One of the major areas where Barack Obama has shamelessly and inexcusably reversed himself from what he campaigned on in 2008 is with regard to whistleblower protections. Candidate Obama praised those who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s use of telecommunications companies to illegally spy on Americans, saying “We only know these crimes took place because insiders blew the whistle at great personal risk … Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” This was part of his promise to have one of the most transparent administrations ever.
That was then. Once in office, Obama has turned into one of the most vicious persecutors of whistleblowers and his clams of transparency have become a joke.
The latest example is his signing statement attached to the re-authorization of the odious NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) negating the whistleblower protections contained in it, one of the few positive features of that odious Act.
The signing statement is yet another chapter in the president’s ongoing clash with whistleblower advocates. Obama, who has come under fire for his administration’s aggressive prosecution of leak cases, issued the statement despite the fact that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence had already removed from the bill protections for contractors working in the intelligence community.
The whistleblower language backed by McCaskill and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) was designed to extend protections to 12 million employees of federal contractors if they disclosed information they reasonably believed would expose illegality, gross waste or gross mismanagement within the federal procurement system. The nonprofit Government Accountability Project, which lobbied for the measures, said they would apply to Defense Department contractors, subcontractors and grant recipients permanently and to all civilian federal agency contractors under a four-year pilot program.
Obama’s signing statement, which was released early Thursday morning, maintained that the provisions “could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with [the president’s] authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.”
So much for Obama’s vows of transparency.
Of course the whistleblower subjected to the most vicious treatment by Obama is Bradley Manning and now even a military judge has ruled that he was subjected to illegal and excessively harsh treatment while in military custody. As Glenn Greenwald says, “As usual, those who commit serious crimes in government are not punished but rather rewarded. Only those who expose those crimes are punished.”