Obama’s Crackdown on National Security Leaks

“The current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US Supreme Court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense.”

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg

ellsberg

Out of a total ten prosecutions under the Espionage Act against government officials accused of providing classified information to the media, seven have occurred during Obama’s Presidency. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

The Espionage Act of 1917 makes it a crime to disclose information “relating to the national defense.”

Prior to the Obama administration, there had been only three known cases resulting in indictments in which the Espionage Act was used to prosecute government officials for leaks. (Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo 1971, Samuel Morison 1985 and Lawrence Franklin 2005. There is a similar case dating from 1945.) Here are the seven cases Obama added to the list.

April 2010: Thomas Drake indicted

National Security Agency employee Thomas Drake was charged with violating the Espionage Act for retaining classified documents for “unauthorized disclosure.”

drake

He was suspected to have leaked information on the agency’s surveillance program TrailBlazer. In June 2011, the government decided that they could not prosecute him without revealing details about the documents he supposedly leaked.

May 2010: Shamai Leibowitz convicted

In May 2010, Shamai K. Leibowitz, a translator for the FBI, admitted sharing information with a blogger and pleaded guilty under 18 U.S.C. § 798(a)(3) to one count of disclosure of classified information. As part of a plea bargain, he was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

leibowitz

June 2010: Bradley / Chelsea Manning arrested

Bradley Manning, a 22-year Army Private, was arrested after he told someone online that he was the source for Wikileaks’ biggest gets, including a quarter-million State Department cables. It will be almost two more years before he is ultimately charged in a military court.

manning1

In July 2013, a military tribunal judge found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy – the most serious charge against him. He was found guilty of multiple counts under the Espionage Act and five counts of theft, among other charges.

The 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.  Manning has been jailed for nearly seven years. On Tuesday (17/01/2017), President Obama commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence.

August 2010: Stephen Kim indicted

In August 2010, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a contractor for the State Department and a specialist in nuclear proliferation, was indicted under 18 U.S.C. § 793(d) for alleged disclosure in June 2009 of national defense information to reporter James Rosen of Fox News Channel, related to North Korea’s plans to test a nuclear weapon.

kim

On 7 February 2014, Kim entered a guilty plea to a single felony count of disclosing classified national defense information to an unauthorized person, Rosen. Kim was sentenced to a 13-month prison term.

December 2010: Jeffrey Sterling indicted

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling, a former CIA agent was indicted under the Act in January 2011 for alleged unauthorized disclosure of national defense information to James Risen, a reporter for The New York Times, in 2003 regarding his book State of War.

Jsterling

RELATED POST: No Presidential Pardon for Ex-CIA Jeffrey Sterling

On 22 December 2010, U.S. attorney Neil H. MacBride filed an indictment against Jeffrey Alexander Sterling on the Unlawful Retention and Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information, Mail Fraud, Unauthorized Conveyance of Government Property, and Obstruction of Justice.

Sterling was arrested on 6 January 2011. Sterling was convicted of espionage charges on 26 January 2015. On 11 May 2015, Sterling was sentenced to 3½ years in prison and thus set for release in 2018. Jeffrey’s appellate hearing took place in early December 2016.

January 2012: John Kiriakou charged

John Kiriakou was charged with leaking information about the interrogation of an Al Qaeda leader and disclosing the name of a CIA analyst involved.

Former CIA John Kiriakou

Former CIA John Kiriakou

RELATED POST: Former British Diplomat Craig Murray Barred From Entering The US

Kiriakou gave an interview on ABC News in 2007 detailing the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding in interrogating terrorist suspects. He was convicted in October 2012 and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

June 14, 2013: Edward Snowden Charged

In June 2013, Edward Snowden was charged under the Espionage Act after releasing documents exposing the NSA’s PRISM Surveillance Program.  The charges carry a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.

snowden

RELATED POST: SNOWDEN: CIA Director Wants Dissidents Like Me Put to Death

Future CIA Director Mike Pompeo has  issued his own press release, calling Snowden a “liar and a criminal,” who deserves “prison rather than pardon.”

In a C-SPAN interview earlier this year, Pompeo went further, stating:

“He [Snowden ]should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence. Having put friends of mine, friends of yours who serve in the military today an enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.”

RELATED POST: CIA Director Mike Pompeo — Who Is Who in World Intelligence and Security Agencies?

Criticism

Numerous people have criticized the use of the Espionage Act against national security leakers.

A 2015 study by the PEN American Center found that almost all of the non-government representatives they interviewed, including activists, lawyers, journalists and whistleblowers, thought the Espionage Act had been used inappropriately in leak cases that have a public interest component.

Professor at American University Washington College of Law and national security law expert Stephen Vladeck has said that the law “lacks the hallmarks of a carefully and precisely defined statutory restriction on speech.”

Attorney and former whistleblower Jesselyn Radack notes that the law was enacted “35 years before the word ‘classification’ entered the government’s lexicon” and believes that “under the Espionage Act, no prosecution of a non-spy can be fair or just”.

Clemency for Chelsea Manning is ‘surprisingly generous’ of Obama

Former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou joins RT America’s Anya Parampil to discuss the recent commutation of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence and what the gesture might mean for other dissidents, as well as the CIA’s out-of-control politicization and dishonesty.

REFERENCES

Charting Obama’s Crackdown on National Security Leaks — Propublica

This entry was posted in Assange, Barack Obama, CIA, FBI, Kiriakou, Mike Pompeo, NSA, Obama, Operation 'MERLIN', Pompeo, Snowden, US Espionage Act, waterboardong and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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