Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Glenn Greenwald rips into Eric Holder’s Justice Department:

Last April, the DOJ served a subpoena on New York Times reporter James Risen, demanding to know his source for a story he published in his 2006 book regarding a “reckless” and horribly botched CIA effort to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program.   That subpoena had originally been served but was then abandoned by the Bush DOJ, but its revitalization by the Obama administration was but one of many steps taken to dramatically expand the war on whistleblowers being waged by the current President, whoran on a platform of “protecting whistleblowers”…

But it’s the DOJ’s increasing willingness to target journalists as part of this crusade that has now escalated its seriousness.  Last month, the DOJ claimed it had found and arrested Risen’s source:  Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA agent who left the agency in 2002 (he now works in the health insurance industry).  As part of Sterling’s criminal proceedings, it was revealed yesterday that federal investigators had secretly obtained Risen’s bank records, information about his phone and travel activities, and even credit reports to unearth his source…

…what makes this conduct particularly indefensible is how the Obama DOJ is venturing back into the past to dredge up these forgotten episodes.  Sterling hasn’t worked for the Government or had a security clearance in more than 8 years.  The alleged leak took place in Bush’s first term.  Disclosure resulted in substantial embarrassment for the U.S. but — given the utter failure of the operation — no identifiable national security harm.

For a President who insists that we must “Look Forward, Not Backward” — when it comes to investigating war crimes by high-level Bush officials — this anti-whistleblower assault reflects not only an obsession on preserving and bolstering the National Security State’s secrecy regime, but also an intense fixation on the past.  And increasingly extremist weapons — now including trolling through reporters’ banking and phone records — are being wielded to achieve it.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

22 Responses to “Obama’s War on Whistleblowers”

  1. #1 |  CyniCAl | 

    Wondering where the surprise is. A broken campaign promise? Fool me once, shame on you … fool me a billion times, shame on me??? At some point, it’s not shame anymore. It’s more like Stockholm Syndrome or some other form of insanity.

    The sovereign defends his sovereignty without regard for morals. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be sovereign.

  2. #2 |  SJE | 

    Greenwald is doing fantastic work. Of course, he is also being targeted for a smear campaign for those who want to shut down wikileaks….the same wikileaks whose exposure of the corruption of Arab governments was arguably a catalyst in some of the biggest democratic changes in a generation.

    Re: Obama’s looking forward, not backwards….what happened to the grunts who were imprisoned for photos in Abu Ghraib? Still in jail, I believe.

  3. #3 |  SJE | 

    OT: did you hear about the recent revelations from Rolling Stone that a 3-star Army General violated US law in using PSYOPS against Congressional delegations. His staff were reprimanded for protesting. They jokingly called it “operation fourth star”

  4. #4 |  CyniCAl | 

    There was a link to that story on FFF today. I’ll read it.

  5. #5 |  Mattocracy | 

    Koch Brothers, Koch Brothers, Koch Brothers!

    Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

  6. #6 |  KochSister | 


    What color lipstick does Radley like you to wear? I don’t think I’ve seen once post of his in the past 3 years where you aren’t slobbering all over his ego in the comments section.

  7. #7 |  KochSister | 


  8. #8 |  Sean L. | 

    Actually, I think “what makes this conduct particularly indefensible” is how the DOJ performed a detailed investigation on someone who *committed no crime* in order to apprehend someone on their pissed-me-off list.

  9. #9 |  ktc2 | 

    What isn’t it obvious?

    We look forward when the nobles do something and backward when the serfs do something.

  10. #10 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Re: #2: From what I’ve read, Wikileaks clearly was a catalyst for the recent Arab revolutions. Tunisians were livid about the corruption and decadence of the Ben Ali regime that were described in the leaked State Department cables. For a people who were already sick as hell of a brutal government that extorted and stole from the likes of Mohamed Bouazizi, the cables were one of the last straws, proof that the rot really did go all the way to the top. The cables were proof that the dog-eat-dog atmosphere of the Tunisian streets was being orchestrated by a family of jet-setting kingpins who themselves lived by entirely different rules.

    Wikileaks exposed similar corruption, decadence, and duplicity on the part of other governments in the region. As in Tunisia, many of the revolutionaries in Egypt were demanding the due process of law that their regime had denied them for so long; the same remains true in Libya and Bahrain. There are probably some sharia zealots in the mix, but if they’re present they’re certainly being discreet. The demands are instead for an end to the official thievery, arbitrary law enforcement, and brutality of the old regimes. Wikileaks has demonstrated to these revolutionaries that highly placed US officials have long considered their rulers duplicitous cowards, thugs, thieves or otherwise objectionable, but have been too busy with realpolitik to speak up on behalf of the subjects. In this light, what the subjects have decided is that the rule of law is possible in their countries and that they will find a way to implement it, realpolitik be damned.

