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Obama's War on Whistleblowers
January 4, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

This is a chilling little speech by Jesselyn Radick The Whistleblowing Protection Act is law that was created to protect transparency and integrity in government, and private institutional environments. It appears that these protections are not ironclad. Here's a recent movie that dramatizes the plight of the whilstleblower. A more extreme case is now being waged in the court of Military law.

The Obama Administration's acceleration of this trend has also met with recent resistance from the courts.
posted by Vibrissae (39 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The WPA is a joke. Specifically the case law. The exceptions swallow the rule meaning that no whistleblower is protected unless they are the most perfect, angelic employee who ever lived. And even then they better figure out how to finance years of protracted litigation.
posted by whoaali at 1:58 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. - President Obama, 01/21/09
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Manchurian candidate.
posted by hincandenza at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


EFF's 2011 in Review: The Year Secrecy Jumped the Shark
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it "Let's Argue About Obama" week on metafilter and I missed the memo?
posted by empath at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let's Argue About Obama!
posted by Avenger50 at 2:12 PM on January 4, 2012


Okay. I think he's the best black president that America has ever had. You can't argue with that, so I win.
posted by empath at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, I think he's the worst black president that America has ever had. So I win, too.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great, another war.
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2012


Also, I don't understand how you can talk with a straight face about using sentencing Thomas Drake to "send a message" to other people without feeling like you're the villain in a horribly cliche-ridden movie.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:22 PM on January 4, 2012


I argued about Obama, and nobody answered.
So I argued about Obama again, and it got deleted.
posted by timsteil at 2:31 PM on January 4, 2012



Maybe Obama sucks. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe a little of both, I can't say.

I can say that this warms the cockles of my black heart. He should continue to make Wahpublicans cry..
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I cannot in good faith continue to believe or to claim that Obama is playing eleven-dimensional-chess. There simply has to be a limit to the quid pro quo of national political strategy.

I can still hope, though.
posted by Xoebe at 2:43 PM on January 4, 2012


Obama: A little of column A (good, down to earth progressive issues), a little of column B (more right of center proposals and deals), with a little of column C-ancerous-expansions-of-executive-power
posted by Slackermagee at 2:44 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


he's actually an exactly average black President
posted by facetious at 2:53 PM on January 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


the irony of the 11-dimension chess thing is that he has in fact been playing 11-dimensional chess, just not for the side we thought
posted by facetious at 3:01 PM on January 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


he's actually an exactly average black President

He's also exactly the best, and the worst, and the mean, median and mode, and is zero standard deviations away from the standard distribution of black presidents.
posted by eriko at 3:11 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


My boss has violated about 4 of our ethics policies to date. I brought some of them up to HR. They said that I should take it up with the VP. And then what? Still try to work there? No thanks.

Although the policy worked in getting two managers out; one for threatening/going ballistic on a person giving their resignation letter. The other for using her power to threaten another employee for bad reviews because they gave only a week's notice. The former employee called it in to our private ethics hotline, explained how she was using company time to do her side business with and another manager in the group. Bam. She was gone that day. (no one knows why the other manager didn't get the boot too).

It does work only if you are blowing your whistle loud on your way out. If you want to stay in the company....forget it. Your next review will be some convoluted "doesn't work well with others, poor communication skills,..." or some other bullshit excuse to squeeze you out.

The company always has the upper hand.
posted by stormpooper at 3:14 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


A more extreme case is now being waged in the court of Military law.

Manning is charged with aiding terrorists: Pre-trial hearing for the WikiLeaks suspect reveals the government's prosecution strategy
posted by homunculus at 3:16 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


"WikiLeaks is the America's Tiananmen. Julian Assange is the tank guy. We all hold our breath to see if we go all the way."  -Dave Winer's BOTY 2010
posted by jeffburdges at 3:33 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not trying to be an apologist here, but I'm really getting tired of how Obama is suddenly responsible for all of this, and the structural impositions of Congress and their electoral process as well as the inherent issues with our judicial branch at all levels is completely swept under the rug. If you're going to make valid points about the problems with the structure--and they are very valid--you can't just have a scapegoat, and punish him for it while those who are many times worse (see also: the entire GOP caucus at both federal and state levels) are getting off scot-free.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:51 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


jeffburdges with the save! Now we can argue about Assange instead of Obama.

