Judge Laurence Silberman, a chairman of President Bush's commission on weapons of mass destruction, said he was "stunned" by the damage done to our critical intelligence assets by leaked information. The commission reported last March that in monetary terms, unauthorized disclosures have cost America hundreds of millions of dollars; in security terms, of course, the cost has been much higher. Part of the problem is that the term "whistleblower" has been misappropriated. The sharp distinction between a whistleblower and someone who breaks the law by willfully compromising classified information has been muddied.
I think he has a point here. Generally, a whistleblower is someone who calls attention to unlawful or legally abusive practices within an institution. In days of old, that normally meant going outside the institution in question since they were unlikely to agree or do anything about the alleged offense. And, in some cases, that is the only route still available to a whistleblower.
However, in at least the government, the problem has been acknowledged and addressed. There's a very good reason to do so. The possibility exists that the alleged unlawful activity might involve highly classified information or institutions and it would not be in the best national interest of the US to see them splashed all over the front page of newspapers. Instead it would be in the best interest of the US for those concerns to be addressed within the system first.
As a member of Congress in 1998, I sponsored the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act to ensure that current or former employees could petition Congress, after raising concerns within their respective agency, consistent with the need to protect classified information.
Goss then points out the difference in what has happened concerning the NSA and "whistleblowing":
Exercising one's rights under this act is an appropriate and responsible way to bring questionable practices to the attention of those in Congress charged with oversight of intelligence agencies. And it works. Government employees have used statutory procedures — including internal channels at their agencies — on countless occasions to correct abuses without risk of retribution and while protecting information critical to our national defense.
On the other hand, those who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic. Nor are they whistleblowers. Instead they are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk. It is unconscionable to compromise national security information and then seek protection as a whistleblower to forestall punishment.
In this case, as with the case of the alleged hidden CIA prisons, Goss is correct. Before anyone heads off on a tangent, this doesn't mean I agree, necessarily, that the actions of the NSA or the CIA in either case is right or acceptable. Frankly, I really don't know, and if the debate is any indication, neither does anyone else at this point.
I agree that finding out about them in the Washington Post and NY Times is not consistent with "whistleblowing" which is intended to address the allegations of wrongdoing while also protecting classified material. But then, I also wonder if, in fact, had procedure been followed, whether anything would have really been addressed or, as we're seeing now in the case of the NSA flap, if it would have simply been dismissed as a proper exercise of presidential power in a time of war.
So I'm torn here. How does one balance the rights of individuals against national security concerns? Ok, acknowleged. But then, from what I've read, there doesn't seem to have ever been a protest lodged withing the system and by the established procedure. Apparently the first time the problem surfaced was on the front page of a newspaper.
That's where I have a problem, the same one Goss points too.
If you see a problem concerning a program or programs within the secret national security apparatus, you should be bound by the ethic which says try the institutional procedure first. A common sense sort of ethic if you ask me. Then, if you get no satisfaction, i.e. you're ignored and your concerns are dismissed, you do what you have to do. At that point, you have a big decision to make and you also need to be prepared to pay the price of divulging national secrets ... something you agreed not to do as a part of your employment contract.
If that's the way one proceeds in a case like this, I'd be much more sympathetic to their status of "whistleblower". In fact, I'd support it. If, however, the first stop is the press, then I agree with Goss, it is not whistleblowing and it is not an honorable action. And the negative impact in an effort heavily dependent upon secrecy is huge:
Such leaks also cause our intelligence partners around the globe to question our professionalism and credibility. Too many of my counterparts from other countries have told me, "You Americans can't keep a secret." And because of the number of recent news reports discussing our relationships with other intelligence services, some of these critical partners have even informed the C.I.A. that they are reconsidering their participation in some of our most important antiterrorism ventures. They fear that exposure of their cooperation could subject their citizens to terrorist retaliation.
Whistleblowing is important, and we all recognize the necessity of enabling it and supporting it. It is one way to help deter institutions from illegal activites and to stop them if they're engaging in them. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, especially when it concerns items of national security. It's rather hard to support those who willingly compromise that security without giving the system a chance to address their concerns. That doesn't enhance freedom or liberty. Instead, it jeopardizes it.
"Such leaks also cause our intelligence partners around the globe to question our professionalism and credibility."
Amen. We are at war, and America’s intelligence apparatus must have the trust of her allies’.
To test the caliber of our career intelligence officials, press and politicians, check this out: the "whistleblowers" who leaked the NSA program to the press bypassed the established venues for complaint, and the politicians whining about the program in the press bypassed the established venues for legislating a solution.
The Dem’s frivolous politicking on national security leaks is very troubling me to. This is vandalistic. It reminds me of the pilferring of the "W" keys from the White House keyboards after election 2000, except that this time they are playing pranks with our nation’s security. -Steve
So I’m torn here. How does one balance the rights of individuals against national security concerns? Ok, acknowleged. But then, from what I’ve read, there doesn’t seem to have ever been a protest lodged withing the system and by the established procedure. Apparently the first time the problem surfaced was on the front page of a newspaper.
