Monday, June 10, 2013

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden not expecting whistleblower protection.

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a United States federal law that protects federal whistleblowers who work for the government and report agency misconduct. A federal agency violates the Whistleblower Protection Act if agency authorities take (or threaten to take) retaliatory personnel action against any employee or applicant because of disclosure of information by that employee or applicant. Whistleblowers may file complaints that they believe reasonably evidences a violation of a law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

  • 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

“Edward Snowden should not be prosecuted. Instead, the White House must keep the promise made by President Obama, during his 2008 election campaign, when he pledged to support legislation that would fully protect all government whistleblowers, including those in sensitive national security positions.”

“Until Congress enacts a law, setting forth reasonable procedures by which civil servants can disclose national security violations to the American people, the government should not prosecute these whistleblowers. Congress and the President must do their jobs, and stop destroying the lives of civil servants who try to report misconduct”

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in his New York TimesOp-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself  (Lyons Press, 2011). 

Mary Jane Wilmoth
(202) 342-1902

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.”
imgresHowever, 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

The man who claims to be the whistleblower behind the revelation that the National Security Agency is gathering troves of data on individuals' telephone and internet use was well-aware that his actions could land him in prison for the rest of his life, but he couldn't "live with himself" if he hadn't spoken out, according to a British journalist who has spent days speaking to him in Hong Kong.
"Edward Snowden has more or less accepted his life as he knew it as over," Guardian reporter Ewan MacAskill told Sky News in a Monday morning interview from Hong Kong via Skpe.
"He's lost touch with this family, his partner. His best option is maybe asylum in someplace like Iceland. That's his best chance. He realizes himself the likeliest option is he could end up in prison," said MacAskill.
The Guardian released a video interview with Snowden himself on Sunday, saying the purported leaker had never intended on hiding behind anonymity and asked for the interview to be published
Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee who currently works as a contractor for the National Security Agency as an employee of contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, claimed responsibility for the leaks that have roiled Washington for the last week, saying: "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I have done nothing wrong."
Booz Allen confirmed later Sunday that Snowden worked for their firm for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii.
"News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter," the company said in a statement.
MacAskill told Sky that while Snowden had planned his leak of the NSA information for at least two years, he had no way of planning the events to follow.
"Chinese authorities could say, 'look we've got this U.S. surveillance specialist with lots of secrets, lets question him.' Americans will say, 'we want to extradite him,' so no one's sure what's going to happen," the reporter told Sky, which is a CBS News partner network.
Hong Kong still enjoys some independence, but is effectively administered as part of China. While Hong Kong has a separate extradition treaty with the U.S. government, Beijing has the power to overrule that decision.
Working out of an NSA office in Hawaii, Snowden copied the documents he subsequently disclosed to the Guardian and asked his supervisors for time off to receive treatments for epilepsy. The Washington Post reports he told no one -- not even those closest -- about what he was doing.

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."

'I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made'

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week's series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.
He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for "a couple of weeks" in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.
As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. "That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world."
On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. "I've left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay," he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.
He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.
Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.
Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.
And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.
"All my options are bad," he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.
"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets," he said.
"We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be."
Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. "I am not afraid," he said calmly, "because this is the choice I've made."
He predicts the government will launch an investigation and "say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become".
The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. "The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night," he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

'You can't wait around for someone else to act'

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.
By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)
In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression".
He recounted how his beliefs about the war's purpose were quickly dispelled. "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone," he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.
After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency's covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.
By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.
That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.
He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.
"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says. "I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."
He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.
First, he said: "Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn't feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone". Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.
He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he "watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in", and as a result, "I got hardened."
The primary lesson from this experience was that "you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act."
Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA's surveillance activities were, claiming "they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them".
He described how he once viewed the internet as "the most important invention in all of human history". As an adolescent, he spent days at a time "speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own".
But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. "I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."
Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA's surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. "What they're doing" poses "an existential threat to democracy", he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? "There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich."
For him, it is a matter of principle. "The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to," he said.
His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: "I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation," reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower: 'I do not expect to see home again'

Source for the Guardian's NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation – and what comes next

