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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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Jesselyn and I became whistleblowers, and our whistleblowing was both a warning and an alert to those in government, and eventually the public, about serious wrongdoings and dangers and malfeasance created and then concealed within our government. Our whistleblowing also occurred because there was profound institutional failure, a multilayered breakdown in accountability. And today we have a frightening lack of responsibility and accountability within the national security complex, and it poses—I will mince no words here—it poses a direct threat to all our personal freedoms, as well as a clear and present danger to our constitutional republic. Both cannot coexist as a social and legal contract is being broken. Our government has profoundly lost its constitutional compass and it's been tainted to its core. And yet it is our enshrined liberties, it is our enshrined liberties that are our national security. What country do we want to keep?

Jesselyn and I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution, versus an oath of loyalty to the organization and [incompr.] used to bypass and break the law. But what is meant by personal integrity and loyalty? Our personal integrity meant that we held consistently firm and true to the ideals and values centered on upholding and defending the Constitution. By loyalty, we were steadfast in our allegiance of law of the land. However, loyalty when blind in this place ceases to be a virtue and turns into a corrupting mechanism to hide and obfuscate wrongdoing, embarrassment, and coverup. We blew the whistle because we saw grave injustice and wrongdoing occurring within our respective organizations. 

In my recently successfully concluded case that ended decisively in my favor, the government wanted to put me away in prison for many, many years—in fact, at one point they threatened me with 35 years in prison—for simply telling the truth as a whistleblower and exposing government wrongdoing and illegalities. The government found out everything they could about me and turned me into an enemy of the state, everything they could about me over many years, before I was even indicted. Having this secret ability, this secret ability to collect and analyze data with few if any substantial constraints, especially on people, is seductively powerful, and when particularly done without the person's permission and done so in secret, it is the ultimate form of control over another. So it shows [incompr.] big business and violate the Constitution. All of it was so unnecessary. American ingenuity and the Constitution were quite sufficient to protect and defend the country with the best and under the law. There was no—I repeat—no need to go to the dark side.

Those who've served in the military understand what it means when the flag is flown upside down. It means you're under duress. It is a sign of distress. When the government hides behind its veil of secrecy, when it professes openness and transparency while practicing opaqueness and deceit, that's when its citizens need to become very aware of what that future might hold regarding what liberties they believe they possess that are then eroded, and even taken away, in the name of national security.

Modern governments today increasingly perform mass surveillance of their citizens, explaining—explaining that they believe that it's necessary to protect them from dangerous groups such as terrorists, criminals, or politically subversive dissenters, in order to track the citizenry and maintain social control. Read the history books. We are fast approaching—we are fast approaching a genuine surveillance society in the United States, a dark Orwellian future where every move, our every transaction, our every communication, and our every contact is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready to be examined and used against us by the authorities whenever they want to at any time. What country do we want to keep?

 
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