Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Prosecution of Thomas Drake

“I feel I’m living in the very country I worked for years to defeat: the Soviet Union. We’re turning into a police state.” - J. Kirk Wiebe, retired NSA Analyst

ThinThread, the “little program” that he invented to track enemies outside the U.S., “got twisted,” and was used for both foreign and domestic spying: “I should apologize to the American people. It’s violated everyone’s rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world.” - Bill Binney, crypto-mathematician

On October 31, 2001, soon after Binney concluded that the N.S.A. was headed in an unethical direction, he retired. He had served for thirty-six years. [...] Binney said of his decision, “I couldn’t be an accessory to subverting the Constitution.”

“It was my duty to oppose it,” she told me. “That is why oversight existed, so that these things didn’t happen again. I’m not an attorney, but I thought that there was no way it was constitutional.” - Diane Roark, former staff member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the NSA

“strange things were happening. Equipment was being moved. People were coming to me and saying, ‘We’re now targeting our own country!’ ” - Thomas Drake, linguist and computer expert
Today I learned about Thomas Drake, father of five, who has become a target in the U.S. government's war on transparency. As this must-read article explains, the Obama administration is prosecuting five people under the 1917 Espionage Act, more than all previous Administrations combined; and the article focuses on Thomas Drake, who told the Baltimore Sun about wasteful spending at the NSA and privacy violations.

It's interesting that three of the people quoted above were registered Republicans. In the Bush years, most people that followed the story of the warrantless wiretapping program thought that these invasions of privacy, and the vast increases in military and so-called "national security" spending, were driven by Republicans--but once Democrats got control over the House, Senate and White House, approximately nothing changed. If anything, Obama has been even tougher against whistleblowers than his predecessor, I have seen no indications that the warrantless wiretapping program is winding down, and in most other ways I doubt Obama acts differently beyond his rhetoric. So what's really going on here? I really don't know--but I'm pretty sure the administration would like to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, while it's nice that Bin Laden is finally dead, we should question whether it was worth three trillion dollars.

On a related note, I saw Fair Game on Netflix the other day. I recommend that, too. And Recount.

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