  11. #11 |  Marty | 

    Glenn Greenwald is a true badass…

  12. #12 |  Andrew Roth | 

    The recent events in the Middle East are a searing indictment of the American political establishment and electorate. We can’t even muster the courage to impeach flagrant tyrants and criminals. At the same time, our politics are insane enough that Congress did see it fit to impeach Bill Clinton, for years a notorious cad, for a consensual extramarital affair.

    Ben Franklin was right: we have a republic, if we can keep it. It scares me, but I don’t think we’ve been keeping it. I’m afraid that we’re deranged enough as a nation that we won’t reclaim our inalienable rights until much larger numbers of Americans start going cold and hungry. The sadists in the American political system are more subtle than their Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts were, but they have been able to ensconce themselves in spite of–or, in some cases, on account of–one of the world’s most functional and fair electoral systems.

    I hope and pray that Americans will soon shake off the political psychosis and stage-managed infighting of recent decades, but in the meantime, the spirit of ’76 has left the country. It is now to be found in Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi.

  13. #13 |  Dr. T | 

    We’ve endured President Obama for two years. We’ve seen that he supports anything (legal or illegal) that increases executive power and tries to eliminate anything that challenges executive power (such as leaks about executive branch failures).

  14. #14 |  J.S. | 

    They’ll be next going after the ATF agents who blew the whistle on the gunrunner/walker program that put possibly 2000+ guns from the US into hands of Mexican drug cartels.

    Took 2 months but CBS finally did a story on it the other day. No comment from the ATF or DOJ.

  15. #15 |  Robert | 

    Meet the new boss, yada yada..

  16. #16 |  Robert | 

    I think this should be true for all the whistler blower problems within the admin. Like this one:


  17. #17 |  Nick T. | 

    Seems that this story is a lot bigger than how epically hypocritical and dishonest Obama is and has been (not really news). This is almost as massive an assault on the First Amendment as would be blatant censorship. Combined with the Wikileaks activities and we’re looking at extremely problematic behavior in terms of disregard for the First Amendment. It is difficult to understate this.

    It’s an absolute joke how anyone ever got upset about “free speech zones” or warrantless wiretapping and isn’t screaming bloody murder at this right now. The federal government raided a *journalist’s* *private* materials *because of the content of his journalism* AND THEN is using that information to *prosecute another man* and throw him in jail.

    There is nothing Bush ever did^ that EXCEEDS what’s going on here, and the only things one could even imagine that would reflect a more significant violation of the Bill of Rights would be absurdly hyperbolic and satirical.

    ^To be fair to Obama – and Bush – it seems unclear from the reports so far as to which Administration began this operation.

  18. #18 |  Mattocracy | 

    I was really trying to poke fun at those who like to use the same old character attacks to argue a weak point, but whatever. I’m an au natural kinda girl myself.

  19. #19 |  c andrew | 

    Hey Radley!

    Great Neologism! But I’m not sure if it supposed to be a verb or a noun. Perhaps both?

    whoran: n, A politician who panders to be elected but then reneges on the same.

    to whoran v.i., pandering to the electorate with the intent to renege.

    Use in a sentence: “expand the war on whistleblowers being waged by the current President, whoran on a platform of “protecting whistleblowers”…”

  20. #20 |  supercat | 

    //At the same time, our politics are insane enough that Congress did see it fit to impeach Bill Clinton, for years a notorious cad, for a consensual extramarital affair.//

    Many Presidents have deserved impeachment, but unfortunately in most cases Congress has been complicit in their crimes and malfeasance; Congress thus has a strong motivation to let things slide rather than expose its own misdoings.

    The question of whether Bill Clinton deserved to be impeached for the specific charges upon which he was largely boils down to the question of whether a President can be compelled, during his term, to testify in a civil trial. If there was no legitimate basis for compelling the President’s testimony, then the President would have been under no obligation to answer truthfully. If, however, the civil suit and the demand for testimony were legitimate, then there would be no reason the President should be exempt from the laws regarding felony perjury. When President Clinton was asked about Ms. Lewinski, admitting the affair would not only have been embarassing for him–it also would have greatly increased the likelihood of Paula Jones winning a substantial judgment against him.

    Incidentally, a friend of mine brought up an interesting point about inquiries into the backgrounds of government officials: if an official is known to have gone to great lengths to keep one damaging thing secret, it is reasonable to wonder to what lengths he might be going to keep other things secret. People with damaging secrets are very susceptible to blackmail, and having a President who could be susceptible to blackmail from an enemy of the U.S. would be a very bad thing indeed.

  21. #21 |  EH | 

    supercat: Political gynecology? I’m pretty sure that’s solving the wrong problem.

  22. #22 |  GregS | 

    After two years of watching Obama, the pattern is pretty obvious: the more strongly he defends a position, the more he does the opposite. In fact I now use this as a guide to predicting what he will do in the future – I just assume his administration will do the opposite of what he says.