The Whistleblowers Who Exposed the Surveillance State

Digital Dissidents Part 1

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

Digital Dissidents is about six whistleblowers who risked their careers, financial ruin and imprisonment to expose secret government crimes. In Part 1 of this two-part series, the whistleblowers introduce themselves and speak briefly about the circumstances that led them to leak illicit secret government information – at great risk to themselves.

  • Daniel Ellsberg, who worked in the US Embassy in Saigon, leaked 7,000 pages of documents to the New York Times in 1971 revealing the US government had systematically lied to Congress for decades about US military involvement in Vietnam. He was charged with theft and illegal possession of secret documents. The case against him collapsed when it came out that Nixon was illegally wiretapping him and had ordered “plumbers” to break into his psychiatrist’s office.
  • Thomas Drake, who worked for the CIA prior to being transferred to the NSA on 9/11/01. When he learned the NSA was illegally spying on journalists, he spent months “going through channels” to raise the alarm with his superiors. After he went to a Baltimore Sun reporter in 2007 with evidence of his concerns, the US government charged him with 10 felonies under the 1917 Espionage Act. After a lengthy trial that virtually bankrupted him, Drake pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor of misusing a government computer. He was sentenced to one year probation and 240 hours of community service.
  • William Binney, who also worked for the NSA (for 30 years) developing a wiretap program capable of filtering large numbers of domestic and foreign communication. He left the NSA in October 2001 and became a whistleblower in 2002. Although the FBI raided his home at gunpoint, he was eventually cleared of criminal charges.
  • Edward Snowden, who worked for both the CIA and the NSA, leaked thousands of files substantiating Drake’s and Binney’s allegations to a number of journalists worldwide. The US canceled his passport while he was at the Moscow airport (en route from Hong Kong to South America), and he was forced to seek asylum in Russia.
  • Julian Assange, an Australian national and former hacker, who founded Wikileaks in 2006. The purpose of this website is to allow whistle blowers from all over the world to safely and anonymously leak documents implicating their governments in criminal activities.
  • David Shayler and his former partner Anne Machon, former MI5 operatives who passed secret documents to The Mail on Sunday about British intelligence involvement in illegal activities. In 2002, Shayler received a six month prison sentence for violating the Official Secrets Act.

 

Although the video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, it can be seen for free at the Al Jazeera website: Digital Dissidents

Introducing 9-11 Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds

Kill the Messenger (Sibel Edmonds)

Directed by Jean Robert Viallet, Mathieu Verboud (2006)

Film Review

Kill the Messenger is a French documentary about FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds and the organized criminal behavior she discovered inside the Bush State Department and Pentagon.

Edmonds, the daughter of a Turkish family, was raised in Iran and recruited by the FBI four days after 9-11 to translate telephone conversations they had intercepted from suspected terrorists. In addition to English, Edmonds speaks Turkish, Farsi and Azairi.

Several months after she began her job, a fellow translator named Melek Dickerson and her husband, an Air Force major named Douglas Dickerson, tried to recruit her to a Turkish interest group whose intercepts she was translating. Believing they were spies, she reported the incident to her superiors, as well as FBI director Frank Mellor. The FBI responded by firing her and threatening to charge her under the State Secrets Privilege Act if she spoke to anyone else (including a lawyer) about the incident.

Other than filing suit for unlawful dismissal and breech of freedom of speech (which went all the way to the Supreme Court, who refused to review it), Edmonds spoke to no one about it until a 9-11 families group encouraged her to reveal what she knew about the Dickersons to the 9-11 Commission Bush appointed in 2003. This would lead Major Dickerson and his wife to be transferred out of the country.

When the 9-11 Commission Report failed to address Edmond’s evidence, she collaborated with Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg to found the National Security Whistleblowers Network. Approximately 100 whistleblowers joined who had been tracking Middle East jihadists for years and whose warnings about 9-11 were ignored by the Bush administration.

Although Edmonds herself never disclosed the name of the group that attempted to recruit her, several journalists have identified it as the American Turkish Council. As they all report, the ATC, which has all the main US arms manufacturers on its board, first started to be wiretapped by the FBI in 1997 because they were illegally smuggling embargoed US weapons systems to Turkey.

As Giraldi writes inThe American Conservative, the ATC worked closely with pro-Israel White House insiders Douglas Feith and Richard Perle to illegally smuggle nuclear triggers to Pakistan via South Africa.

As the filmmakers point out the same pro-Israel Bush advisors blew CIA agent Valerie Plame’s cover in 2003. Plame’s main assignment was investigating ATC involvement in illegal nuclear proliferation.


*Farsi is widely spoken in Iran and Afghanistan.
**Azeri is the official language of the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.