Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden
a book by Mark Hertsgaard
(our site's book review)
Whistleblowers pay with their lives to save ours. When insiders like former NSA analyst Edward Snowden or ex-FBI agent Coleen Rowley or Big Tobacco truth-teller Jeffrey Wigand blow the whistle on high-level lying, lawbreaking or other wrongdoing—whether it's government spying, corporate murder or scientific scandal—the public benefits enormously. Wars are ended, deadly products are taken off the market, white-collar criminals are sent to jail. The whistleblowers themselves, however, generally end up ruined. Nearly all of them lose their jobs—and in many cases their marriages and their health—as they refuse to back down in the face of increasingly ferocious official retaliation. That moral stubbornness despite terrible personal cost is the defining DNA of whistleblowers. The public owes them more than we know.
In Bravehearts, Hertsgaard tells the gripping, sometimes darkly comic and ultimately inspiring stories of the unsung heroes of our time.
Heroic NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has demonstrated the type of courage and wisdom we all need to aspire to
An article by Mark Hertsgaard, adapted from his new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden, describes how former NSA official Thomas Drake went through proper channels in his attempt to expose civil-liberties violations at the NSA — and was punished for it. The article vindicates open-government activists who have long argued that whistleblower protections aren’t sufficient in the national security realm.
It vindicates NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden who, well aware of what happened to Drake, gave up his attempts to go through traditional whistleblower channels – and instead handed over his trove of classified documents directly to journalists. And it adds to the vindication for Drake, who was already a hero in the whistleblower’s pantheon for having endured a four-year persecution by the Justice Department that a judge called “unconscionable.” On July 15, Drake was sentenced to one year of probation and 240 hours of community service, when key rulings on classified evidence went against the prosecutors.
Snowden wisely took the evidence with him, so when the government issued its usual denials, he could produce document after document showing that they were lying. That is civil disobedience whistleblowing. And very heroic!
The mainstream press mostly just prints administration press releases; the actual investigative journalism going on died in the 1980s as the shadow government insisted on the press conforming to the party line
The invisible government acts to "crush vigorous investigative journalism and to prosecute and humiliate whistleblowers and to equate them with spies under the espionage laws. National security documents have been breathtakingly over-classified." One of our greatest heroes is Edward Snowden, and yet he is stuck holed up in Russia because he exposed the egregious lies of the national security state segment of the shadow government.
Snowden said that "I didn't want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed."
Snowden said that in the past, whistleblowers had been "destroyed by the experience," and that he wanted to "embolden others to step forward" by demonstrating that "they can win." In October, Snowden spoke out again on his motivations for the leaks in an interview with The New York Times, saying that the system for reporting problems does not work. "You have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it," Snowden explained, and pointed out the lack of whistleblower protection for government contractors, the use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute leakers, and his belief that had he used internal mechanisms to "sound the alarm," his revelations "would have been buried forever." (Source: Edward Snowden.) But 70% of those age eighteen to thirty-four believed that Edward Snowden “did a good thing” in leaking the news of the NSA’s surveillance program. That is encouraging.
Whistleblowing leads not to changes or to reprimands to wrongdoers—but instead to egregious persecution of whistleblowers that laws are supposed to protect
Snowden heroically does the unwary American public a huge service, shining a light on all the privacy invasions that were going on without our knowledge. Invasions to email and phone calls and social network data and other internet activities of normal, decent citizens with no connection to terrorism or crime. And Obama lied to our faces about it. But the mainstream press were told to make liar Obama the hero and truthful Snowden the villain, so when "Edward Snowden Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize" hit the papers, it was only to criticize Snowden and spout the party line, with only a few brave individuals in the mainstream press willing to mention the great service Snowden did to our country. Just to show just how much the oligarchy runs things, the next thing we know, we're reading in shocked disbelief this choice piece of irony: "Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize"!
Snowden heroically does the unwary American public a huge service, shining a light on all the privacy invasions that were going on without our knowledge
In his Guardian interview, Snowden called for changes: “We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories,” he said. “Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy – recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change.” (Source: Vindication for Edward Snowden From a New Player in NSA Whistleblowing Saga)
Edward Snowden's whistleblowing on global surveillance has rapidly hastened mainstream adoption of strong encryption, according to the U.S. government's top intelligence official. (The Android ecosystem is becoming a toxic hellscape of unpatched devices riddled with security holes. For comparison, when Apple’s iOS has a security hole, Apple can just update all supported iPhones with a new version. Even Windows phones are better than Android here. [Source: Why iPhones Are More Secure Than Android Phones] So get Blackphone 2 with PrivatOS to fix security concerns—or an iPhone. Also, the Erase Data feature on iPhones wipes the data after ten failed passcode entry attempts. This security feature is so unique that it distinguishes Apple’s iPhones from all other available smartphones in the market. And 94% of iPhones run iOS 8 or 9.)
