Source Reveals How Pentagon Ruined Whistleblower's Life and Set Stage for Snowden's Leaks
In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, we speak with a former senior Pentagon official about how his superiors broke the law to punish a key National Security Agency whistleblower for leaking information about waste, mismanagement and surveillance. His account sheds light on how and why Edward Snowden revealed how the government was spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. John Crane worked 25 years for the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, which helps federal employees expose abuse. He now says whistleblowers have little choice but to go outside the system, and is speaking out about what happened to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed the existence of a widespread illegal program of domestic surveillance. Crane describes how in December 2010 Drake’s lawyers filed a complaint with the inspector general alleging he had been punished in retaliation for his whistleblowing, and that the crimes Drake was later charged with were "based in part, or entirely," on information he provided to the Pentagon inspector general. Mark Hertsgaard recounts Crane’s story in his new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, and shows how Drake’s persecution sent an unmistakable message to Edward Snowden: Raising concerns within the system meant he would be targeted next. Edward Snowden has responded to Crane’s revelations by calling for a complete overhaul of U.S. whistleblower protections. "To me, the main issue is: Can we have a workable system that lets whistleblowers follow their own principled dissent without having them destroyed in the process?" asks John Crane. We are also joined by Mark Hertsgaard.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive: A former senior Pentagon official speaks out for the first time about how his superiors broke the law to punish a key National Security Agency whistleblower. By now, everyone knows how Edward Snowden revealed the government spying on hundreds of millions of people around the world. But if you want to know why Snowden did it, and the way he did it, you need to know the story of John Crane, who worked 25 years for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helps federal employees expose abuse and corruption. He now says whistleblowers have little choice but to go outside the system.
Crane is coming forward to speak about what happened to NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, who revealed the existence of a widespread illegal program of domestic surveillance. Drake’s house was raided by the FBI in 2007. He was charged in 2010 under the Espionage Act. In 2011, he pled guilty to a minor misdemeanor of unauthorized use of a government computer. He did not serve jail time.
John Crane and Edward Snowden’s stories are told in the new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden. In dozens of hours of interviews with reporter Mark Hertsgaard, Crane described how in December 2010 Drake’s lawyers filed a complaint with the inspector general alleging he had been punished in retaliation for his whistleblowing, and that the crimes Drake had been charged with were, quote, "based in part, or entirely," unquote, on information that Drake provided to the Pentagon inspector general during its investigation of the NSA whistleblowers. In other words, the indictment had unmistakable similarities to the confidential testimony Drake had given to Crane’s staff at the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s office. This suggests investigators had not simply given Drake’s name to the FBI, but shared his entire testimony.
Mark Hertsgaard recounts this and much more of Crane’s story publicly in his book, Bravehearts. In it, Hertsgaard tells how Drake’s arrest, indictment and persecution sent an unmistakable message to Snowden: Raising concerns within the system meant he would be targeted next. Edward Snowden has responded to Crane’s revelations by calling for a complete overhaul of the U.S. whistleblower protections. Snowden told The Guardian, quote, "We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories. Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy—recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change," Snowden said. He continued, "The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance," he says.
Well, for more, we’re joined here for the first time by John Crane, formerly with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helps federal employees expose abuse and corruption. And we’re joined by Mark Hertsgaard, who is the correspondent at Nation magazine, author of the newly published book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now!
JOHN CRANE: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: So, John Crane, talk about why you are coming out publicly for the first time.
JOHN CRANE: I’m coming out publicly for the first time because what Edward Snowden did is it was the largest, most massive classified leak in this country’s history. And so we have two separate issues here, that one is we, I think, need to make sure that there won’t be any more massive disclosures like that, but we can only assure that, should we have a whistleblower protection system in place that will make sure, one, whistleblowers have the confidence to step forward without having their own individual identities compromised, and when they step forward, that they’re not subject to multiyear retaliation.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about where you worked—people may not even realize the Pentagon has an Inspector General’s Office—and what you were in charge of.
