How Does our Government Treat Whistle-Blowers?

ImageHow does the United States government tend to treat whistle blowers? You know, those people with enough integrity to put their own job, livelihood, family and sometimes life at risk in order to expose government corruption. The government punishes them, because they stepped out of line, and revealed one of the many abuses our government participates in.

Since September 11, 2001 the NSA decided that in order to catch terrorists, they would need to use the same methods of internet surveillance that they use overseas—dragnet a massive amount of personal data about individuals and then store it in a database that can be searched like Google. The only problem with this is that the constitution requires warrants of law enforcement to access that type of information, so the NSA was violating Americans’ basic civil rights. Some people in the NSA found this to be a problem; they were William E. Binney, Thomas A. Drake and J. Kirk Wiebe. They blew the whistle on illegal activities of the NSA, and were punished for it. (Full Article).

The three were originally accused by the government of leaking information to multiple newspapers and to a member of the House Intelligence Committee about the domestic spying operation called Trailblazer Project—just what were they blazing the trail for, increasing government surveillance of American Citizens without warrants? The FBI raided all three of their houses, Binney claiming to have been held at gun point. Drake was the only one charged, indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917, however in 2007 the charges were dropped and Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of misusing a government computer.

‘“The NSA’s new approach was that the President had the authority to override FISA and the Bill of Rights, and the NSA worked under the authority of the President,” said Drake. “The new mantra to intercepting was to ‘just get it’ regardless of the law.”’ In 2008 the three NSA whistleblowers brought a case against the NSA to end the surveillance of Americans and hold those responsible for illegally starting the program.

This program was started when President George W. Bush was in office. When President Obama took office the “administration originally attempted to get the case dismissed in 2009 on the grounds that “state secrets” would be divulged if it were litigated, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December 2011 that the case would proceed”. Apparently the last two presidents think it is important to be able to spy on the American people. Of course now these honest Americans who took it upon themselves to alert us to the corruption in the NSA have lost their jobs and been tied up in the court system for years.

Another case of whistle blower retaliation was when weapons from the botched ATF operation “Fast and Furious” were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. No one was fired or held accountable for the actual failed operation, yet those who let the public know about this travesty were punished by the ATF. After Senator Grassley first made the allegations public in early 2011 Scott Thomasson — then chief of the ATF’s Public Affairs Division — said, according to an eyewitness account: “We need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys [the whistle-blowers] and take them down.”

“All these whistleblowers have axes to grind,” Thomasson also allegedly said. “ATF needs to f–k [sic] these guys.”’ (Full Article). Another article claims that the “Thomasson has been made the division chief of the Firearms Operations Unit and the whistle-blowers have been placed under his supervision, raising concerns… that the officials could face retaliation.” (Full Article). Other reports indicate that the whistle blowers were in fact demoted after the allegations came to light, or transferred to less prestigious or exciting positions. Some even when down a pay grade with their demotions. Again the government makes honest people pay for their part in taking on corruption. Luckily Senator Grassley and Rep. Issa have successfully initiated a probe into the department to make sure whistle blowers are not being retaliated against.

These are just two examples of whistle blower retaliation in very recent history. There are countless more examples, and we should all be vigilant to elect the type of people who will support transparency, and even eliminate ineffective branches such as the ATF. Senator Grassley and Rep. Issa should be commended for their part in rooting out corruption.

Learn more about government opposition to free speech here. (Includes video interview of Drake and his colleagues).

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