And Julian Assange put both ideas together. He says let's know all there is to know. Let's tell the people who take us to war and destroy countries and kill hundreds of thousands, for profit -- no more secrets. We're not just going to suspect you're doing it, we're going to know. And maybe, if they know we'll know, they won't do it.

That's a lot of it, seems like. Most of the people I've seen arguing one way or the other, it comes down to this: do you believe that transparency, by itself, can be enough to prevent Bad Things, or not? There are arguments to be made either way; I'm strongly in the Transparency Prevents Bad Things From Being Done camp but I can understand how people who think the government would be just as corrupt and incompetent anyways see things like Wikileaks as purely destructive forces.

Oddly I suppose that Obama's anti-whistleblower campaign makes sense in that respect; a lot of the classic Democrat views only really make sense if you view people, left to their own devices, as tending towards inherently bad, and needing a comprehensive government to keep them well-behaved and keep society stable; whereas a lot of the classic Republican* views only make sense if you view people as mostly inherently good and society as fairly stable even in the absence of government. If you view people as mostly bad then whistleblowing just weakens the organizations that keep them on the straight and narrow path, and strengthens individuals' ability to wreak havoc all over the place. So in that respect I can at least sort of make sense of Obama's attacks on whistleblowers even if it's something that I personally find incredibly appalling.

*(you know, back when that had something to do with Small Government. Nowadays the underlying platform is something more like "people are inherently sinful and need a strict theocracy and constant fear to keep them in line" as far as I can tell but who even knows with the GOP anymore?)
posted by mstokes650 at 3:58 PM on January 4, 2012


a lot of the classic Democrat views only really make sense if you view people, left to their own devices, as tending towards inherently bad, and needing a comprehensive government to keep them well-behaved and keep society stable...whistleblowing just weakens the organizations that keep them on the straight and narrow path

This certainly isn't true of leftists in general. Solidarity is a core value on the left -- mutual trust. Secrecy undermines that trust. Strong, transparent, elected government is necessary in part to keep an eye on the many institutions in our society which are neither transparent nor accountable to the public. For example, the most important function of workplace safety laws is to make sure that deaths and injuries are not hushed up.

Right wing parties tend to be oligarchical, and secrecy is good for oligarchies.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:23 PM on January 4, 2012


Not trying to be an apologist here, but I'm really getting tired of how Obama is suddenly responsible for all of this, and the structural impositions of Congress and their electoral process as well as the inherent issues with our judicial branch at all levels is completely swept under the rug. If you're going to make valid points about the problems with the structure--and they are very valid--you can't just have a scapegoat, and punish him for it while those who are many times worse (see also: the entire GOP caucus at both federal and state levels) are getting off scot-free.

Wasn't this President supposed to lead on this issue? He deserves all the bad press he gets, and more. He has done some good things, and been praised for them. He should also be roundly criticized and called out for backing out on promises that are fundamental to democratic transparency.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:31 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not to mention the whole Mars teleportation cover-up.
posted by Trurl at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wasn't this President supposed to lead on this issue? He deserves all the bad press he gets, and more. He has done some good things, and been praised for them. He should also be roundly criticized and called out for backing out on promises that are fundamental to democratic transparency.