Edward Snowden was interviewed over several days in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.
Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?
A: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."
Q: But isn't there a need for surveillance to try to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks such as Boston?
A: "We have to decide why terrorism is a new threat. There has always been terrorism. Boston was a criminal act. It was not about surveillance but good, old-fashioned police work. The police are very good at what they do."
Q: Do you see yourself as another Bradley Manning?
A: "Manning was a classic whistleblower. He was inspired by the public good."
Q: Do you think what you have done is a crime?
A: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence."
Q: What do you think is going to happen to you?
A: "Nothing good."
Q: Why Hong Kong?
A: "I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People's Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech."
Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?
A: "That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians."
nsa whistleblowerSnowden is a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA
Q: What about the Obama administration's protests about hacking by China?
A: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries."
Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?
A: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."
Q: Does your family know you are planning this?
A: "No. My family does not know what is happening … My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with …
I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night."
Q: When did you decide to leak the documents?
A: "You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realise that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.
"A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."
Q: What is your reaction to Obama denouncing the leaks on Friday while welcoming a debate on the balance between security and openness?
A: "My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it."
Q: What about the response in general to the disclosures?
A: "I have been surprised and pleased to see the public has reacted so strongly in defence of these rights that are being suppressed in the name of security. It is not like Occupy Wall Street but there is a grassroots movement to take to the streets on July 4 in defence of the Fourth Amendment called Restore The Fourth Amendment and it grew out of Reddit. The response over the internet has been huge and supportive."
Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital's Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be "disappeared". How do you feel about that?
A: "Someone responding to the story said 'real spies do not speak like that'. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general."
Q: Do you have a plan in place?
A: "The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me … My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be.
"They could put out an Interpol note. But I don't think I have committed a crime outside the domain of the US. I think it will be clearly shown to be political in nature."

To Help NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Seek Asylum

Icelandic legislator and Icelandic Modern Media Initiative co-founder Birgitta Jonsdottir
When WikiLeaks burst onto the international stage in 2010, the small Nordic nation of Iceland offered it a safe haven. Now American whistleblower Edward Snowden may be seeking that country’s protection, and at least one member of its parliament says she’s ready to help.
On Sunday evening Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir and Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, issued a statement of support for Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton staffer who identified himself to theGuardian newspaper as the source of a series of top secret documents outlining the NSA’s massive surveillance of foreigners and Americans.

NSA Whistleblowers William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe

William (Bill) Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe are GAP clients and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblowers who worked at the agency for decades. A mathematician, Binney worked for the NSA for almost forty years, where he and analyst Wiebe, who worked at NSA in excess of 30 years, developed a revolutionary information processing system called ThinThread that they believe could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But NSA officials ignored ThinThread in favor of Trailblazer – a much more expensive program that not only ended in total failure, but cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Worried about the nation’s ability to protect itself, they blew the whistle on the clear mismanagement surrounding the Trailblazer fiasco, using appropriate channels to share their concerns with Congress and the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG). Despite their efforts, no one was held accountable at NSA for one of the worst intelligence failures in history. Little did they know at the time, Binney and Wiebe would face harsh retaliation from NSA for their efforts to make the truth known. 
After the failure of U.S. intelligence to prevent the events of 9/11, the NSA wrongfully applied a component of the ThinThread system to illegally spy on the private communications of U.S. citizens. Unable to stay at the NSA any longer in good conscience, Binney and Wiebe retired in October 2001. After retiring, Binney and Wiebe continued to blow the whistle from outside the agency. GAP provided Binney and Wiebe with legal advice on whistleblowing matters and assisted them with media and public advocacy.
Since that time, Binney and Wiebe have made several key disclosures crucial to the ongoing public debate about America's national security state, such as the first public description of NSA’s massive domestic spying program, Stellar Wind, which intercepts domestic communications without protections for US citizens. Binney revealed that NSA has been given access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted between 15 and 20 trillion communications. Binney further disclosed that Stellar Wind was grouped under the patriotic-sounding “Terrorist Surveillance Program” in order to give cover to its constitutionally-questionable nature.
William (Bill) Binney is a former NSA crypto-mathematician, and J. Kirk Wiebe is a former NSA senior analyst who was awarded the Meritorious Civilian Service Award, NSA’s second highest distinction. They both worked in the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC), and served in the NSA for decades. As Technical Director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney mentored some 6000 technical analysts that eavesdropped on foreign nations, collecting private phone calls and emails for NSA databases. However, with the expansion of the Internet during the 1990s and the explosion of communications that went with it, it quickly became clear that NSA could not keep up with, and effectively analyze, all the new data available. Working in the SARC, Binney and Wiebe both realized this was a dangerous vulnerability for NSA and the country.
...NSA failed to detect 9/11 in advance of the attacks. But the 9/11 attacks didn’t come as a complete surprise to Binney and Wiebe, as they had long been aware that NSA was incapable of handling all the communications data it received. This failure resulted from NSA’s decision to shelve ThinThread and dump billions into Trailblazer while the latter failed to move beyond initial planning stages, and instead served as a funding vehicle. If ThinThread had been deployed in January 2001, as planned, Binney and Wiebe are confident that data indicating the movements of al-Qaeda in the days leading up to the attacks would not have been missed.
Meanwhile, in response to the terrorist attacks, President Bush approved new domestic surveillance programs, including Stellar Wind, which was organized and launched by NSA official Ben Gunn. Wiebe personally witnessed the program’s launch one day when he noticed piles of new computer hardware lined up in the hallway of his SARC office. He made his way to the “Situation Room,” a part of SARC’s lab that deals with threat warnings, when Gunn almost removed him from the room. At that point, Wiebe knew something important was in the works.
Binney became aware of the program when members of his ThinThread team were drafted to work on it and, alarmed by its violations of the law, immediately approached Binney about it. Hearing their descriptions, Binney knew that Stellar Wind was based on a component of the ThinThread capability, without the built-in privacy protections. Without Binney’s protections, any American could be targeted by name, phone number, or other attribute. Not only did Stellar Wind include collecting information on domestic phone calls, but also the inspection of domestic email.

