Shredding the Constitution: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State

Robert Greenwald (2015)

Film Review

War on Whistleblowers details the cases of four US whistleblowers who experienced severe government retaliation after exposing systematic wrongdoing to journalists.

The men profiled are marine Franz Gaye, who broke the story about the Pentagon refusal to replace Humvees with much safer MRAPs in the US occupation of Iraq; NSA senior executive Thomas Drake, who first blew the whistle on illegal NSA mass surveillance; Lockheed-Martin engineer Michael DeKort, who broke the story that Lockheed was supplying the Coast Guard with substandard boats and radios that weren’t waterproof; and Department of Justice lawyer Jim Risen, who first exposed the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps.

Their stories are interspersed with commentary by iconic whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden (via Internet linkup), as well as the handful of journalists who have been brave enough to publish evidence of government corruption and criminality and members of the Project on Government Oversight and the Project for Government Accountability.

Each of the four whistleblowers went up his workplace chain of command in his agency and exhausted every option for addressing the problem internally. Each was fully aware of the potential consequences of their actions of going to the press. Yet after much soul searching, they saw whistle blowing as a preferable alternative than to colluding in their superiors’ criminality.

Paying the Price

Only Gaye was allowed to resume his career as an active duty marine. DeKort had his Lockheed position cancelled and was blackballed from further work in the defense industry. In addition to losing their jobs, both Drake and Risen experienced financial ruin, spending tens of thousands of dollars fighting felony charges the Obama Justice Department brought against them. Drake was charged under the Espionage Act, even though the information he shared with the Baltimore Sun was unclassified.

After seven years of persecution by the Justice Department, Drake eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor: excessive use of a computer without authorization. The charges against Risen were dropped after four years of legal battles.

The Distinction Between Leaking and Whistle Blowing

The film makes the clear distinction between leaking and whistleblowing. High level Obama administration officials constantly leak classified information to the press with no legal consequences.

Despite his campaign promises to make government more transparent and accountable, Obama has significantly increased government secrecy, as well as prosecuting more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

According to Snowden, the President’s purpose isn’t to make Americans more secure. It’s to protect government agencies and politicians from embarrassment a criminal prosecution.

His crackdown on whistleblowers is also a fundamental violation of the First Amendment. The whole intent of freedom of speech and the press is to ensure citizens’ right to criticize their government without being punished.

20 thoughts on “Shredding the Constitution: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

  1. ‘His crackdown on whistleblowers is also a fundamental violation of the First Amendment. The whole intent of freedom of speech and the press is to ensure citizens’ right to criticize their government without being punished

    The plain truth, Barockefeller is just another puppet of the New World Empire.

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    • Agreed. The only logical conclusion to be drawn from all this is that reforming electoral politics isn’t going to solve the problem. The only solution is to dismantle the current corporate system and let people run things themselves.

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  2. Well, when those who violate the law are the law, I guess they can get away with it, which is exactly what they are doing. Why is this allowed? Oh never mind. The same reason Obomba can bomb Syria and Iraq and declare Venezuela to be a threat to national security, because he can!

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    • There is no rule of law in the US that I can see. They lock up thousands of minority men for the victimless crime of smoking marijuana – which the majority of American people and increasing judges and cops believe shouldn’t be illegal in the first place. And the real criminals, who steal immense wealth from society and poison our air, water and food chain are rewarded with lavish lifestyles and immense power. When a political system reaches this level of corruption, the only correct course of action is to dismantle it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is “a fundamental violation of the First Amendment. The whole intent of freedom of speech and the press is to ensure citizens’ right to criticize their government without being punished.”
    What is the legal position? Is there a First Amendment or isn’t there?

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    • There’s a First Amendment on paper. Obama ignores it and it’s pretty pointless (there are a few exceptions – they mention one in this documentary) looking to the courts to uphold First Amendment rights. For two decades Reagan and both Bushes have appointed extremely conservative judges to the federal courts who maintain that corporate profits trump the rights of ordinary people.

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    • Great link, Gerry. The documentary also mentions this other aspect of Obama’s love of government secrecy. His administration routinely classifies documents that have no need to be classified. And as the link indicates, denies or ignores Freedom of Information requests.

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  4. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this documentary. I deeply empathize with the motives of the brave American men and women depicted for having done what is unquestionably right by their fellow citizens and at great personal cost. Their decency is without compare.

    I get the sense, however, that the message of the documentary is that the U.S. is, for all of its great and many defects, a great democracy. Yet all of the ‘facts’ that the documentary lays out before us seem to prove precisely the opposite. Interestingly, even the whistle-blowers themselves appear to be convicted of this opinion, despite what appears to be the incontrovertible contradicting content of their own personal and bitter experiences.

    At one point Snowden opines: “ . . . “…when we got these people who have practically limitless powers within a society . . .” But it doesn’t seem to occur to him that: in a society where the cliques who govern ‘have practically limitless powers’ what possible ‘democracy’ could there be left about which to speak?

    And then there is this, in effect, from Daniel Ellsberg: ‘of course, in a democracy, there can be bad leaks’ – clearly implying that ‘secrecy’ is an element implicit in and perfectly congruent with ‘democratic rule,’ in the way, for example, that only a capitalist culture can equate ‘capitalism’ with ‘democracy,’ and do this in complete innocence of the moral and logical incompatibility of the two.

    What this documentary underscores for me is the difficulty that we all have, even in the teeth of blatantly contradicting experience, of letting go of our illusions, and especially of those bound up with identity.

    Americans are above all, it seems to me, Americans: selves profoundly bound up in the metaphysical dream-stuff that is the sacred substance of their nation. Glory be the memory of their founding fathers even if the impertinent historical truth of their nation was the creation of an oligarchical system of rule founded on slavery and genocidal conquest, and that today continues to be perpetuated on the backs of wage slaves and imperial conquests abroad.

    Propaganda or mere blindness? Perhaps a combination of both. I’m really not done absorbing this video quite yet . . . It raises to my mind a great many questions.

    –N

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    • You make a really excellent point, Norman. I’m not sure where Robert Greenwald gets his funding, but I suspect some of it comes from left gatekeeping foundations who would be unlikely to fund documentaries that challenge basic premises about capitalism being the only viable economic system in a democracy – or the honesty of calling the US a democracy in the first place.

      I suspect if Snowden had said anything to challenge America’s credentials as a democracy, it likely would have been edited out.

      Thus we’re left with a classic “ain’t it awful” documentary, without any productive discussion of possible solutions.

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  5. In order to have a balanced society, don’t we need whistleblowers to point out what the public doesn’t see about our governments? Only in America does our government vilify those who tell the truth and praise those who have corrupted the very foundation meant to protect the people. It’s rather unfortunate, and there would have been things we wouldn’t have known about if these men and women did not speak up to tell us.

    By the way, I’ve been thinking about what you said in regards to violence against women and I think it would be a good focus for my next post. It really is under reported, but there has been a rise in movements to combat it as well.

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  6. Pingback: Shredding the Constitution: America’s War on Whistleblowers (Full Film) | Tales from the Conspiratum

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