31 Jan

This Thomas Drake interview with Democracy Now! must have slipped past me last year. The impact is still as painful.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about another whistleblower targeted by the Obama administration who has been former National Security Agency analyst. He’s Thomas Drake. He worked for the NSA for nearly seven years before blowing the whistle. Thomas Drake appeared on Democracy Now! last March.

THOMAS DRAKE: The critical thing that I discovered was not just the massive fraud, waste and abuse, but also the fact that NSA had chosen to ignore a 23-year legal regime, which had been established in 1978, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and which, at NSA, during the time that I was not only at NSA but also in the military flying on RC-135s overseas during the latter part of the Cold War, it was a contract, the one thing you did not do. It was the prime directive of NSA. It was the—the—First Amendment at NSA, which is, you do not spy on Americans—

AMY GOODMAN: And what did you find?

THOMAS DRAKE: —without a warrant. I found, much to my horror, that they had tossed out that legal regime, that it was the excuse of 9/11, which I was told was: Exigent conditions now prevailed, we essentially can do anything. We opened up Pandora’s box. We’re going to turn the United States of America into the equivalent of a foreign nation for the purpose of a—of dragnet, blanket electronic surveillance.

I’ve said it before, and I’m proud of it. I used to threaten ROK recruits to desist from listening to the private conversations of their own citizens, which happened frequently in the cold early morning hours. Most of what these young boys were sampling was phone porn, commercial and private, but verbal altercations were also favorites. When I issued my warning, these pimply-faced kids would stare at me incredulously, as if I were a prude. They didn’t need help to be cynical.

Even more disconcerting is the subversion of the trial process.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: John Kiriakou, I want to read a comment made by the judge at your sentencing hearing. Judge Leonie Brinkema sentenced you to 30 months in prison last Friday, saying, quote, “This case is not a case about a whistleblower. It’s a case about a man who betrayed a very solemn trust, and that is a trust to keep the integrity of his agency intact and specifically to protect the identity of co-workers. … I think 30 months is, frankly, way too light, because the message has to be sent to every covert agent that when you leave the agency you can’t just start all of a sudden revealing the names of the people with whom you worked,” the judge said. John Kiriakou, can you comment on that statement?

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Sure. When Judge Brinkema accepted the plea deal in October, she called 30 months fair and appropriate. I can only think that with a courtroom packed full of journalists last Friday, she decided to seize the moment and make a statement that would be carried in the papers. I don’t know what changed between October and January, other than the fact that she and the prosecution had had several ex parte communications. What that means is the prosecutors were able to meet with the judge, related to my case, without the defense, my attorneys, being present. So we have no idea what it was that the prosecution told the judge. We were not allowed to defend ourselves. Indeed, Judge Brinkema denied 75 motions that we made asking for declassification of information so that I could present a defense. In August of 2012, after our motions had been denied, my attorneys and I walked out of the courtroom, and my attorney said, “We have no defense. She won’t let us say anything. She won’t let us defend you.” And so, we were forced into plea negotiations. But again, I’m not sure why the judge changed her position between October and January; it was inexplicable to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what that’s like in the courtroom, when they invoke national security, that the prosecutor can come forward and speak privately with the judge without your defense attorneys being there.

JOHN KIRIAKOU: Yeah, I had never heard of such a thing before. But in August, when we made our 75 motions, we thought that the judge would block off two days to hear the 75. In fact, there had been a conversation with the prosecution, and so she blocked off an hour to hear the 75 motions. So we knew we were in trouble. And then, at the very start of the hearing, the prosecutor got up and said that he was requesting a Rule 4 conversation. I didn’t know what this was. My attorneys objected and said, “If you don’t want the defendant to hear, at least allow us to hear so that we can represent his interests.” And the judge said, “No, this is a national security case. I’m allowed an ex parte communication with the prosecutors.” So the prosecutors went up to the bench. We could hear them whispering. They came back to their table, and the judge said, “All 75 motions are denied.” And that was the end of it. We got up, and we walked out of court. And my attorneys said, “We have to negotiate a plea.”

Where’s the worst place to live, the land of cynical, pimply-faced slaves, or the land of willfully-oblivious dupes?


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