Thus the part where I said it was a valid point to criticize the structure, including Obama. What isn't valid is making him the sole focus on this issue. It's getting to the point where there's essentially no acknowledgement from progressive critics that the GOP and/or Democrats more conservative than Obama are the source of a lot of issues.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:42 PM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems fair to make him the sole focus on issues over which he has direct and immediate control, such as his prosecution of whistleblowers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:07 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


It doesn't seem like any of the instances discussed in the links would actually be covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act. And there's probably a certain amount of inertia to these sorts of things, it's not as if the government is a hive mind with Obama at its center.
posted by cheburashka at 6:45 PM on January 4, 2012


It seems fair to make him the sole focus on issues over which he has direct and immediate control, such as his prosecution of whistleblowers.

Quibbles about "direct and immediate control" aside, that is fair, and to a point that's applicable in this thread. However, there seems to be a trend in posts like this, noticeably in the last 2 weeks, to avoid referring at all where applicable to either previous administrations or the other branches of government until others mention it. This was most noticeable in the NDAA thread and has even popped up in reference to DADT and the debt/payroll tax debates.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:05 PM on January 4, 2012


avoid referring at all where applicable to either previous administrations

As far as matters related to government secrecy, transparency, and whistleblowing go, such references to previous administrations would perhaps be even less flattering to Obama:

In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was often in public fights with the press.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:29 PM on January 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not trying to be an apologist here, but I'm really getting tired of how Obama is suddenly responsible for all of this

i think where a lot of people are coming from, myself included, is a place where it goes without saying that the republicans in congress are largely shithead obstructionists, and the democrats spineless corporate lackeys. similar assumptions are made about the corporate-owned media, about our utterly captive regulatory agencies, etc. For example, is there really anything you can say about someone like Boehner or Santorum? I can't even feel contempt - they're jokes.

The reason Obama draws so much anger is that he presented himself as someone to be taken seriously, as someone different, evolutionary, principled, etc. Whereas what's happened is that he's either been revealed as, or as turned into, a interventionist, hawkish, obsessively-secretive, civil-rights destroying tool of big finance, big defense, big insurance, etc.. He's an incredible letdown for millions of people on the left of the political spectrum who feel that they supported and elected a leftist but got something to the right of Nixon and Reagan instead.
posted by facetious at 12:14 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


You can squirm all you want, but in the end you are all gonna have to eat the rich, and still be hungry.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 2:24 AM on January 5, 2012


The reason Obama draws so much anger is that he presented himself as someone to be taken seriously, as someone different, evolutionary, principled, etc. Whereas what's happened is that he's either been revealed as, or as turned into, a interventionist, hawkish, obsessively-secretive, civil-rights destroying tool of big finance, big defense, big insurance, etc.. He's an incredible letdown for millions of people on the left of the political spectrum who feel that they supported and elected a leftist but got something to the right of Nixon and Reagan instead.

And I say to this that those people, to a large extent, either didn't pay attention to what he was saying, display a naivety about presidential politics and history, are engaging in hyperbole, or some combination of the three. Obama less interventionist and hawkish than Reagan? Less obsessively secretive than Nixon? More of a tool of big finance, big defense, and big insurance than either or both? And that absolutely everything that happened is entirely his fault? And all of those people should know better by now what happens when faced with two bitter pills and they choose either inaction or a third option with no agency.

For example, is there really anything you can say about someone like Boehner or Santorum? I can't even feel contempt - they're jokes.

Are you kidding me? It's easier to take care of people in Congress than it is with a president. Santorum is a prime example. By saying this, you're effectively playing right into their hands. They'd gladly take being jokes but retain power than the focus of anger and lose their jobs. This government has almost entirely been taken over by Congress, which rules through nullification, and there's plenty of evidence that it's a tactic that's working for them politically. In any event, you don't start effecting change by starting at the top and taking it out on that guy, especially in a government that has been weighted heavily towards the legislature. You start at the bottom (local and state), push it to the federal legislature, and give the executive branch either something good to work with if they're on your side or an effective foil if not. This is something the GOP has historically excelled at and Democrats have not, but that's usually not the fault of the president (or mayors, governors, etc).
posted by zombieflanders at 5:15 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But seriously, folks. Whistleblowing and leaking are not the same thing. Whistleblowing is about protecting those who expose unlawful acts. Leaks can be about entirely legal acts or processes. The White House pursuing leakers is about protecting their ability to achieve their goals. Note: I'm not making judgments about the good or evil of these goals, but crafting policies, negotiating with other politicians, and many other things that often happen behind closed doors for legitimate reasons but make good news stories are not, in and of themselves, illegal.