At the outset, Stellar Wind recorded 320 million calls a day. However, the program continuously expanded, and Binney estimates that NSA has intercepted between 15 and 20 trillion transactions since 9/11. The massive data collection necessitated that the NSA have an enormous amount of storage capacity – the giant data center currently under construction in Bluffdale, Utah serves this purpose.
But the NSA was not only collecting data on Americans without a warrant – the agency approached telecommunications companies, asking them to participate and facilitate in surveillance. NSA gained access to AT&T’s domestic and international billing records containing detailed information on telephone calls, such as when they were made. Verizon added its calls to NSA’s data, giving the agency access to records for “over a billion and a half calls per day.”
Binney and Wiebe attempted to persuade NSA to use their version of ThinThread, proposing an additional capability that would computerize the process of getting a warrant to spy on domestic communications based on probable cause. At the time, federal law gave NSA 72 hours (from the time of interception) to obtain a warrant to track American conversations. Automating the system would have made it possible to legally intercept a couple of million communications per day.
This proposal required close coordination with the courts, and NSA officials weren’t interested. They continued to collect all the data they could find. “Get the data” was the new NSA mantra after the attacks, disregarding Americans’ constitutionally-protected privacy rights. The Bush administration grouped Stellar Wind with a handful of other programs under the so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” which made it sound patriotic and made it politically difficult for Congress to challenge.
As they watched wasteful, fraudulent, and unconstitutional behavior involving both Trailblazer and Stellar Wind continue and expand after 9/11, both Binney and Wiebe knew they could no longer work for an agency that had strayed so far from its mission and the law. On October 31, 2001, both men accepted retirement packages.
Retirement and Continued Disclosures
As partners with a colleague in a newly-formed private company, “Entity Mapping, LLC”, Binney and Wiebe worked to market their analysis program to government agencies. Although demonstrating success on several short-term contract efforts with the government, NSA continued to retaliate against them for blowing the whistle, ultimately preventing them from getting work, or causing contracts they had secured to be terminated abruptly.           

Whistleblowing on Trailblazer, and government response[edit]

Drake action within the NSA[edit]

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.[9][22] He became part of the "minority" that favored ThinThread for several reasons,[22] including its theoretical ability to protect privacy while gathering intelligence.[15] 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.[15] Circa 2000 NSA head Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer over ThinThread; ThinThread was cancelled and Trailblazer ramped up, eventually employing IBMSAICBoeingCSC, and others.[24]
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.[22] 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.[25]
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).[22] Roark was the "staff expert" on the NSA's budget,[9] and the two of them had met in 2000.[15]
In September 2002, Roark and three former NSA officials, William Binney, J. Kirk Wiebe,[26] and Ed Loomis,[27] filed a DoD Inspector General report regarding problems at NSA, including Trailblazer.[15] Drake was a major source for the report, and gave information to DoD during its investigation of the matter.[15] Roark tried to notify her superior, then-Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss.[7] She also attempted to contact William Rehnquist, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court at the time.[15] 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.[21] 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.[28] Roark got no response from all three men.

NSA own inquiry and acknowledgement[edit]

By 2003, the NSA IG[15] had declared Trailblazer an expensive failure.[29] It cost more than 1 billion dollars.[9][25][30][31]
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.[27]

Eventual whistleblowing[edit]

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.[21]
In November, 2005, Drake contacted Siobhan Gorman, of The Baltimore Sun newspaper.[9][22] 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.[32] 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.[9] 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".[33]

2007 FBI raids[edit]

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.[27] Binney claims they pointed guns at his wife and himself. Wiebe said it reminded him of the Soviet Union.[21] 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 (18 U.S.C. § 793(e)).[20]The FBI tried to get Roark to testify against Drake; she refused.[21] Reporter Gorman was not contacted by the FBI.[15][22]
Drake initially cooperated with the investigation, telling the FBI about the alleged illegality of the NSA's activities.[21] 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".[27] In 2009 a new prosecutor came on the case, William Welch II,[15][21] and changed the indictment. Some charges were removed, as was any naming of 'co-conspirators'. The new case only contained charges against Drake.[27]
Prosecutors wanted Drake to plead guilty, but he refused. He believed that he was innocent of the charges against him.[15] The government wanted him to help prosecute the other whistleblowers. He refused this as well.[21] He later explained his motivations to the Ridenhour Prizes organization:

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