Mouths Wide Shut: Obamas War on Whistleblowers
Date Written: 09/10/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX17983
The Obama administration has been ruthless in its prosecution of whistleblowers.
the Barack Obama who ran for president was a different person than the one who occupied the Oval Office. As soon as he entered the White House and received his first top-secret briefing, the president was ushered into a new fraternity. He was dazzled by the potential of raw executive power, the godlike ability to determine life and death, as when the president conducts a weekly meeting to review the "kill list" of drone targets.
The president, in other words, was initiated into what amounts to a cult of national security. The first rule of this cult is to preserve its existence at all costs. Those who threaten the cult are, like any apostates, to be dealt with as ruthlessly as possible. After all, cult members who break the law are still acting according to the principles of the cult; apostates, however, challenge the very legitimacy of the cult.
The world of checks-and-balances, of an executive branch bounded by Congress and the court system, is meaningless to the national security state. This "deep state" remains impervious to elections, partisan passions, congressional inquiries, and legal challenges. It's not a conspiracy any more than the Vatican is a conspiracy. It's simply an institution with an imperative: to survive.
Obama's commitment to the preservation of the national security state can be seen in his approach to secrecy in general. "Despite Barack Obamas promises of a more transparent government, 76.7 million documents were classified in 2010, compared with 8.6 million in 2001 and 23.4 million in 2008, the first and last years of George W. Bush's administration," writes Andy Greenberg in his book This Machine Kills Secrets.
Obama's cult membership explains his fiscal commitment to keeping the national security state flush with a trillion dollars of annual funding. The administration has upped the "black budget" for non-military intelligence agencies from $50.4 billion in 2015 to a proposed $53.9 billion for 2016.
the Obama administration has not only gone after whistleblowers but also the press. It targeted both James Rosen and James Risen, attempted to smear USA Today journalists digging into Pentagon propaganda, and spied on a variety of reporters.
Members of the cult who have committed chargeable offenses but have not turned apostate have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Former general David Petraeus, who shared top-secret information with a reporter that just happened to be his lover as well, received a sentence of two years probation and a fine of $100,000 (more than twice what the Justice Department pursued). He continues to receive a $220,000 pension, has had no difficulty getting a job at a top investment firm, and has been invited to join various elite institutions, including Harvard.
As for the whistleblowers, their suffering serves as a warning to all potential apostates. Edward Snowden remains in Moscow. Julian Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Chelsea Manning is in prison, serving a 35-year sentence. Jeremy Hammond, Jeffrey Sterling, and Barrett Brown all face years of jail time. Indeed, under Obama, whistleblowers face a total of 751 months behind bars -- compared to 24 months for all other whistleblowers combined since the American Revolution.