JOHN CRANE: Yes. I was with the Inspector General’s Office. I worked there for 25 years. I was a senior executive there. I was one of the founding generations there. I had an office that was largely responsible for transparency and for accountability. Transparency meant that I dealt with the media, Congress. Accountability meant that I was responsible for the overall whistleblowing process. DOD is a huge agency. We have 1.2 million military. We have almost 700,000 civilians. We have half of the federal workforce. I was charged to make sure that within the Pentagon, that there could be principled dissent that would help to inform senior management regarding the way senior management made their own decisions, and—and that that system guaranteed that those people stepping forward would not be destroyed.
AMY GOODMAN: And that included, you oversaw the NSA, as well.
JOHN CRANE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: So when did you start to get nervous? When did you start to get alarmed?
JOHN CRANE: I got alarmed fairly early on, because since I was responsible for working with the Hill, when we received the first whistleblowing complaints, the so-called four plus one—Drake was called "plus one" because he wanted to have confidentiality maintained—that I then went up to the House and Senate Intel Committees, and they were making complaints about a large multibillion-dollar program that was responsible to gather huge amounts of information from U.S. citizens also. And it was simply behind schedule, over cost. It wasn’t meeting acquisition milestones. So we, of course, met with the Congress, and then we started a 18-month audit effort to see whether or not the various allegations brought to us were actually valid, that we found that most of their concerns were valid, and then we had the audit report issued in December of 2004.
One of the very important points of that audit report was—was that this is our audit report, IG DOD audit report, talked about a climate within the NSA regarding management reprisal. As the inspector general DOD, by statute, it is our responsibility making sure management reprisal does not take place. When I saw that, I said, "Look, we now have a civilian reprisal investigator on staff, Daniel Meyer, and he is now the whistleblower ombudsman for the larger intelligence community." And I wanted him to have the matter investigated, because we had made a finding. And I was subsequently told that we could not have the matter investigated, and that was the first warning flag to me that there was a problem.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake in his own words. He was initially charged under the Espionage Act for leaking information about waste management at the agency, but the case against him later collapsed. We talked to Thomas Drake in 2012 about his case.
THOMAS DRAKE: I was charged under the Espionage Act as part of an indictment that was handed down on me in April of 2010. There was five counts under the Espionage Act for retaining—not leaking, retaining—national defense information, although the government alleged that I was doing so for the purpose of disclosure to those unauthorized to receive it. I was also charged with obstruction of justice, as well as making false statements to FBI agents. ...
My first day on the job was 9/11. And it was shortly after 9/11 that I was exposed to the Pandora’s box of illegality and government wrongdoing on a very significant scale. So, you had the twin fraud, waste—you know, the twin specters of fraud, waste and abuse being committed on a vast scale through a program called Trailblazer, a multibillion-dollar program, when in fact there was alternatives that already existed and fulfilled most all the requirements of Trailblazer, even prior to 9/11.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened to both Thomas Drake and Bill Binney and other NSA officials was frightening. We had a chance in April of 2012 to interview NSA whistleblower William Binney. He was appearing on Democracy Now! in his first-ever television interview, and he described what happened when FBI agents raided his home after he became a whistleblower. This was right before they raided Tom Drake’s house, but this was Bill Binney’s description of what happened to him.
WILLIAM BINNEY: I live in Maryland, actually four miles from NSA.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened?
WILLIAM BINNEY: They came busting in.
AMY GOODMAN: Who’s "they"?
WILLIAM BINNEY: The FBI. About 12 of them, I think, 10 to 12. They came in with the guns drawn, on my house.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you?
WILLIAM BINNEY: I was in the shower. I was taking a shower, so my son answered the door. And they of course pushed him out of the way at gunpoint and came running upstairs and found me in the shower, and came in and pointed the gun at me while I was, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: Pointed a gun at your head?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Oh, yeah. Yes. Wanted to make sure I saw it and that I was duly intimidated, I guess.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: And what did they—what did they do at that point? Did they begin questioning you? Or they just took you to headquarters? Or—
WILLIAM BINNEY: No, no. Yeah, they basically separated us from—I was separated from my family. Took me on the back porch, and they started asking me questions about it. They were basically wanting me to tell them something that would implicate someone in a crime. And so, I told them that I didn’t really know—they wanted to know about certain people, that was—they were the ones that were being raided at the same time, people who—we all signed—those who were raided that day, all of us signed the DOD IG complaint. We were the ones who filed that complaint.
