Julia Davis is a National Security/Foreign Policy Reporter, Russian Media Monitor, creator of RussiaLies.com, Screenwriter, Producer, member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild and other prestigious industry guilds, serving as an Advisory Council member for the Hollywood Stuntman Hall of Fame. Her investigative reports and interviews are prominently featured by print publications and news outlets.
The message is simple: engaging in corruption, fraud and abuse is permissible, but blowing the whistle on such activities might end your life as you knew it. We’re now behind the looking glass of justice – therefore, you should forget everything you thought you knew. Expect the opposite of what you might believe to be logical and appropriate. Here are some disturbing examples:
Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency(CIA), Porter J. Goss and Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., who headed the CIA’s clandestine service at the time, approved the decision to destroy “more than a hundred tapes” documenting the brutal interrogation of detainees. Rodriguez and Goss agreed that the videotapes would make the C.I.A. “look terrible; it would be devastating to us.” Rather than face the music, Rodriguez and Goss had the tapes destroyed. Penalty for that? None.
Former head of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Scott Bloch, pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of Congress. This so-called whistleblower-protector intentionally caused hundreds of whistleblower cases to be permanently destroyed without an investigation. Department of Justice prosecutors sided with Bloch, practically begging the Judge presiding over the case to let Bloch get away without serving a single day in prison. Penalty? None so far.
Federal Appeals Court Judge Jay Bybee and University of California law professor John Yoo authored Bushist policies of surveillance and torture. Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) initially determined that the twosome have "violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics." But fear not, the OPR findings were downgraded to say that Bybee and Yoo merely showed 'poor judgment'. Downgrading the OPR's original finding relieved the Justice Department of having to send a referral to state bar associations "for potential disciplinary action--which, in Bybee's case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry."
While committing serious crimes may get you transferred or promoted - exposing these crimes or even seeking related information may qualify you to receive the following rewards:Make a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request – get red-flagged and investigated. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demoted Catherine Papoi (former deputy unit chief in charge of FOIA) for disclosing that the DHS had illegally sidetracked hundreds of FOIA requests from journalists, watchdog groups and private citizens.
In a complete turnaround, instead of providing the requesters with the information they were seeking, the agency investigated those who requested the materials. Department of Homeland Security’s standard approach to a FOIA request is “Who do you think you are?”Relevant rules and regulations clearly state that the identity of the person requesting records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act shouldn’t affect whether the government provides information. In her interviews with the Office of Inspector General, Papoi accused political appointees in Janet Napolitano’s office of “breaking the law by knowingly and intentionally delaying and obstructing the release of agency records”
What can you expect for asking questions, exposing the truth or blowing the whistle? Becoming the target of warrantless surveillance is a pretty safe bet. For years, AT&T, Verizon, MCI and other telecommunications companies have provided telephone records of journalists, concerned citizens and whistleblowers to federal agencies, under the guise of the "War on Terror." Between 2002 and 2007, the FBI illegally collected more than 4,000 U.S. telephone records, citing bogus terrorism threats or simply convincing telephone companies to comply with requests for information. DOJ Inspector General determined that during “leak” investigations, FBI agents improperly gained access to reporters’ calling records, including The Washington Post and the New York Times.
After initially exclaiming that the Bush-era warrantless surveillance was illegal and unacceptable, Obama’s White House proceeded to issue a secret rule, retroactively legalizing the FBI fiasco. Whistleblower Mark Klein, who leaked documents on the existence of secret NSA-controlled spy rooms embedded in AT&T switching offices across the country, said that it "was just the tip of an eavesdropping iceberg." Klein described these programs as “an untargeted, massive vacuum cleaner sweeping up millions of peoples' communications every second automatically."
After openly condemning these activities, the Obama administration added a stunning claim that the federal government cannot be sued for engaging in such activities, even if they were illegal. U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker dismissed the lawsuit, Jewell v. NSA, filed on behalf of AT&T customers fighting the National Security Agency's (NSA) illegal operations, targeting millions of citizens' phone calls, e-mails and web searches.
Walker ruled that "a citizen may not gain standing by claiming a right to have the government follow the law." This ruling further affirmed the government’s age old reliance on sovereign immunity from the perspective of “the government is the King andthe King can do no wrong”. Regardless of the administration, Americans are being left without an opportunity to redress the systematic destruction of their constitutional rights. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose…
What else can one expect for blowing the whistle? If you’re lucky enough to retire, the government is looking for a way to take away your pension for “leaking” information they could retroactively label as “classified”.
You can enjoy raids and searches of your home, as well as selective and malicious prosecutions. Obama managed to outdo the Bush administration in pursuing leak prosecutions, including former NSA executive Thomas A. Drake, an FBI linguist Shamai Leibowitz, scientist Steven Kim and US Army PFC Bradley Manning.
Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley effectively ended his career by describing the treatment of PFC Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” While this was clearly an understatement for the torture to which Manning is being subjected through prolonged solitary confinement, forced nudity, harassment and sleep deprivation, Crowley had to resign for voicing a public objection to the inhumane conditions under which Bradley Manning is being held.
In response to Crowley’s statement, Obama assured the American public that the Pentagon is using “appropriate” procedures. Daniel Ellsberg replied, “If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”
Obama’s Justice Department not only continued, but expanded upon the Bush-era legacy of terror, by reissuing a grand jury subpoena against New York Times reporter James Risen. This subpoena seeks to identify the sources Risen relied on in his 2006 book, “State of War,” which focuses on a CIA-led ruse to disrupt the Iranian nuclear weapons research.
As an attorney, Obama represented a whistleblower; as a presidential candidate, he pledged to “strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.” As a surprise to many, after he was elected, Obama has unleashed the most aggressive assault on whistleblowers to ever come from Washington, DC.
So far, Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers for leaking information to the press than any other president in U.S. history. In his new book, “The Promise”, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter explains: “Obama had one pet peeve that could make him lose his cool ... leaks.” According to Alter, Obama was “fearsome” on the subject and went on an “anti-leak jihad” over some disclosures. Several press disclosures that happened since Obama took office have been referred to the Justice Department for investigation and may result in criminal cases.
One of the latest whistleblower prosecutions is being handled by William Welch, a DOJ prosecutor currently under criminal investigation for allegedly withholding evidence during the botched trial of former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens’s conviction was vacated and the indictment against him was dismissed.
Nicholas Marsh, one of the prosecutors in the Ted Stevens case, worked with the FBI and other prosecutors, coordinating a massive investigation of alleged corruption in the state’s politics. These efforts culminated in 9 convictions, 6 guilty pleas and the Stevens trial. When the case fell apart, the tables were turned. Instead of leading prosecutions, Nicholas Marsh found himself as the subject of a criminal inquiry. He couldn’t stand the same kind of scrutiny routinely imposed by the Department of Justice against targeted individuals. In despair, the 37-year-old Marsh committed suicide on September 26, 2010.
Before Stevens was killed in a private plane crash, he had largely restored his good name. As Jeffrey Toobin of “The New Yorker” wrote, “the Stevens case was more than an unsuccessful prosecution. It was a profoundly unjust use of government power against an individual—a case flawed in both conception and execution.”
The same description could be used interchangeably to describe most prosecutions against whistleblowers. These cases are replete with government misconduct, obstruction of justice and abuse of power under the color of law. These are the dark ages for whistleblowers. Those who torture, kill and spy are immune from accountability, but those who expose illegal activities get prosecuted. Heroes get crucified, while villains get glorified (and get a pension). Whistleblowers are often the only light that is being shed upon the dark deeds of corruption. If they are silenced, it’s “lights out” for all of us.