Friday, January 11, 2013

Whistleblowing, Surveillance, and the Obama Administration

The Obama Administration does not have an exemplary record protecting whistleblowers, nor for protecting US civilians from unwarranted surveillance. 

Recently the Washington Post covered a statement made by the administration concerning whistleblowers. The statement was in response to a defense law clause protecting whistleblowers.  

Obama's statement about the clause seems to undermine its intent, which is to protect whistleblowers, not control them:

Obama statement concerns whistleblower advocates, but will it have much impact? by Joe Davidson January 7

[Excerpted] ... the administration also has used the Espionage Act to prosecute federal employees who advocates consider whistleblowers but the Justice Department views as leakers of confidential information. And the Food and Drug Administration has been criticized for using electronic surveillance to spy on the personal e-mail accounts of whistleblowers. 

The Defense law prohibits reprisals against those who report wrongdoing to Congress (and some other places, such as the offices of inspectors general). 

Obama said he will interpret the law “to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.” 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the whistleblower protections, said she “was truly stunned,” by the president’s statement. “I’m really dumbfounded by it,” she said, because she had previously heard no objections from the White House. A news release from her office said the president’s statement “would make ineffective language” meant to protect whistleblowers.

end excerpt. 

The Obama administration's hardline on whistleblowing has been addressed previously, particularly in relation to the conduct of the secretive drone warfare in the Middle East, among other activities. The Obama admin. has used the Espionage Act and top secret classifications to crack down on transparency

Drone wars and state secrecy – how Barack Obama became a hardliner. The Guardian Paul Harris June 2 2012

[Excerpted ...Obama has presided over a massive expansion of secret surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. He has launched a ferocious and unprecedented crackdown on whistleblowers. He has made more government documents classified than any previous president. He has broken his promise to close down the controversial Guantánamo Bay prison and pressed on with prosecutions via secretive military tribunals, rather than civilian courts. He has preserved CIA renditions. He has tried to grab broad new powers on what defines a terrorist or a terrorist supporter and what can be done with them, often without recourse to legal process.

... has used the Espionage Act – an obscure first world war anti-spy law – six times. That is more such uses in three years than all previous presidents combined...

... Last week a report by the Information Security Oversight Office revealed 2011 had seen US officials create more than 92m classified documents: the most ever and 16m more than the year before... [end excerpt]

The Obama administration has presided over efforts by officials at the FDA to secretly spy on employees who disagree with the FDA official line on health and safety issues

Government’s “Anti-leak” Measures Attack Privacy and the Press
[Excerpted] Although the conflict between government classification rules and practices and the First Amendment rights necessary to promote a free and open society is nothing new, recent developments may indicate an alarming shift away from basic First Amendment principles.
A recent article by the Washington Post showed surveillance of federal employees has been stepped up government-wide. According to the article, last year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began spying on its scientists, claiming to be looking for the unauthorized sharing of trade secrets. The scientists, however, claim they were being targeted for blowing the whistle on an unethical review process. According the story, such invasive surveillance in the name of national security is spreading. 

The spyware sold by one software company, SpectorSoft--which claims to have clients in dozens of federal agencies--can do far more than just spy on email. According to the Post, “It could be programmed to intercept a tweet or Facebook post. It could snap screen shots of their computers. It could even track an employee’s keystrokes, retrieve files from hard drives or search for keywords.”
Such agency-level efforts to punish transparency are alarming, and are part and parcel of a larger public debate over national security “leaks.”... [end excerpt]

Finally, surveillance is being extended to nearly all forms of electronic communication.

VIDEO: NSA Whistleblower Explains How the U.S. Government Is Spying on Every Single Electronic Communication You Have

[Excerpted] An amazing video posted on The New York Times website today lays out in chilling detail how the National Security Agency is sucking up every piece of communication data in America – from phone calls to emails to cell phone location – and has the ability to tie together all of the information for a single person (watch it here).
The system is explained by William Binney, a code breaker who resigned from the NSA in protest over the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping regime. He says that after 9/11, the methods he helped create for spying on foreign powers became pointed domestically – not toward people suspected of terrorism ties, but toward all Americans.... [end excerpt]

Majia here: These articles illustrate the expansion of the surveillance, security state. Ever read 1984?

Well, it appears that Orwell was only a few decades late in his predictions.

Obama administration prosecutes CIA whistleblower for exposing torture Jan 31, 2012 By Alan Gilman

[Excerpted] In a criminal complaint filed January 23, the Obama administration’s Justice Department charged John Kiriakou, a former Central Intelligence Agency operative, with disclosing classified information to journalists about the capture and brutal interrogation of suspected Al-Qaeda member Abu Zubayda.

Less than four years after then-presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged to create “the most transparent administration in history,” his administration has prosecuted more government whistleblowers under espionage laws than all prior administrations combined.
Government prosecutors charge Kiriakou with disclosing to journalists, including a New York Times reporter, the identity of a CIA analyst who participated in the 2002 operation involving the abduction and torture of Zubaydah. [end excerpt]


Jun 10, 2012
At the time of the disaster, Hugh Kaufman, a whistleblower at the EPA, warned the air was not safe, in direct contradiction of his agency's assurances. CNN: Investigator: EPA not properly testing WTC air. .... And then we have Fukushima Elizabeth, Landau “West Coast Officials, Obama: Don't Worry about Radiation Risk n U.S.,” CNN (2011, March 17):
Oct 07, 2012
The administration of Barack Obama, which had promised to put an end to torture and other outrages committed by the Bush Administration, is in fact putting into place a dangerous system of repression and control. This is a serious assault on fundamental rights, and it must be answered not with silence and .... NRC Whistleblower Claims Flood Threat to Nuclear P... New Form Bill Includes "Monsanto Rider" · White Flash on Fukushima TBS-JNN Cam · Pesticide Use ...
Oct 06, 2012
[Excerpted] In a letter submitted Friday afternoon to internal investigators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a whistleblower engineer within the agency accused regulators of deliberately covering up information relating ...
Jul 28, 2010
Kaufman is a senior EPA employee who has been a whistle blower for decades. He was recently on Democracy Now speaking about the dangers of dispersants for humans and marine life alike (see my previous post) ...
Jun 09, 2011
Former TEPCO Employee Turned Whistleblower. Published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Whistleblower claims he warned of a meltdown and quit ...
Oct 28, 2012
[Excerpted] In a letter submitted Friday afternoon to internal investigators at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a whistleblower engineer within the agency accused regulators of deliberately covering up information relating ...
Mar 20, 2012
[excerpted] "A whistleblower is alleging for the first time in a yearslong lawsuit against BP that its massive Atlantis oil platform operation off the Louisiana coast faces present and imminent danger... He reported to a BP ...

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