Classified Drips & Leaks

When a leak' of classified information proves embarrassing to the Obama administration, the government pursues leakers with a vengeance - other leakers not so much.






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Publication: The New American
Author: Wolverton, Joe
Date published: August 6, 2012

After his election in 2008, Barack Obama posted to his administration's new website - change.gov - that he would protect whistle-blowers. The then-president-elect promised:

We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.

Not that politicians have a habit of keeping campaign promises, but President Obama's policy of zealously pursuing, prosecuting, and punishing those who report abuses in government is remarkable for its relentlessness.

Just weeks ago, United States Attorney General Eric Holder appointed two U.S. attorneys to investigate the alleged "leaks" of classified information many suspect originated in the White House. The attorneys will conduct a separate but concurrent investigation with the one presently being pursued by the FBI. After "doggedly" following the facts, the attorneys are authorized to "prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigations and matters related to those violations, consult with members of the Intelligence Community and follow all appropriate investigative leads within the Executive and Legislative branches of government."

Then, just days later, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, announced that all intelligence agents and officials may be subjected to polygraph testing if they are suspected of leaking information to the media.

The new guidelines are designed to detect and discourage leaks from occurring in the intelligence community. In a statement, Clapper outlined the goal of the new policy:

These efforts will reinforce our professional values by sending a strong message that intelligence personnel always have, and always will, hold ourselves to the highest standard of professionalism.... It is the right thing to do on behalf of the American people and in the interest of our national security.

Plane for Propriety

Later on in his statement, Clapper laid out the president's two-pronged plan for catching these leaks before they drip into the mainstream media.

First, the government will add a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information to the counterintelligence lie detector test taken by all those who apply to work within the intelligence community (CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, the FBI, the National GeospatialIntelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Security Agency).

Second, Clapper asked that the intelligence community inspector general conduct independent investigations of selected unauthorized disclosure cases "when prosecution is declined by the Department of Justice." To accomplish this goal, the intelligence community inspector general will create a task force that will investigate these cases.

Congressmen from both sides of the aisle congratulated Clapper on his announcement.

"We will need to investigate further steps to stop unauthorized disclosures and bring those responsible to justice," said Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. "While the new steps announced by Clapper only apply to the intelligence community, we have to examine new methods of stopping others with access to sensitive and classified information from leaking it as well."

As quoted in the New York Times, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee echoed his colleague's sentiment. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) praised Clapper's announcement as "a good first step." "The leaking of classified national security information is intolerable at any level, but the parade of recent leaks requires action. We must break this culture of unauthorized disclosures," Rogers said in a statement.

The culture is not one of too many leaks; rather it is one where unauthorized leaks are encouraged if the White House believes that they will improve its image. Whereas, if anyone in government service dares speak out about government actions that are not only unconstitutional but possibly illegal, President Obama's retribution will be swift and severe.

The information allegedly "leaked" was first published in the New York Times and provided specific descriptions of several operations initiated by President Obama in the "war on terror." Among the revelations included details of drone strikes and the deployment of the Stuxnet virus, the computer attack aimed at Iran's nuclear infrastructure.Given the president's obvious pride in his remote-control killing program and the apparent success of the cyberattack on Iran, there is rampant speculation that the information given to the New York Times was less a leak and more an example of the White House blowing its own horn.

Some stories related to the leaks report that it would have been impossible for information so classified and so detailed to have been obtained without either the knowledge or the cooperation of the Obama administration. For example, the story of the intentional infection of Iran's computer with the Stuxnet virus is particularly interesting given the parameters of the operation, as well as the import such an act of computer sabotage on another nation would have on the credibility of the United States. Just last year, the Pentagon warned that any attempt to violate the computer security of the United States would be considered an "act of war." Are we, then, at war with Iran? Is what would be an act of war if perpetrated by another nation simply a clever tactic when deployed by the United States? It would seem so.

This is not the only apparent contradiction in the current president's political philosophy. Despite all the finger wagging, promises of "serious investigations," and sounding of national security alarms, there is nothing of any measurable substance in the White House's efforts to locate the leak.

Swift and Severe

Moreover, this lackadaisical pursuit of the insider who allegedly leaked the Stuxnet and drone information contrasts distinctly with the president's pronounced persecution of those who have revealed information that casts him and the government of the United States in an unfavorable light.