AMY GOODMAN: The Pentagon—
WILLIAM BINNEY: The Pentagon DOD IG, against—
AMY GOODMAN: —inspector general complaint.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Against NSA, yes, talking about fraud—basically corruption, fraud, waste and abuse. And then—
AMY GOODMAN: Tom Drake was raided at the same time?
WILLIAM BINNEY: No, he was raided in November of that year. We were just the ones who signed it, were raided.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: So, and who were the other people that were raided that same day?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Diane Roark, Kirk Wiebe and Ed Loomis.
AMY GOODMAN: Diane Roark worked for the Senate committee?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Diane was the senior staffer. She had the NSA account on the HPSCI side, on the House side.
AMY GOODMAN: So, they were the four, and plus one was Drake. His house would be raided soon after. John Crane, if you could explain—Bill Binney ultimately would not be charged. Bill Binney, by the way, is a double amputee.
JOHN CRANE: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: But Tom Drake was charged, and you noticed something very similar about the charges against him and what he revealed to your office.
JOHN CRANE: Yes. I was very concerned, because when there was a 10-count indictment returned, that three of the counts involved him housing information at his home. I was concerned that—well, first, he was a confidential whistleblower. And under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended, that their confidentialities are not revealed, and they can only be revealed under two separate circumstances, that, one, you have to ask the whistleblower whether they can have their identities revealed, and, two, only if there is no other alternative. This is a case where this was not a threat to health, safety—immediate threat. And my concern was—and this was actually raised through the Government Accountability Project, because they represented him—was that three of the charges could have related to whether or not he was following advice from the inspector general DOD. And I was concerned that should he have had housed material at his home, based upon IG DOD advice, he was then being on trial—put on trial under the Espionage Act because he was a confidential informant working with the IG, inspector general.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, but I have to ask: What happened to you when you started raising these concerns? You’re there supposed to be protecting whistleblowers—
JOHN CRANE: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —in the Pentagon and the NSA.
JOHN CRANE: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And you are now becoming a whistleblower.
JOHN CRANE: Right. I was shut down, that I was the IG DOD FOIA appellate authority also. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Meaning when people asked you, under the Freedom of Information Act, for information.
JOHN CRANE: Absolutely. So, when his attorneys came to us, they wanted to see whether—in the 2004 audit, that whether in those work papers that there was exculpatory information regarding why Drake acted the way he did. As the FOIA appellate authority, I was in charge of simply gathering all of the information in the agency, that—those are documents that should have been retained, that they should have been permanent record. Some of them were also secret documents, top-secret documents, sensitive intelligence documents. There’s a very strict protocol regarding how those are handled, where they are, and if and when they are destroyed, and, of course, by whom. Those were answers I could not receive, and that was highly unusual.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue this discussion in a moment. John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon, has revealed major privacy and security lapses within the government’s whistleblower program. For a quarter of a century, he worked with the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which is supposed to help federal employees expose abuse and corruption. This is a secret chapter that even Edward Snowden did not know about but is now coming to understand, what was happening within the government. And we’re going to speak with Mark Hertsgaard, as well, when we come back, to get a full picture of how this all fits together. His new book is out; it’s called Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Watching Me" by Jill Scott, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re in New York with this Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive with John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon, who has revealed major privacy and security lapses within the government’s whistleblower program. For 25 years, he worked for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helped federal employees, both in the Pentagon, at the NSA, expose abuse and corruption. And we’re joined by Mark Hertsgaard, who is the author of the new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, which recounts for the first time John Crane’s story. You call him the third man, Mark. Why?
MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, because, as you said at the top of the show, everybody knows what Snowden did at this point, but to really understand it, what Snowden did and why he did it the way he did it—he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men. And one is Thomas Drake, as you said, and the other is the third man. And that third man is Mr. John Crane. And I called him that partly because I needed to keep his identity confidential myself, until we broke the story here today in New York on Democracy Now!, but also in The Guardian and Der Spiegel newspapers. And I chose to work with The Guardian and Der Spiegel because they broke the original Snowden stories, and they understood just how significant Crane’s revelations are, because when you see everything that John Crane tells us about how the whistleblower protection system inside the Pentagon is broken, only results in a whistleblower having his life ruined, as we saw with Tom Drake, you see that really Edward Snowden had no other choice but to go public.
I guess he had two choices. He could have remained silent about the NSA surveillance and then continued to leave the public in the dark about the fact that the United States government was conducting mass, warrantless surveillance, illegal surveillance. He could have done that, but Snowden decided, for reasons of conscience, he could not remain silent. He could have gone Tom Drake’s direction and ended up destroyed like Tom Drake. So, instead, Snowden went out and went public. And he did kind of what Daniel Ellsberg did 40 years ago with the Pentagon Papers, which is to say, "I’m going to take these documents. I’m going to give them to the press." And as you said in that quote at the top of the hour, from The Guardian report yesterday, Snowden says, "Look, going to the press is not without its risks"—you know, Snowden is now living in exile—"but at least you have a chance—at least you have a chance to get the news out."
And so I think that’s what’s important about John Crane’s story, is it puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning. "He broke the law, bring him home. He should face the music," is what Hillary Clinton said. "Face the music. He could have been a whistleblower," Hillary Clinton added, "and he would have gotten a very good reception, I think." Well, I would just like to invite Secretary Clinton, tell that to Thomas Drake, tell that to John Crane, that you would have gotten a good reception by following the whistleblower law inside of the Pentagon.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I want to go to part of what Edward Snowden responded to Crane’s revelations in The Guardian. He said, "We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories. Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy—recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change." I also want to go to President Obama and Hillary Clinton. In a 2014—during a press conference in 2013, President Obama was asked about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case. If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order, well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information, that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community, for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.
AMY GOODMAN: OK, the president says he signed an executive order that would protect whistleblowers. John Crane, you were a top official in the Pentagon in the Inspector General’s Office. You were there within the whistleblowers protection unit.
JOHN CRANE: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Is what President Obama’s saying true?
JOHN CRANE: There are fact patterns that he was of course not aware of. The General Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of the Congress, that they have issued two separate reports on the IG DOD whistleblower program. In one of the reports, they say that one-quarter of all IG employees fear reprisal. In a federal employee climate survey, one-third of all reprisal investigators fear reprisal. So, we have a situation here, based—based upon Capitol Hill taking in trust, showing that those investigators trying to actually prove reprisal are themselves retaliated against when they try to make findings substantiating reprisal. So, that’s a dynamic that no one within the White House would have understood.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go from the president to the person who wants to be president, Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. This is a 2014 interview she did with The Guardian, where she said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should return to the U.S. if he’s serious in engaging in debate about privacy and security.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I would say, first of all, that Edward Snowden broke our laws, and that cannot be ignored or brushed aside. Secondly, I believe that if his primary concern was stirring a debate in our country over the tension between privacy and security, there were other ways of doing it, instead of stealing an enormous amount of information that had nothing to do with the U.S. or American citizens. I would say, thirdly, that there are many people in our history who have raised serious questions about government behavior. They’ve done it either with or without whistleblower protection, and they have stood and faced whatever the reaction was to make their case in public. ...
I don’t know what he’s been charged with. Those are sealed indictments. I have no idea what he’s been charged with. I’m not sure he knows what he’s been charged with. But even in any case that I’m aware of, as a former lawyer, he has the right to mount a defense. And he certainly has a right to mount both a legal defense and a public defense, which of course can affect the legal defense.
AMY GOODMAN: I remember this interview very well that Hillary Clinton did with The Guardian in 2014, because I learned about it just as I was walking up the steps of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to interview Julian Assange, who is holed up there, and June 19th will be his fourth year in captivity. He’s gotten asylum in Ecuador, but he fears if he steps outside, he will be arrested and ultimately extradited to the United States, fears he could be charged with treason. But what Hillary Clinton said, John Crane, about him coming back to this country, and he could launch a vigorous legal and public defense, John Snowden—I mean, Edward Snowden?
