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'Is This the Country We Want to Keep?': Whistleblower Threatened with 35 Years in Prison, Warns of Developing Tyranny

Thomas Drake blew the whistle on a massive domestic information gathering scheme and was called "an enemy of the state."

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However—however—rather than address its own corruption, ineptitude, and illegality, the government made us targets of federal criminal leak investigations, part of a vicious—I repeat, vicious—campaign against whistleblowers that started under Bush and has now come to full fruition under Obama, inverting the logical paradigm. We were transmogrified from public servants trying to improve our government, into traitors and enemies of the state. The government subjected us to severe retaliation that started with forcing us from our jobs as career public servants, rendering us unemployed and unemployable, while [incompr.] a wrecking ball into the conditions of our jobs, in my case a security clearance, and in Jesselyn's case, state bar licensure. We were blacklisted and no longer had a stream of income, while simultaneously incurring attorneys fees and necessitating second mortgages on our respective homes. But that was nothing, that was nothing compared to the overkill reprisal to come, placement on the no-fly list for Jesselyn and prosecution under the Espionage Act for me.

What we experienced sends unequivocally a chilling message, an unequivocally chilling message about what the government can and will do when one speaks truth to power: a direct form of political repression and censorship. If sharing issues—if sharing issues of significant and even grave public concern which do not in any way compromise our national security is now considered a criminal act, we have strayed far from what our founding fathers envisioned. When exercising First Amendment rights is now considered espionage, this is anathema to a free, open, and democratic government. 

As Americans, we did everything we could to defend the constitutional rights of all U.S. citizens, which were violated and abused by our own government when there was no reason to do so at all, except as an excuse to go to the proverbial dark side, by abrogating unaccountable, irresponsible, and off-the-books unilateral executive power in secret. Once exposed, these unconstitutional detours were predictably justified by vague and undefined claims of national security, while aided and abetted by shameless fearmongering on the part of government. And so I must say, I must say it is pure sophistry to argue that the government can operate secretly with unbridled immunity and impunity, especially for such blatant illegalities as torture and wiretapping without warrants, from those it is constitutionally bound to serve and protect when providing for the common defense of this nation, and then persecute and prosecute the very people who revealed such wrongdoing and malfeasance.

Before the war on terrorism, our country well recognized the importance of free speech, privacy, legal counsel, and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. If we sacrifice these basic liberties according to the false dichotomy that it is required for security, then we transform ourselves from an oasis of freedom into a [incompr.] that terrorizes its own citizens when they step out of line. These are the hallmarks—these are the hallmarks—these are the hallmarks of tyranny and despotism, not democracy, and are increasingly alien to the Constitution and our American way of life.

Jesselyn and I stand alongside other whistleblowers before us, like Dan Ellsberg and Coleen Rowley, who also nominated me for the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, as well as Larry Wilkerson, an Integrity in Intelligence award recipient. We did not take an oath to see secrecy and subterfuge used as cover for subverting the Constitution and violating the law. Our oath to the Constitution took primacy.

But I fear for the Republic. When Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman at the end of the Constitutional Convention and it went out for ratification to the 13 states, he was asked, what has been created here? He said, a Republic, if you can keep it. So what expired on 9/11? The Constitution?

 
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