Letter: The War on Whistle-Blowers
To the Editor:
Tim Weiner claims that Edward Snowden has not been accused of espionage, only of leaking secrets (“Genuine Crusaders Don’t Flee; They Fight,” July 1). Strictly speaking, this is true, but Weiner surely knows that the Espionage Act, under which Snowden has been charged, is a blunt legal instrument that allows prosecutors to pile on charges as needed to silence whistle-blowers. He is currently charged with: theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person. These charges alone could get Snowden decades in prison.
Snowden has committed no crimes and is presumably protected by the 1989 Whistle-B lower Protection Act. Even so, it is likely he will be treated as unconscionably as Bradley Manning was if he is arrested.
Weiner also surely knows that Daniel Ellsberg was charged when most people still had a reasonable expectation that a whistle-blower acting in the public interest could get a fair hearing in court.
Weiner must be aware that William Binney and J. Kirk Weibe, National Security Agency employees who became whistle-blowers and who were obviously acting in the public interest, were subsequently threatened and intimidated by the FBI.
Thomas Drake, another NSA employee, was harassed by the Justice Department and given a $50,000 fine as well as losing his pension, even though most of the charges were eventually dropped.
As for Julian Assange, the fact is he has never been charged with a crime in Sweden. Even the prosecutors are skeptical. The U.S. government’s transparent attempt to render Assange to the black hole of American justice for the “crime” of providing information about just what the world’s governments are doing should be alarming to all of us.
Far from being a coward who had a “fight or flight” moment, Snowden has taken NSA whistle-blowing to the next level by providing documentation of its illegal and dangerous spying, and he is fully aware of the risks. He has also vindicated his fellow NSA whistle-blowers who “played by the rules” and were quickly discarded by the media.