- The Office of Special Counsel investigates federal whistle-blower complaints. Then-Senator Obama made a campaign vow to appoint a special counsel committed to whistle-blower rights.
- The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, only court empowered to hear appeals of whistle-blower cases decided by the merit board, has been criticized by Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) and others in Congress for misinterpreting whistle-blower laws and setting precedent that is hostile to claimants. Since Congress last revised the Whistle-blower Protection Act in 1994, the court has ruled for whistle-blowers in only three of 203 cases decided on their merits, GAP's analysis found. |By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY | 03/15/2010
National Whistleblowers Center issued a statement on Re-Introduction of Whistleblower Protection Act, expressing their concerns that the Senate's new WPEA bill provides the Merit Systems Protection Board with sweeping new powers to dismiss whistleblower cases without a hearing and to act as gatekeeper for court access.
Whistleblower Protection provides freedom of speech for workers and contractors in certain situations. Laws, like the Ethics in Government Act, cannot be enforced if free speech is not protected for individuals that report corruption or crime in the workplace. The difficulty with free speech is that work-related information associated with Classified information in the United States can have a negative impact on national security and United States public debt. A Non-disclosure agreement creates similar conflicts in private business.
|National Whistleblower Center Issues Statement in Support of NSA Whistleblower|
Statement of Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center
Crowdfunding Campaign Aims To Reward NSA Whistleblower For His ‘Courage’
Edward Snowden is being hailed as a hero by some, and now a Crowdtilt crowdfunding campaign is raising money to reward the whistleblower for his “courage” and pay his bills. The campaign doesn’t specify how the money will be delivered to Snowden, and is raising questions about if donations constitute aiding an enemy of the state.
The campaign was started by Facebook employee Dwight Crow with $1,000 of his own money. The description explains “We should set a precedent by rewarding this type of extremely courageous behavior. It’s definitely apparent that legal fees may soon be a big part of his future, but I don’t care how he uses the funds raised, whether it’s for a business-class trip to Iceland or just to pay his hotel bills, it’s a reward that I believe we shoudl [sic] band together and provide him with.”
Snowden asked to have his identity revealed by The Guardian after he leaked to the British paper and The Washington Post details and documents regarding NSA programs to monitor phone records and Internet activity of Americans. He says he’s currently holed up in a Hong Kong hotel, choosing the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”
However, some worry Snowden could still be arrested and extradited to the United States. The Guardian explains that the US and China have an extradition treaty where “both parties agree to hand over fugitives from each other’s criminal justice systems, but either side has the right of refusal in the case of political offences.” Hong Kong has in the past raided funds and expelled international criminal suspects. Scared to leave his room, Snowden says he’s been racking up huge room and food bills. Those in part inspired Crowe to set up the crowdfunding campaign.
“Reward Edward Snowden for courageously leaking NSA docs” has been slow to pick up speed, though, possibly because of fears regarding government retribution to funders. It’s originator Crow was the co-founder of the Y Combinator used car sales startup Carsabi before its team was acqhired by Facebook in October 2012. Crow is also known for appearing on the Start-Ups: Silicon Valley reality tv show. Despite Crow’s extensive network as an employee of Facebook (one of the companies Snowden detailed was legally obligated to provide data to the NSA), and the Crowdtilt page appearing on Hacker News, as of press time only 55 contributors had stepped forward to pool under $5,000.
Many who provided monetary support for imprisoned WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning faced no repercussions, but it’s unclear how the government would treat this situation. Without any public information on Snowden’s exact whereabouts, and his suspected weariness of communicating over the web, it’s unclear how he would claim the proceeds of the Crowdtilt campaign. That may also be dissuading people from contributing.
Others around the web have called for a legal defense fund for Snowden, though none has arisen. A small GiveForward campaign has started to “Help Edward fight the government!” but it’s received even less support. A preemptive petition to the White House has received over 8,000 signatures in hopes of winning Snowden a pardon for any crimes committed in the act of his whistleblowing.
The crowdfunding campaign and its issues comes in the middle of a debate about whether the NSA’s actions are warranted for protecting the United States and Snowden’s leaks jeopardize those efforts, or whether the NSA is engaging in a wholesale assault on privacy and liberty.
