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"Edward Snowden Is a Patriot": Ex-NSA CIA, FBI and Justice Whistleblowers Meet Leaker in Moscow

Four former U.S. intelligence officials — all whistleblowers themselves — tell about their trip to meet NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia and present him with an award.
 
 
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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.
Photo Credit: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films

 
 
 
 

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by four former U.S. intelligence officials who met with Snowden to give him an award for integrity in intelligence. In Minneapolis, we’re joined by Coleen Rowley. She was a special agent for the FBI from 1981 to 2004. She was a division legal counsel for 13 years, taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police. Rowley also testified before Congress about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks. She was awarded  Time Person of the Year.

In Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Ray McGovern, the former senior CIA analyst whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He did that intelligence brief for former President George H.W. Bush.

We’re also joined by Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped.

We’re also joined by Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice.

We welcome you all back from Russia. I want to start with Thomas Drake, you yourself having worked for the National Security Agency. Tell us about this trip that you took to Russia to give Edward Snowden an award.

THOMAS DRAKE: Well, the Integrity in Intelligence Award is given to the recipient, and we make every effort to actually deliver it and present it in person. And given that he was in Russia, we made arrangements to go to Russia and present him with the Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence Award.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was Sam Adams?

THOMAS DRAKE: I’ll let Ray McGovern share the history of that, because Ray really has the background, as well as the personal knowledge, of what Sam Adams did during the Vietnam War era.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ray, you’re sitting right next to Thomas Drake in the studios in Washington, D.C., just back from Russia. Tell us about this award.

RAY McGOVERN: Well, Amy, Sam Adams was a colleague of mine. He entered the agency under President Kennedy the same day I did. He was given the account to count up how many communist forces were under arms in South Vietnam, and discovered in 1967 that there were twice as many as our generals in Saigon would admit to. They said there could be no more than 299,000 enemy under arms. The precision of that number, sound like 1,429 people gassed to death in Damascus? The specificity of the thing gives it away. In any case, he fought the good fight, but his uppers, the superiors, director helms, caved and would not tell the president the real story. And Sam went to his death with profound regret that he didn’t go outside of channels. He stayed inside channels, where he got diddled and diddled and diddled by the inspector general of the Pentagon, of the CIA. And had he spoken out in 1967, halfway through that war, those of you who know what the Vietnam Memorial looks like, the whole left part of that memorial wouldn’t be there, because there’d be no names to chisel into that granite. And Sam went to his early death with profound regret that he hadn’t spoken out.

And so it is incredibly appropriate that this award for integrity in intelligence, given mostly to whistleblowers, but occasionally to people who do the job honestly in place—and that is Tom Fingar, for example, the last awardee last January, who shepherded the estimate in 2007 which said Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003—my arithmetic is right, that’s 10 years ago—and has not resumed work on a nuclear weapon. That judgment has been reiterated, revalidated every year since. And in [2007, '08], it played a huge role in preventing Bush and Cheney from starting a war with Iran. And if you don't believe me, just read Bush’s memoirs.

 
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