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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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THOMAS DRAKE, WHISTLEBLOWER, FMR. NSA OFFICIAL: I've entitled my acceptance speech "Is This the Country We Want to Keep?" I want to first thank the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence for bestowing upon us this truly special honor.

I want to thank you, Jesselyn, for your introduction to me as a fellow whistleblower. I simply cannot say enough about your incredible energy, your diligence, your persistence, your dedication, and your tireless efforts that you so well demonstrated and displayed on my behalf during the government's criminal case against me. It was Jesselyn who wrote and spoke about my case with such outstanding focus and compelling clarity, in terms of both content and context. It was Jesselyn who so masterfully crafted the message about the government's egregious abuse of protected communications in their criminal indictment against me as a whistleblower for the purpose of reprisal, retaliation, retribution, suppression, and stamping out dissent. It was Jesselyn that got my case in spades and completely understood the gross injustices I experienced at the hands of our own government because I was a whistleblower. It was Jesselyn's many, many radio interviews, blogs, news articles, op-eds, TV appearances in both the alternative and the mainstream media, as well as her countless and untold hours working behind the scenes on my behalf, that made a huge and telling difference. Suffice it to say, Jesselyn truly became my public voice and my public conscience, speaking out and writing fearlessly and courageously, bringing truth to power with all her truly superb outreach and advocacy. And so I'm incredibly grateful for all that you have been, Jesselyn, and have done for me as a whistleblower, and the totality of your superb efforts and actions that so immensely helped in achieving a huge and decisive victory against an implacable government prosecution, and thereby keeping me free.

We live in sobering times, a time in which liberty is under significant and persistent duress. Jesselyn and I are two whistleblowers yoked together by the tragedy of 9/11. As government employees we became embroiled in two of this era's most controversial programs in their infancy—torture and warrantless wiretapping—as prime evidence of the government's abject abuse of power and the bypassing of the law. 

As a Justice Department ethics attorney, Jesselyn advised that the FBI not interrogate John Walker Lindh, an American, without counsel. The FBI ignored this advice, and the interrogation formed the base of a criminal prosecution in which Radek's conclusion that the FBI committed an ethics violation disappeared from Justice files and was withheld—I repeat, withheld—from the court. 

In my case, while a senior official at the National Security Agency, I found out about the use of electronic eavesdropping on Americans, turning this country into the equivalent of a foreign nation, for the purposes of blanket surveillance and data mining, blatantly disregarding a 23-year legal regime that was the exclusive means for the conduct of such electronic collection and surveillance, which carried criminal sanctions when violated. I also discovered that NSA had withheld critical and crucial intelligence prior to 9/11 and after 9/11, as well as data and information that was available but remained undiscovered, and if shared—if shared—could have made a decisive difference alone in preventing the 9/11 attacks from ever happening. I also learned about a massively expensive and failing surveillance program under development called Trailblazer that largely served as nothing more than a funding vehicle to enrich government contractors and keep government program managers in charge, when a cheap, highly effective, and operational alternative called ThinThread was available in-house that fully protected Americans' privacy rights under the law, while also providing superior intelligence to this nation. 

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