Claimed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's future unclear; Guardian reporter says he's "ready" for consequences
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations
Whistleblowing on Trailblazer, and government response
Drake action within the NSA
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the NSA required new tools to collect intelligence from the growing flood of information pouring out of the new digital networks like the internet. Drake became involved in the internal NSA debate between two of these tools, the Trailblazer Project and the ThinThread project. He became part of the "minority" that favored ThinThread for several reasons, including its theoretical ability to protect privacy while gathering intelligence. Trailblazer, on the other hand, not only violated privacy, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and other laws and regulations, it also required billions of dollars, dwarfing the cost of ThinThread. Drake eventually became "disillusioned, then indignant" regarding the problems he saw at the agency. Circa 2000 NSA head Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer over ThinThread; ThinThread was cancelled and Trailblazer ramped up, eventually employing IBM, SAIC, Boeing, CSC, and others.
Drake worked his way through the legal processes that are prescribed for government employees who believe that questionable activities are taking place in their departments. In accordance with whistleblower protection laws such as the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, Drake complained internally to the designated authorities: to his bosses, the NSA Inspector General, the Defense Department Inspector General, and both the House and Senate Congressional intelligence committees.
He also kept in contact with Diane S. Roark, a staffer for the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Congress (the House committee responsible for oversight of the executive branch's intelligence activities). Roark was the "staff expert" on the NSA's budget, and the two of them had met in 2000.
In September 2002, Roark and three former NSA officials, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis, filed a DoD Inspector General report regarding problems at NSA, including Trailblazer. Drake was a major source for the report, and gave information to DoD during its investigation of the matter. Roark tried to notify her superior, then-Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss. She also attempted to contact William Rehnquist, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court at the time. In addition, Roark made an effort to inform Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel David Addington, who had been a Republican staff colleague of hers on the committee in the 1980s. Addington was later revealed by a Washington Post report to be the author of the controlling legal and technical documents for the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program, typing the documents on a Tempest-shielded computer across from his desk in room 268 of theEisenhower Executive Office Building and storing them in a vault in his office. Roark got no response from all three men.
NSA own inquiry and acknowledgement
By 2003, the NSA IG had declared Trailblazer an expensive failure. It cost more than 1 billion dollars.
In 2004, the DoD IG produced a final report of its investigation that had been prompted by Roark & the others in 2002. The report basically agreed with their assertions and found very serious flaws at NSA. For a time, the NSA was even banned from starting projects over a certain size, for fear it would waste the money. However, there were no plans to release this DoD IG report to the public at the time.
In a 2011 New Yorker article, journalist Jane Mayer wrote that Drake felt the NSA was committing serious crimes against the American people, on a level worse than what president Nixon had done in the 1970s. Drake reviewed the laws regarding disclosure of information, and decided that if he revealed unclassified information to a reporter, then the worst thing that would happen to him was probably that he would be fired.
In November, 2005, Drake contacted Siobhan Gorman, of The Baltimore Sun newspaper. Drake began communicating with Gorman, sending her emails through Hushmail and discussing various topics. He claims that he was very careful not to give her sensitive or classified information; it was one of the basic ground rules he set out at the beginning of their communication. This communication occurred circa 2006. Gorman wrote several articles about waste, fraud, and abuse at the NSA, including articles on Trailblazer. She received an award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her series exposing government wrongdoing. Judge Richard Bennett later ruled that "there is no evidence that Reporter A relied upon any allegedly classified information found in Mr. Drake's house in her articles".
2007 FBI raids
In July 2007, armed FBI agents raided the homes of Roark, Binney, and Wiebe, the same people who had filed the complaint with the DoD Inspector General in 2002. Binney claims they pointed guns at his wife and himself. Wiebe said it reminded him of the Soviet Union. None of these people were charged with any crimes. In November 2007, there was a raid on Drake's residence. His computers, documents, and books were confiscated. He was never charged with giving any sensitive information to anyone; the charge actually brought against him is for 'retaining' information ( ).The FBI tried to get Roark to testify against Drake; she refused. Reporter Gorman was not contacted by the FBI.
Drake initially cooperated with the investigation, telling the FBI about the alleged illegality of the NSA's activities. The government created a 'draft indictment' of Drake, prepared by prosecutor Steven Tyrrell. It listed charges as "disclosing classified information to a newspaper reporter and for conspiracy". Diane Roark, Binney, Wiebe, and Loomis (the complainants to the DoD IG in 2002) were also allegedly listed as "unindicted co-conspirators". In 2009 a new prosecutor came on the case, William Welch II, and changed the indictment. Some charges were removed, as was any naming of 'co-conspirators'. The new case only contained charges against Drake.
Prosecutors wanted Drake to plead guilty, but he refused. He believed that he was innocent of the charges against him. The government wanted him to help prosecute the other whistleblowers. He refused this as well. He later explained his motivations to the Ridenhour Prizes organization: