What Happens to Snowden Now? 5 Government Whistleblowers Under Attack From Obama
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Kiriakou emerged as a prominent critic of the CIA’s use of torture after he gave a 2007 interview to ABC News disclosing that a top al Qaeda operative was waterboarded.
Like Manning, Kiriakou was initially charged with violating the Espionage Act. But under a plea deal, that charge was dropped and Kiriakou was ultimately convicted of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
His supporters point out that while Kiriakou was blowing the whistle on torture, the people who implemented the illegal policy are walking free. That’s still the case, and Kiriakou is now the only person in jail for his role in the torture program--but it’s for exposing it, not for implementing it.
4. Thomas Drake
A former executive at the National Security Agency, Thomas Drake exposed details about the agency’s Trailblazer Project. For this, he was charged under the Espionage Act, though the government’s case against him spectacularly failed.
Drake became concerned about the Trailblazer Project’s cost--at $1 billion, it was way more than the NSA should have been paying for a program they could have instituted in-house. He was also concerned it would violate the privacy of Americans. But Trailblazer, which was supposed to analyze intercepted communications, was chosen to be the NSA’s vehicle for surveillance anyway. Drake disclosed details about the NSA’s wastefulness to a Baltimore Sun reporter.
The government initially threw the book at him, but their case collapsed. As Marcy Wheeler explained in The Nation: “The Department of Justice had been pursuing Drake for alleged violations of the Espionage Act that might have sent him to prison for up to 35 years. But the government withdrew the evidence supporting several of the central charges after a judge ruled Drake would not be able to defend himself unless the government revealed details about one of the National Security Agency’s telecommunications collection programs.” Drake was eventually convicted on the misdemeanor charge of exceeding authorized use of a computer.
5. Shamai Leibowitz
This FBI translator became the first person under the Obama administration to be prosecuted for leaking information to the news media.
Leibowitz, an Israeli-American, became concerned about what he said was Israeli government efforts to influence Congress to take a harder line against Iran. He passed on secret transcripts to American blogger Richard Silverstein that were collected when the FBI wiretapped Israeli Embassy officials.
Leibowitz also disclosed that “the Israeli Embassy provided ‘regular written briefings’ on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration,” among other things.
Leibowitz was charged under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 20 months in prison.