One former target of the president's rapid and relentless pursuit of those who dare raise their voices in protest to government lawlessness is Thomas Drake.

Thomas Drake was a senior executive at the National Security Agency who made the mistake of revealing to the Baltimore Sun that the NSA's Trailblazer Project, a U.S. project intended to analyze data carried on the Internet, cellphones, and e-mails, not only violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unwarranted searches and seizures, but was a "billion-dollar computer boondoggle."

In April 2010, Drake was indicted by a federal grand jury of several crimes, including the violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted of the charges against him, Drake faced up to 35 years in federal prison. Early in the summer of 201 1, after several exposÚs ran in newspapers and on television, the Obama administration dropped all of the charges against Drake in return for Drake's guilty plea to a misdemeanor of misusing NSA computers. Drake was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

On May 2 1 , Thomas Drake was kind enough to grant an interview to THE NEW AMERICAN to discuss the events.

THE NEW AMERICAN : First Mr. Drake, tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you ended up working for the National Security Agency,

Thomas Drake : I was a contractor at NSA for about 12 years off and on from 1989 to 2001 working on various contracts. The contracts gave me familiarity with the NSA, particularly with Project Jackpot. This was part of Al Gore's reinventing government initiative.

TNA : Was there any one definable moment when you felt that you were participating in the foundation of the surveillance state?

Drake : My first day on the job as an employee of the NSA was 9/11. At that time, many people were complaining that certain projects being conducted by the NSA were permitting the government to spy on Americans. I knew at that moment they had crossed the Rubicon, that a Pandora's box had been opened. I also knew at that moment that if I remained silent, I would be complicit in the violation of the Constitution.

Before being hired on permanently, though, I was a crypto linguist in the Air Force and my expertise was on East Germany. I learned to speak German and Russian, and I learned a lot about the surveillance state.

TNA : Speaking of East Germany, in one interview you mentioned that you saw similarities between the East German Stasi's monitoring of the Germans and our own intelligence agencies' post-9/ 1 1 surveillance. What were those similarities?

Drake : The nation was wired, and they had secret police and one-quarter of the population of East Germany were citizen informants. The government of East Germany was monstrously efficient at monitoring its own people.

TNA : Given your insider's view of our intelligence apparatus, do you believe that there is a concerted effort among many agencies and perhaps branches ofgovernment to establish a 24-hour surveillance apparatus in the United States? How about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA)?

Drake : Yes. The legislation erodes any final privacy. It [CISPA] would disregard any remaining privacy.

TNA : What do you think is the government 's ultimate aim in putting every citizen of this country under surveillance?

Drake: To own the Internet and to find out what everybody is doing. Then companies will be forced to open up their databases. Section 215 of the Patriot Act has gone a long way toward this. The government pretends that domestic terrorism is increasing so that they can claim to need to know everything in order to predict from where any threat originates.

Also, they want to maintain power. The government is operating this whole program off the books, so they've got to do everything they can to keep it under cover.

TNA : With regard to the coalition of government and big business, many American corporations were involved in secret projects to assist the government in its surveillance and monitoring of Americans. Is money the only reason these businesses participate in the often illegal monitoring of American citizens, or do you believe there is a more sinister purpose?

Drake : Both. The government wants to get information, and they don't stop to ask for the authority. We don't know the full extent of these arrangements, but money is a huge factor in their formation. Follow the money. The money is quite excessive. The sad truth is that a huge number of people became millionaires because of 9/1 1. These attacks would provide a big source of revenue for big business. War is profitable for the same few people who are always on the inside.

TNA : Finally, given the persecution and prosecution that you suffered for attempting to alert the government and the American people to the crimes against the constitution being perpetrated by NSA, do you believe there is any way to stop the progress toward a surveillance state?

Drake: Transparency. You are increasingly seeing laws making legal that which is patently illegal. Something has to give and what's giving is the Constitution.

The horror for me is that my own government has become an enemy of the Constitution. Our only reliable national security is our right to freedom and liberty.

If this type of unlawful program continues, soon there will be no Constitution, no United States of America.

Author affiliation:

by Joe Wolverton II, J. D.

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