And therein, you’ve found another misappropriation of a term. This is not a rights issue at all; It’s a security issue being miscast intentionally, for reasons of political gain. As you correctly point out, That doesn’t enhance freedom or liberty. Instead, it jeopardizes it.
But then, I also wonder if, in fact, had procedure been followed, whether anything would have really been addressed or, as we’re seeing now in the case of the NSA flap, if it would have simply been dismissed as a proper exercise of presidential power in a time of war.
You wonder? And I wonder if tomorrow will be Saturday.
Look, the PRESIDENT authorized the domestic spying program. So obviously, any complaint made within NSA or to DOJ would have gone nowhere. Likewise, Congress is worthless too - the GOP led Congress would NEVER do anything to hurt Bush. Never.
Blowing the whistle - and that’s exactly what whoever did this did - was the only way the illegal domestic spying program was ever going to come to light. Thank god someone had the guts to do it. Again, the investigation itself will go nowhere. No special counsel will be appointed, Congress won’t do a thing to hurt Bush, and the SCOTUS would never rule that the law had been broken and the law breakers should be punished. So in the end, this is a dog and pony show. But it is still nice to know that my government is breaking the law.
mkultra: Funny, the President didn’t authorize "domestic spying" as such, according to any actual data the rest of us mere mortals have access to.
Funny, but you don’t know what the h*ll you are talking about.
By Peter Baker Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, December 18, 2005; Page A01
President Bush said yesterday that he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans with suspected ties to terrorists because it was "critical to saving American lives" and "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution."
The "he" in the sentence refers to Bush.
(And, er, if the President’s say-so overrides everything, why did the DOJ do an audit of the program? And why was Congress (specifically the Permanent Select Subcommittee) given notice and oversight?
Look, the issue is not what powers the president has, or whether DOJ knew about it. The issue is whether the DOJ would do anything about it. And clearly, it hasn’t and it won’t. The matter should have been referred to a special prosecutor long ago. And it still has not been. There is no way in h*ll that the DOJ should have any part in any investigation of this. There was a reason Ashcroft referred the Plame matter to a special prosecutor. The same should have been done here the minute this story hit the steets.
Congress was not given oversight. Many if not all Dem members have said that they were not fully briefed on the program. For instance, Bob Graham said that he was told the spying would occur only with respect to calls intiaited outside the United States and received outside the United States, calls that just happened to pass thru our communications systems. Moreover, the information was classified, so to release it would have broken the law. Finally, the Dems have no authority to hold hearings on the matter on their own. Thus necessitating a whistle blower.
And why was it that none of the Democrats on the Subcommittee who were briefed about this "illegal spying program" bothered to... object? Blow a whistle of their own?
They did object. Because to do blow the whistle would have been to break the law.
Why, one might almost imagine that it’s not actually clearly "illegal" and that just maybe there might be some issues of partisan politics involved!
It’s illegal. You got an argument you want to make that it’s not? Go ahead, make it. And I will show you why it is wrong.
If you see a problem concerning a program or programs within the secret national security apparatus, you should be bound by the ethic which says try the institutional procedure first. A common sense sort of ethic if you ask me. Then, if you get no satisfaction, i.e. you’re ignored and your concerns are dismissed, you do what you have to do. At that point, you have a big decision to make and you also need to be prepared to pay the price of divulging national secrets ... something you agreed not to do as a part of your employment contract.
Bingo! The one truth that loudmouths with no conception of honor miss. Yes, there is always the final option of going public with classified information if your convictions trend that way. If you do, then you and the media outlet that publishes should give themselves up and admit guilt. Then all of the leakers will have behaved with honor and in line with their personal convictions, which might grant them a possible claim to a spurious title as an honorary "whistleblower". If they do not come forward and confess, then they are nothing more than traitorous criminals.
"For instance, Bob Graham said that he was told the spying would occur only with respect to calls intiaited outside the United States and received outside the United States," Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that what NSA has been doing for years? Why would he need to be briefed on that?
"Because to do blow the whistle would have been to break the law."
So it’s the duty of some poor schmuck to risk jail, probably bankrupt himself with legal fees, so that democrat politicians can make speeches about courage while not actually having to have any?
The sad thing, MK, is that anyone who has worked in an office in America knows that following department protocols is a professional requirement. It is a parameter in any job evaluation.
The U.S. government deliberated and passed "Whistle-blower" protections. The protocols outlined in these protections, just like the federal EEOC protections, are instituted in every federal office in the nation.
If employees of these offices do not follow established official protocols, they are "unprofessional."
I’d like to know Sen. Rockefeller’s opinion of the Federal W-B protections. Does he think federal employees should obey department protocols, or not?
And I’d be interested to review the "Legacy Media’s" coverage of the debate over "Whistle-Blower" protections that liberals now want us all to forget. Did the NYT, LAT and WaPo generally support these Whistle-Blower" protocols on their editorial pages? If so, why don’t they seem to support them now?
Fill me in MK, could it be it’s just not the fad anymore? -Steve