.

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.
--James Madison

reprinted from with author permission

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My name is Jesselyn Radack and I am the former Justice Department ethics attorney and whistleblower in the case of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. In today's issue of The National Law Journal (Feb. 19, 2007), I have an Op-Ed entitled (more...)

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Business as usual. By all means try to remain unac... by Vaikunthanath Kaviraj on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:17:47 AM
The USA's prestige went out the window around 2001... by Dak on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:39:44 AM
Well, I was jesting, but also a little serious, be... by Vaikunthanath Kaviraj on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:50:13 AM
Isn't that what investigative reporters are up aga... by Margaret Bassett on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:22:19 AM
Going after whistleblowers is the only activity th... by Marika on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:23:12 AM
Only Cheney can leak classified info. By the way, ... by bruce powell on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:48:53 AM
I wish people would get their facts correct. Libby... by Recce1 on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 8:58:46 PM
When a Government hides the truth or punishes the ... by Michael Morris on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 10:56:42 AM
What did Pfc. Manning provide us other than the co... by Peter Wedlund on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 11:35:21 AM
The full force of government is implemented when a... by Henry Pelifian on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 12:13:26 PM
And the Abu Gharib private who was punished was a ... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Jul 8, 2010 at 6:08:53 AM
"I know a little about whistle blowing, and making... by Aurora on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 12:52:13 PM
I supported Obama because I thought he be a new JF... by Miriam Callaghan on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 3:17:06 PM
Let's just get over that Honesty, Intregrity thing... by Roger on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 1:13:25 PM
Almost everything the government has classified is... by Josh Mitteldorf on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 6:23:27 PM
Obama will save us and defend the Constitution. He... by Davey Jones on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 6:41:44 PM
Ms. Radack, I applaud your efforts and love listen... by Steven G. Erickson on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 7:26:51 PM
I think it is very difficult to encourage other pe... by Marika on Thursday, Jul 8, 2010 at 11:35:41 AM
Golly gee, I suppose President ImaShama will order... by Blaine Kinsey on Wednesday, Jul 7, 2010 at 8:42:56 PM
Remember when Cindy McCain, during the campaign, a... by Ed Tubbs on Thursday, Jul 8, 2010 at 12:22:11 PM
For the record, I'm a conservative who's a 20 year... by Recce1 on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 5:34:35 PM