(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
If you were mad at all about Bush’s violations of civil liberties when he was president, this will get you fuming:
In a rare legal action against a government employee accused of leaking secrets, a grand jury has indicted a former senior National Security Agency official on charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007.
The official, Thomas A. Drake, 52, was also accused of obstructing justice by shredding documents, deleting computer records and lying to investigators who were looking into the reporter’s sources.
“Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here – violating the government’s trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information – be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously,” Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement.
This is not just a single instance of outrage. It is a microcosm of the Obama presidency, the political success of corporate America, and the failure of its opposition.
So the Obama Administration successfully indicted an important recent whistleblower, a man who revealed a lot about the secret (and very, very possibly unconstitutional, not to mention immoral) wiretapping programs at the NSA. This takes it one step further than the Bush Administration ever took the cat and mouse game they played with whistleblowers, since this is the first one who has actually been prosecuted. The New York Times writes,
The indictment suggests the Obama administration may be no less aggressive than the Bush administration in pursuing whistleblowers and reporters’ sources who disclose government secrets. In a little-noticed case last December, a former contract linguist for the F.B.I., Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, pleaded guilty to leaking five classified documents to a blogger.
In the Bush administration, the Justice Department spent several years investigating The New York Times’s sources for a 2005 article that revealed the existence of the N.S.A. program of eavesdropping without warrants. No one has been charged in that case.
And just what information was this man supplying to journalist Siobhan Gorman? Well, here’s an excerpt of one of the articles written based on that information:
In what intelligence experts describe as rigorous testing of ThinThread in 1998, the project succeeded at each task with high marks. For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy.
But the NSA, then headed by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, opted against both of those tools, as well as the feature that monitored potential abuse of the records. Only the data analysis facet of the program survived and became the basis for the warrantless surveillance program.
The decision, which one official attributed to “turf protection and empire building,” has undermined the agency’s ability to zero in on potential threats, sources say. In the wake of revelations about the agency’s wide gathering of U.S. phone records, they add, ThinThread could have provided a simple solution to privacy concerns.
So what did he get for supplying this valuable information to the public?
Drake was charged with 10 felonies, including obstruction of justice, making false statements to the FBI, and the willful retention of classified information related to four classified emails and one classified document. He is alleged to have obstructed justice by shredding classified and unclassified documents, including his handwritten notes that he had removed from the NSA and deleted classified and unclassified information on his home computer
That President Obama, who is regarded by many as a progressive, would not only continue some of Bush’s worst policies but extend them even further is a sign of several things.
One, Obama’s presidency is, to paraphrase Howard Zinn, dangerously mediocre. As a leader, he is not willing to, well, lead on many important issues. He is not willing to stand up to some of the more powerful interests in Washington in meaningful ways, and this is just one of them. In fact, here he seems to be bending over backwards to accommodate the military industrial complex – private companies like Boeing were the ones administering this program – rather than even putting up a weak fight. On top of that broader look at his presidency, this is just one more instance of our constitutional scholar president failing to uphold the rule of law.
Two, large corporations have a stranglehold on our government. In many cases, they are becoming indistinguishable. In the words of Glenn Greenwald, talking about the companies who were involved in this program,
SAIC itself is, by its own description, an enormous defense contractor devoted to “customers in the U.S. Department of Defense, the intelligence community, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, other U.S. Government civil agencies and selected commercial markets.” Just like its Trailblazer partners — Boeing, Booz Allen and Northrop Grumman — SAIC feeds off the massive Pentagon and intelligence budgets. In other words, Drake’s leaks to Gorman exposed serious wrongdoing on the part of (a) the NSA and its illegal domestic spying activities and (b) the vast private intelligence and defense industry that has all but formally merged with the CIA, NSA and Pentagon to become the public-private National Security and Surveillance State that exercises more power, by far, than any single faction in the country.
This is not just apparent in military policy, but in every aspect of politics. Although the government and big business have pretty much always had a cozy relationship, what we are seeing now is likely different than anything since perhaps the Gilded Age. Even in the Obama Adminstration – further evidence of the president not being the answer to any of the great political questions of our time – there are countless examples of the revolving door and other disgusting political practices playing themselves out.
And finally, three. Progressives and other allies in the fight to make government honest, functional, and a servant of the people have been losing since the so-called Reagan Revolution. This is no secret. But perhaps it’s time for us to have a more open, honest discussion about this, our failings, and what will move us forward. Because apparently focusing solely on the electoral arena and solely on the Democratic Party is not changing the political tides. Not to mention, in the words of Lawrence O’Donnell (yes, that Lawrence O’Donnell),
If you don’t show them you’re capable of not voting for them, they don’t have to listen to you.
But that’s not just applicable to elections (or the presidency, which, as a side note, I believe too much activist energy is focused on at any given time). We must be more of a threat in general – not a violent threat, of course, but a threat to the power of those who thrive off the status quo. A threat to the power and profits of the Boeings of the world.
We know what is going on, so now we just have to get mad as hell and decide how we’re not going to take it anymore.