The Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistleblowers suffered two serious and well-deserved defeats. The first occurred in the prosecution of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was accused of multiple acts of espionage, only for the DOJ to drop virtually all of the charges right before the trial was to begin and enter into a plea agreement for one minor misdemeanor. Today, The Washington Post -- under the headline "Judge blasts prosecution of alleged NSA leaker" -- reports that the federal judge presiding over the case "harshly criticized U.S. prosecutors’ treatment of a former spy agency official accused of leaking classified material."Go read the original to get the full article and to access the embedded links.
As the transcript of Drake's sentencing hearing published by Secrecy News reflects, Judge Richard Bennett of the U.S. District Court for Maryland was infuriated by two aspects of the DOJ's conduct: (1) after the Bush DOJ executed a search warrant of Drake's home in 2007, the Obama DOJ -- 2 1/2 years later -- finally indicted him, meaning he had to live with that cloud of criminal uncertainty over his head for that outrageously lengthy period of time; and (2) despite dropping all of the serious charges right before the trial was about to begin, the DOJ demanded that Drake be forced to pay a $50,000 fine as "a deterrent" (on top of the tens of thousands of dollars he spent in legal fees until he had no money left and had to use public defenders, as well as the fact that he was five years away from earning a federal pension when he was fired and ended up working at an Apple Computer store to support his family); to justify the requested fine, the prosecutor cited a $10,000 whistleblowing prize Drake was awarded earlier this year.
Drake's leak involved no conceivable harm to national security, but did expose serious waste, corruption and possible illegality. When Drake was indicted back in April, 2010, I wrote at the time: "the more I think about this, the more I think this might actually be one of the worst steps the Obama administration has taken yet, if not the single worst step -- and that's obviously saying a lot." The effect of prosecuting Drake with multiple "espionage" counts, threatening him with decades in prison, and financially ruining him is clear: to frighten future whistleblowers into silence, and thus enable the government and the National Security State to do whatever it wants free of one of the only true checks it has. That's what makes Obama's War on Whistleblowing so pernicious.Apparently Bush's Department of Justice was going to drop this case, but Obama pursued it, and pursued it with a vengance "to send a message" to whistle-blowers. This is really outrageous because Obama is a Constitutional law professor and has to understand that in a free society, democracy will only work if people know about crime, corruption, and waste. But this is exactly what Obama's Justice Department was trying to hard to stop. In short, Obama wanted a court case punish an innocent man in order to stop transparency in government. This from President "I'm running in order to ensure more transparency in government" Obama! Shame!