JOHN CRANE: Yes, yes. I think that in terms of when you think whether or not you should be a whistleblower, that you’re concerned about whether or not the system works. And there are various statistics out there, from the IG DOD semi-annual report, for instance, that in regard to the way the IG even investigates senior officials, over a two-and-a-half-year period, regarding senior officials in the Army, that the IG DOD received 482 allegations, accepted 10 allegations, substantiated one allegation.
AMY GOODMAN: Of 404, the Inspector General’s Office in the Pentagon, in the Department of Defense—
JOHN CRANE: Substantiated one, which is 0.2 percent. The Army, however, also investigating senior officials, under IG DOD oversight, they had 372 allegations. They investigated all 372 allegations. They had 102 substantiated. They had a 27 percent substantiation rate. So, this is a very major statistical anomaly. Why does the Army, looking at the same group of senior officials, have a 27 percent substantiation rate versus the IG with a 0.2 percent?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to the case of Tom Drake.
JOHN CRANE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You allege documents were destroyed.
JOHN CRANE: I don’t allege that. Documents were destroyed. Because when the IG DOD—
AMY GOODMAN: You said you don’t allege that, that in fact you know that documents were destroyed.
JOHN CRANE: Because that is what the IG DOD said. Documents were destroyed according to a standard document destruction policy. And that was a statement that they made to the Department of Justice in regard to the Drake trial, because Drake’s attorneys wanted to find exculpatory information. The IG DOD response was, it just doesn’t exist.
AMY GOODMAN: It had existed.
JOHN CRANE: It had existed, and it should have existed.
MARK HERTSGAARD: Yeah, they made sure it didn’t exist.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Hertsgaard?
MARK HERTSGAARD: They made sure it didn’t exist. I think John is being, perhaps, very diplomatic about his former colleagues. You know, he asked for those documents, and they said, "Oh, we can’t give them to you." "Why not?" "Well, because they don’t exist anymore." "Well, why not?" Because somebody"—expletived—"somebody screwed up, and they were destroyed," in a supposedly routine purge of documents. And, you know, they were, obviously, lying about that. And then, to make it worse, these two individuals, who were then the acting inspector general of the Pentagon and the general counsel, the top lawyer there, they lied—
AMY GOODMAN: Explain who they are.
MARK HERTSGAARD: Yeah. Well, their names are Lynne Halbrooks—she was the acting inspector general—and Henry Shelley, who was the general counsel. And he was the one who said, "We screwed up"—since this is a family program. And he said that they had been destroyed in a routine purge. Of course, governments, they do have to purge a lot of information, but you don’t purge top-secret documents lightly. And then, to make it worse, they then lied to the federal judge in this case about that, assuring the judge that it was—that the documents had been lost in a routine purge. Well, that, of course, is a felony. You cannot lie to a judge in a federal case. You cannot destroy documents. That is called obstruction of justice. And that is really why these two individuals now are in legal jeopardy.
And the Office of Special Counsel, which is an agency inside the United States government that investigates all of the whistleblower issues throughout the government, they looked into the allegations of John Crane. And in March, they issued their report, and they said that there is a, quote, "substantial likelihood" that Mr. Crane’s allegations are correct. What that means—that’s the highest threshold of proof that they could have asserted. And that means that now Henry Shelley, the general counsel, still at the Pentagon’s IG Office, and Lynne Halbrooks, the former assistant inspector general, they are now facing a new investigation. As the OSC finding required, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has now had to authorize a new investigation into all this. And these are the kinds of crimes—lying to a judge, destroying documents, obstructing justice—if you or I did them, we would be going to jail. We’ll see if these high-ranking Pentagon officials end up going to jail.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, and when we come back, I want to ask you, John Crane, what gave you the courage to speak out. You have quite a remarkable family history. We are talking with John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon, and we’re talking with Mark Hertsgaard, who has written the story of John Crane and Thomas Drake in a new book called Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Obama," Anohni, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Today, a former Pentagon official is speaking out for the first time in this broadcast exclusive—John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon, who’s revealed major privacy and security lapses within the government’s whistleblower program. He worked for a quarter of a century at the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helps expose—which helps federal employees expose abuse and corruption, both at the Pentagon and the NSA. And we’re joined by Mark Hertsgaard, who tells Crane’s story in Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, a new book. What happened to you, John Crane? So you worked there for 25 years; you’re not working there anymore.