Did Bradley Manning (who, by the way, very clearly broke the rules against revealing classified information and knew full well the penalties for doing so) expose anything unlawful? I'm actually asking.

I'm all for sunlight being the best disinfectant...expose away. But the words we're using matter if we're going to judge the Obama administration's actions.
posted by dry white toast at 10:10 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I say to this that those people, to a large extent, either didn't pay attention to what he was saying, display a naivety about presidential politics and history, are engaging in hyperbole, or some combination of the three. Obama less interventionist and hawkish than Reagan? Less obsessively secretive than Nixon? More of a tool of big finance, big defense, and big insurance than either or both? And that absolutely everything that happened is entirely his fault?

Respectfully, do we have to drudge up yet again instances of Obama's campaign promises being in direct conflict with his actions as president? I don't have a ready list to go up minutes after another story is presented, but needless to say this isn't the president that many people signed up for. I don't recall Obama ever running against Reagan or Nixon.

And similarly, when Bush tried to deflect responsibility for bills he had signed as being at the mercy of legislation, it was pointed that maybe as the head of his party he might exercise a little discretion as to the direction of his party, and maybe show a little leadership like he did with Iraq.

Beyond that, the last legislator I voted for didn't vote for the NDAA or the PATRIOT Act, so now my sights are set to the presidency.

For anyone concerned with civil liberties, Obama is criminally wanting. Telling us to ignore this and focus our ire elsewhere is a bit patronizing.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 11:10 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


And similarly, when Bush tried to deflect responsibility for bills he had signed as being at the mercy of legislation, it was pointed that maybe as the head of his party he might exercise a little discretion as to the direction of his party, and maybe show a little leadership like he did with Iraq.

The differences being that Bush had six years with a majority and a depressingly compliant minority which didn't engage in nullification via filibuster. He also packed every conceivable court from Supreme on down.

For anyone concerned with civil liberties, Obama is criminally wanting. Telling us to ignore this and focus our ire elsewhere is a bit patronizing.

But that's not what anybody is saying, at least as far as I can tell. The lack of acknowledgement at all unless prompted by others is what irks. If your legislators are doing things right, then by all means go ahead and focus your ire on the president.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:18 PM on January 5, 2012


Whistleblowing and leaking are not the same thing. Whistleblowing is about protecting those who expose unlawful acts. Leaks can be about entirely legal acts or processes.

I think the two terms are a lot closer than you suggest. The article I linked to is a story about leaked information about wasteful (and possibly illegal) government spending, on the order of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. This is the sort of information that whistleblowers bring to public attention, information that is in the public interest, legal or illegal.

Did Bradley Manning (who, by the way, very clearly broke the rules against revealing classified information and knew full well the penalties for doing so) expose anything unlawful? I'm actually asking.

No one knows for sure, particularly since Manning, an American citizen, is innocent until proven guilty of unknown charges as well as being in indefinite solitary detention in violation of his civil rights, and therefore unable to communicate with the public directly, but if he is behind the release of the Collateral Murder footage, the Afghan war logs and the cables that are part of Cablegate, then that information is demonstrably in the public interest, in that it shines a light on secretive government behavior that borders on violating laws of conduct during wartime, as well as knowledge of and/or participation in other questionable acts, some illegal, including child prostitution, embezzlement, eavesdropping, complicity in a coup d'├ętat, and more.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Leak That Made America
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


That deserves its own FPP.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:15 PM on January 6, 2012


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