Much has been written, and there has been constant government harping, over Edward Snowden’s failure to “go through proper channels” with his issues with the NSA, rather than leak them. Conveniently overlooked are the many attempts he made to bring the matter to light via internal emails which were ignored. Or maybe, while witnessing the harsh treatment of NSA whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake, he chose not to be similarly vilified.
Drake is credited with blowing the whistle on the NSA’s warrantless snooping on private domestic communication pre- 9/11. For doing so, he was punished. Snowden revealed in a 2015 interview that,
“It’s fair to say that if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there wouldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”
Furthermore, Snowden was not a traditional NSA employee, but a contractor. Thanks to his efforts, though, there have been some legislative victories, and some policy changes have been implemented. Yet he is still considered an outlaw, and famously remains exiled.
If you believe that all whistleblowers are welcomed, or their grievances given a fair hearing, you would do well to read how the Pentagon has not apparently gotten the memo. Long before Edward Snowden became a household name, the Pentagon was punishing those who came forward to report irregularities or potential crimes.
The saga of one such whistleblower, John Crane, a former supervisor of the whisteleblower unit at the Department of Defense , is highlighted in this recent article in the Guardian.
While we are being enlightened by what is presented, we must not overlook the looming, overarching, question. If whistleblowers are to be persecuted during the reign of the self-proclaimed “most transparent administration in history” (in reality an Obama White House, which is enamored of spin and secrecy), what chance will they have in a government likely to be headed by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Clinton is already on record for being oblivious to how whistleblowers are actually treated.
In the Pentagon scenario, the focus is on a John Crane, who like Drake, was a senior official, but in the Defense Department, not the NSA. However, like Crane, he was forced out of his job. It is ironic that in mistreating both Drake and Crane, the government clarified any doubts Snowden may have had in leaking information, rather than wait around to be mugged and sullied by the government agencies,
“Name one whistleblower from the intelligence community whose disclosures led to real change – overturning laws, ending policies – who didn’t face retaliation as a result. The protections just aren’t there.”
Crane’s testimony would have done more than send some of his superiors to jail. It puts lie to Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s contention that Snowden should have gone through proper channels. This is something of a bad joke coming from a Secretary of State who flouted the law and security protocols by going rogue, and setting up a private email conduit to avoid producing a record which might provide ammunition to the opposition in her run for the presidency (which was always her goal!). Yet another sublime irony.
Crane’s life intertwined with Drake’s when Drake’s allegations of impropriety surfaced in his whistleblower unit. Even before receiving the complaint, his unit had been convinced that the Bush administration was subverting the Fourth Amendment, as other accusations had been flagged.
His involvement was apparently leaked by the Inspector General to the FBI, at the behest of a furious Bush administration.This began a decade-long debilitating harassment of Crane, which cannot be adequately chronicled in this space, but bears reading in the lengthy Guardian piece.
Snowden acknowledges that the risks associated with going to the press, rather than to his superiors, were far less great; in light of the suffering inflicted on Drake and Crane, his actions appear correct. Had there been an open channel to voice concerns, rather than the sordid saga of Drake and Crane, the story for Snowden would have been vastly different.Given the changes which came about as a result of his revelations, it appears now that it is better hat he went public.
Chances are, that even if his grievances has been addressed through proper channels, much would have been swept under the rug, or otherwise whitewashed. Alternatively, Snowden would have been relegated to the dustbin of bureaucracy… or worse. Strange, the machinations of government, and how the wheels of “justice” turn.