JOHN CRANE: Yes. I was summoned into Ms. Halbrooks’ office, and I was simply walked out of the building.
AMY GOODMAN: The Pentagon inspector general at the time.
JOHN CRANE: Pentagon inspector general building. It was not a surprising occurrence.
AMY GOODMAN: When was this?
JOHN CRANE: This was in February 2013, that since I was responsible for the overall whistleblowing program, that within the Inspector General’s Office we had various whistleblowers stepping forward. And they had concerns regarding the audit function. They had concerns the way that we investigated reprisal investigations. And they had contacted Congress. And as the agency head, she asked me to actually identify to her IG employees who were whistleblowers, so that she could have the congressional oversight shut down, because she did not want to have her Senate nomination endangered by them, that she was the acting inspector general, that she wanted to be the permanent inspector general, and she could not afford to have whistleblowers contacting Congress, because that would create questions regarding whether she was qualified for the job that she wanted to have.
AMY GOODMAN: So you were walked out.
JOHN CRANE: I was walked out.
AMY GOODMAN: You were fired.
JOHN CRANE: Physically walked out.
AMY GOODMAN: What gave you the courage to speak out? Talk about your family.
JOHN CRANE: Civil society is very important. And in any large society, that there is a compact between the governed and those who govern them, and there needs to be transparency, and that there needs to be accountability. And should you have the wrong balance, should you have an executive out of control, that can simply compromise everyone’s rights. And in the Germany after World War I, when you have lots of unemployed soldiers with a grievance following very talented sociopaths, you can have a really explosive combination, and that was Nazi Germany. My father [sic] served under the Weimar Republic, and that was the liberal German republic after—
MARK HERTSGAARD: Your grandfather.
JOHN CRANE: Grandfather, after the First World War, that he was actually based down in Munich. He was in charge to—charged to monitor radical elements. And when Hitler tried to seize power for the first time, Hitler tried to use force. And then, in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler tried to seize the whole Bavarian government. Hitler walked into the beer hall and fired a gun into the ceiling, saying that he was taking control. My grandfather stepped in front of him, saying, "Mr. Hitler, this way he will never control Germany." And then Hitler simply put his gun down, went to the front, captured the whole senior leadership. My grandfather then helped to have the actual countercoup established, put down Hitler’s uprising, and then he was to trial—then he was a witness at the trial for the government that, of course, put him in jail.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened to your grandfather?
JOHN CRANE: My grandfather, of course, wasn’t a fascist, that in 1933, when Mr. Hitler seized power, that he resigned, but he wasn’t allowed to resign. He was very active with the antifascist resistance, that my uncle was killed in Poland in 1939. And one of his friends was a young officer called Graf Claus Schenk von [Stauffenberg]. He was the man who actually put the suitcase beside Hitler in 1944 to have Hitler killed. And so, he was a family friend. And the issue is: Within any society, how does a person channel simply principled civil dissent within a Nazi dictatorship that accords violence? Within the system we have here, because it is a constitutional democracy, principled dissent needs to be channeled through the whistleblower system, because that will help senior management also seeing levels down.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you want your old job back within the Pentagon’s Inspector General Office, being in charge of protection of whistleblowers?
JOHN CRANE: When I was in charge, outside civil society organizations said that my programs were the federal gold standard. That is not the case anymore. That should the new acting inspector general want to return his office to the gold standard, I am willing to help.
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Hertsgaard, as we begin to wrap up, how you came to investigate this story, and what the government’s response has been? You have interviewed Michael Hayden several times.
