Obama’s war on whistleblowers continues apace

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.”


  1. Rodney Nelson says

    Bradley Manning was not a whistle blower. He was a soldier who violated the National Security Act by releasing classified information to an unauthorized recipient. One could argue that the information should not have been classified but since it was, Manning was involved in espionage.

    The information Manning released did not reveal waste, fraud or abuse by government employees or contractors but rather things which caused embarrassment to the American government. The news that the US Ambassador to Italy thought Berlusconi and Putin were personally corrupt was embarrassing to the Ambassador but hardly an earth-shattering revelation.

    I agree that Manning was treated much too harshly. I don’t consider him to be a whistle blower.

  2. says

    I’m dismayed to see this problematic comment standing without rebuff after a day, so let me point a few things out.

    The comment begins with a non-sequitur by pointing out that his leaking information is crime. While true, this is typical of whistleblowing and in no way impugns the use of the term “Whistleblower” to describe Manning.

    It continues with the false statement that the leak did not reveal waste, fraud, or abuse by the government. Among many other things, it revealed the warcrime of killing rescuers that we saw in the initial “Collateral Murder” video. See here for a few other things: http://www.bradleymanning.org/learn-more/what-did-wikileaks-reveal . Glenn Greenwald has extensive writing on this subject, as well.

    The above comment is also deeply problematic ethically. The Nuremburg trials set a precedent that soldiers are required to act ethically even if their superiors order them to do otherwise. Bradley Manning was privy to the military’s indiscriminate killing of civilians and decided it was unethical to allow it to continue. After being rebuffed after one attempt to report this internally, he did what he felt was necessary. Ethically, it is the government’s responsibility not to commit crimes and it is the journalist’s responsibility to decide what content is safe and worthy to be reported. Manning is on solid ethical ground here; indeed, to have remained silent would have violated the Nuremberg precedent.

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