Blackphone 2 with PrivatOS is relatively secure
Apple iOS 9.3.2 beta 2 iPhone 5s is relatively secure
Snowden’s courageous act has highlighted the earlier efforts of other men and women whose names are familiar to many Americans: Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Jeffrey Wigand (tobacco), Karen Silkwood (nuclear industry), Coleen Rowley (FBI – 9/11), Sherron Watkins (Enron), and Chelsea Manning (Wikileaks). As Mark Hertsgaard makes clear in his study of contemporary whistle-blowing in the U.S. government, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, we owe a great deal to these brave people, who have helped keep democracy alive in America. (Sort of . . . Democracy—an American Delusion.)
The bottom line is that we have whistleblower protections ON PAPER ONLY. These protections get cited by Obama and Hillary Clinton when someone reports egregious persecution of whistleblowers that end up going to the press when reporting wrongdoing through official channels leads—not to changes or to reprimands to wrongdoers—but instead to egregious persecution of whistleblowers who are supposed to be protected as a matter of policy. In essence, there are no actual whistleblower protections. The traditional whistleblower channels are set up as nets to lure "troublemakers" into revealing themselves so they can receive persecution and even trumped up criminal charges. This is supposed to scare all potential whistleblowers into going along to get along. It doesn't even occur to anyone in the process to change inappropriate or illegal behavior as a result of whistleblowers' reports, therefore the true purpose of the traditional whistleblower channels being nets to lure "troublemakers" into revealing themselves is revealed for all to see, and fear. Ask Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, and John Crane! Many people are unaware of the ugly pattern of retaliation that almost invariably greets any well-meaning whistleblower.
The true purpose of the traditional whistleblower channels is to act as nets to lure 'troublemakers' into revealing themselves (after which they get fried)
The very definition of how bureaucracy operates is CYA (cover your ass) by actually doing nothing to rock any boat
The very definition of how bureaucracy operates is CYA (cover your ass) by actually doing nothing to rock any boat, but reporting that you're swamped in work—you could use more help, so the bureaucracy keeps getting bigger and more expensive even though most workers are doing as little as possible because they do not want to stick out because they suscribe to the prevailing conformist mentality found in all bureaucracies (whose unspoken objective is preservation of the status quo—which makes everyone risk-adverse), and if they were getting a lot done, human resources would fire some workers and the ambitious worker would look like a teacher's pet and like he was currying favor, so other workers would stab him in the back and make this troublemaker look bad so he would lose his job before anyone found out that the backstabbers were basically do-nothing go-along-to-get-along deadwood—mere chairwarmers.
"The Presidency, Congress, and the courts appear to set national security policy, but in reality their role is minimal. They exercise decisional authority more in form than in substance. This is the principal reason that the system has not, as advertised, self-corrected," says Michael J. Glennon in National Security and Double Government. But blame avoidance ranks high among the priorities of the government workers, and to avoid blame, recriminations, demotions, firing, or charges, bureaucrats quickly learn the rules of CYA and "don't rock the boat," and never ever ever be a troublemaker! The unspoken objective of the preservation of the status quo will become clear in nasty ways to tattletales, people that question actions within the agency which—by implication—reflect on superiors within the agency and on those in charge of creating policies in the agency. To put it metaphorically, whistleblowers are about as welcome in agencies as a bad case of herpes.
To put it metaphorically, whistleblowers are about as welcome in agencies as herpes
As president-elect, Barack Obama took the position that whistleblowing by government employees was an act “of courage and patriotism” that “should be encouraged rather than stifled,” but as President he is prosecuting every whistleblower he can get his corrupt hands on, more than any president ever. So much for anyone ever believing ANY campaign promise ever again!
"Jack Balkin, a liberal law professor at Yale, agrees that the increase in leak prosecutions is part of a larger transformation. 'We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state,' he says. In his view, zealous leak prosecutions are consonant with other political shifts since 9/11: the emergence of a vast new security bureaucracy, in which at least two and a half million people hold confidential, secret, or top-secret clearances . . ." [Thomas Drake—a brave, patriotic whistleblower—became unemployable to the extent that “he was reduced to clerking at an Apple store” in suburban Maryland. Beats flipping burgers!] (Source: The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?)
Thomas Drake—a brave, patriotic whistleblower—became unemployable to the extent that he was reduced to clerking at an Apple store in suburban Maryland (the man shown isn't Drake—he's a model)
John Crane has filed his charges with the Office of Special Counsel, sparking an investigation by the Justice Department into whistleblower retaliation at the Pentagon. "To me, the main issue is: Can we have a workable system that lets whistleblowers follow their own principled dissent without having them destroyed in the process?" asks Crane. (John Crane, a former assistant inspector general at the Pentagon who was responsible for protecting whistleblowers, was then forced to become one himself when the process failed.)