MARK HERTSGAARD: I did. The reason I got this story is because of the work of the Government Accountability Project, and they deserve a shout-out here. For 37 years, they have been defending whistleblowers, advocating for whistleblowers, both in individual cases like this and helping to write things like the whistleblower protection law and push it through Congress. They represented legally Edward Snowden, John Crane, Tom Drake and a whole range of other whistleblowers. And one of the things I say in the book is that while this is a very dramatic story, we need to understand as citizens—and this is what John Crane is saying here—we absolutely depend, as a democracy, on whistleblowers. We’ve got to know that they can come forward, because when whistleblowers come forward, whether it’s Daniel Ellsberg or John Crane or Edward Snowden or, you know, Jeffrey Wigand, who blew the whistle on how Big Tobacco was lying about nicotine in our cigarettes, you know, whistleblowers can make wars end, they can take deadly products off the market, and a whole range of other things. And I think whistleblowers do not get the respect that they deserve. And so that was what I was trying to do in this book. And the Government Accountability Project let me do that.
AMY GOODMAN: And the institutions you decided to release this with, this information—
MARK HERTSGAARD: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —where you went, and where you didn’t go?
MARK HERTSGAARD: I went to—I went in February to Europe to meet face to face with the editors especially at The Guardian, because they broke the Snowden story originally. And very proud to say that they saw the value of this story right away, the same with Der Spiegel in Germany. And I chose them precisely because they’re outside of the United States. Too often the mainstream media in this country, as you well know, Amy, tend to, by default almost, reflect and channel the government’s views of this. You asked, did I go to the government? Of course I went to the government. I asked them about this. I asked Henry Shelley, I asked Lynne Halbrooks—the people who offed John Crane. They said they wouldn’t comment. And I think that they are assuming that this is going to blow over, because, in general, the American media has not held their feet to the fire.
Michael Hayden, the NSA director, he basically says that he wanted to put Edward Snowden on a government kill list. He said that was a joke. But he’s not quite as bloodthirsty as James Woolsey, the former CIA director, who said last November, after the Paris terrorist attacks, that Mr. Snowden, quote, "should suffer death by hanging. Electrocution is too good for him." So, when you’ve got a government like that, who has that kind of antipathy to whistleblowers, it’s all the more important that, as Snowden said yesterday reacting to John’s story in The Guardian, Snowden said we need to recognize whistleblowers and basically lift them up in the public debate, because without that, without the press doing that, the government will—by either active or de facto hostility, they will take people like John Crane down. And our democracy will be lessened. We would not know that the NSA is spying on all of us, had not Edward Snowden decided to go outside of this broken whistleblower system and become an act of conscience.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who was speaking on CNN last year. He called NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a traitor.
DONALD TRUMP: I think he’s a total traitor. And I would deal with him harshly. And if I were president, Putin would give him over. I would get along with Putin. I’ve dealt with Russia. Putin hates—
ANDERSON COOPER: You think you’d get along with Putin?
DONALD TRUMP: I think I’d get along with him fine. I think he’d be absolutely fine. He would never keep somebody like Snowden in Russia. He hates Obama. He doesn’t respect Obama. Obama doesn’t not like him, either. But he has no respect for Obama, has a hatred for Obama. And Snowden is living the life. Look, if that—if I’m president, Putin says, "Hey, boom, you’re gone." I guarantee you that.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump talking about Edward Snowden. John Crane, in these last 30 seconds, your final comment?
JOHN CRANE: Regarding whistleblowing, that civil society, the Office of the Special Counsel and the Congress, in the most recent defense authorization bill under Chairman McCain, independently have all reached the same conclusion regarding the whistleblowing system within the IG. And their message to Secretary Ashton Carter is: Houston, we have a problem.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. I want to thank you, John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon in charge of protecting whistleblowers at the Pentagon and the NSA, speaking out here in this broadcast exclusive on Democracy Now! And Mark Hertsgaard, congratulations on your new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden.
That does it for today’s show. I’ll be at the Philadelphia Free Library today at 1901 Vine Street at noon speaking, and tomorrow evening, Tuesday, at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont. Happy birthday to Mike DiFilippo.