Anti-Leaks Proposals Protect ‘Leak’ Powers of Congress
By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
Wednesday August 1, 2012 12:32 pm
Yesterday, I extensively detailed most of the proposals the Senate intelligence committee has approved. Two of the proposals, which are exceptionally crude in their nature, involve forcing intelligence agency employees to surrender their pension benefits if they are found to have disclosed information without proper authorization and prohibiting former intelligence agency employees, who want to take a job as a “consultant” or enter into a contract with a media organization.
Open government groups sent a letter to the Senate arguing this “extreme approach…would imperil the few existing safe channels for those in the intelligence community who seek to expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality.” It would dissuade “conscientious” or former employees from reporting wrongdoing to Congress or an agency’s Inspector General because individuals would not want to risk losing their pension through a process with no judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies condemned the proposed measure against employees entering into media contracts and wrote in a letter to the committee, “The over-breadth of this provision in prohibiting commentary and analysis even when no classified information is disclosed would violate the First Amendment. Indeed the provision seems drafted in order to chill public discussion of information that is not classified, rather than being narrowly tailored to simply target disclosures of classified information.”
What has most upset senators all along is the fact that government employees talk to journalists. For example, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions went through the New York Times article written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Obama’s “kill list” and questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about this article. He highlighted the individuals that the journalists who wrote the article interviewed. He said “these” people “were all talking to the New York Times. Somebody provided information that shouldn’t have been provided. These are some of the closest people you have in government to the President of the United States. So, this is a dangerous thing.” He went on to note that the Times was talking to senior officials at the Justice Department. He added this is a “matter of seriousness.”
It is the free flow of information, not leaks, which they wish to halt. They wish to halt this flow because they are ideologically opposed to the idea of government employees openly discussing national security matters. They are legislators that have transformed their oversight role over intelligence agencies into one that serves to shield the public from interfering with an agency’s daily affairs by raising objection to policies or programs. They are a faction that wants it to be more difficult for reporters to piece together stories like the story New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen published on Bush administration warrantless wiretapping. They do not want national security journalists to expose corruption that will make it difficult to serve agency heads without looking complicit. As sycophant senators, who have taken advantage of a crisis they have manufactured through the spread of unmitigated hype, they are willing to faithfully oblige those in power who wish to impose strict and likely unconstitutional regimes on lower level employees.
More Executive Branch End Runs, This Time With Cybersecurity
By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake
Monday August 6, 2012 10:26 am
The Obama Administration will consider an executive order on cybersecurity in the wake of a defeat in the Senate on a bill to deal with the issue. This is another example of the executive branch taking action when the legislative branch bogs down in gridlock.
Carney did not bother to elucidate the authority on which Obama would enact cybersecurity regulations. … I’m sure the executive branch will somehow find a way, as they did with No Child Left Behind waivers and changes to student loan rules and deferred action on DREAM-eligible immigrants. And nobody is likely to raise much of an objection beyond a stage whisper.
We’re really talking here about a breakdown of democracy. I’m not a big fan of the cybersecurity bill because it uses that threat of cyber attacks as a back door to information sharing of private communications. In this instance, executive action would be preferable, since it would probably only lead to the core goal of increased standards for critical infrastructure facilities to guard against cyber attacks. But this is really no way to run a democracy, where the executive branch has to end-run around Congress because they find themselves unable to get anything done. It damages democratic accountability. These end runs don’t deal with the core problem of unnecessary and unworkable supermajority requirements in the Senate. That’s where an executive branch that wants the American system to work needs to target.
NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake on ‘The Daily Show’
By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
Tuesday August 7, 2012 9:24 am
A “Daily Show” clip with correspondent Jason Jones aired last night on “super spy” Thomas Drake, who worked for the National Security Agency as an analyst until he was ultimately charged as “a spy” under the Espionage Act for blowing the whistle on the NSA. The segment nicely plays up the fact he did not commit espionage and, instead, was a “cost-benefit analysis expert,” who had examined two intelligence gathering programs and decided one was cheaper and would lead to less fraud, waste, abuse and illegalities.
Drake leads Jones through the act he committed describing why the government decided to prosecute him. Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer for Drake and National Security & Human Rights Director at the Government Accountability Project, appears in the segment with Drake and gets in a good line before the segment concludes.
What’s shown basically affirms what Jon Stewart says in the introduction, “When it’s information the Obama administration no likey, they’ve been sonsofbitches on government whistleblowers.” And it ran right after Stewart skewered former New York Times columnist Judith Miller for going on Fox News to rail against Obama administration “leaks.” [Here’s that segment, which made for a great lead-in to the segment with Drake.]
These two segments aired in the first ten minutes of the program last night, the opening of the show. It gave Americans a flavor of the hypocrisy driving “leak hysteria” and the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowing. Few Americans are likely familiar with Drake-and they should be-so the “Daily Show” engaged in a kind of public service by choosing to satirize his case.