Student Paresh Dave of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (USC) has written an incisive story about how national security whistleblowers can protect themselves while blowing the whistle on misconduct by government officials. Dave’s story is called, “Whistleblowers Have Some Protection, If They Leak To The Right People.” He notes that the government is currently investigating detained Specialist Bradley Manning to see if he could be the source for the WikiLeaks.org release of 91,000 classified State Department cables. Dave spoke with me about my prior blog post about how Manning might have protected himself if he had consulted a lawyer before blowing the whistle on the unnecessary civilian casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If he had learned about the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1034, he could have made his disclosures to members of Congress and preserved a legal defense to the impending charges.

Continue Reading Neon Tommy considers plight of national security whistleblowers

National media is abuzz today with the release by WikiLeaks.org of 91,000 classified State Department cables about the war in Afghanistan.WikiLeaks.org Afghan War Diary 20100726 WikiLeaks.org also disclosed that it had previously released the cables to The New York Times, the Guardian of London, and Der Spiegel to help it review the documents for newsworthy information and to screen out information that could cause harm if disclosed. According to a Washington Post story, WikiLeaks.org founder Julian Assange called the release, "the nearest analogue to the Pentagon Papers." Indeed, the cables detail the extent of assistance the Taliban have received from Pakistani intelligence officers. They show the debilitating demands faced by soldiers on the field, and the extent of civilian casualties and waste in this protracted war. It does sound more and more like Vietnam. Truth is the first casualty of war, and whistleblower leaks are the best medicine.


Continue Reading WikiLeaks.org exposes truth about the war in Aghanistan

The U.S. government has arrested another whistleblower. Wired.com reports that the government is holding Specialist Bradley Manning in detention in Kuwait pending charges that he supplied a classified video to WikiLeaks.org.  I reported here in April that this video depicts US armed forces killing about a dozen civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists. Manning had reached out to convicted computer hacker Adrian Lamo who has now acknowledged that he told authorities about Manning’s role in leaking the video to WikiLeaks. The government had previously identified WikiLeaks as a security threat (see my prior blog entry about this government memo), and threatened to prosecute anyone leaking classified information. Together with the Thomas Drake prosecution, we see that the present administration is picking up the pace in using criminal charges against whistleblowers. The administration also continues to hold UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld while his pardon petition awaits actions.

It is early in the case, and we cannot expect that all the facts are out yet. Still, I am already concerned about whether the government’s prosecution is selective, or retaliatory for the critical content of the Wikileaks video. I would ask that the government make a measured response that is proportionate to the violation of classification rules and not affected by the government’s embarrassment over the publicity about its violence in Iraq.

Also, it appears that Specialist Manning was not aware of some of the basics in how to protect yourself as a whistleblower.  Instead of going to a convicted criminal who has had time in jail to appreciate the government’s interest and power, whistleblowers should go to a personal lawyer.  The communications with the lawyer for the purpose of getting legal advice and counsel are privileged. The sooner a whistleblower gets a good lawyer, the better off the whistleblower can be in the end.  A lawyer could have advised Manning about his right to make disclosures to members of Congress under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1034. With thoughtful selection of the right material for the right member of Congress, Manning might have accomplished his disclosures in a way that would have protected him from this arrest. Perhaps others will learn from this experience.

Continue Reading US government arrests another whistleblower