New Era of Open Government
Eric Holder, attorney general under President Barack Obama, has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.
The indictments of six individuals under that spy law have drawn criticism from those who say the president's crackdown chills dissent, curtails a free press and betrays Obama's initial promise to "usher in a new era of open government."
The Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers of classified information to the news media than Republican predecessors.
Thomas Drake, a whistle-blower and former analyst at the National Security Agency, talks about the personal and professional toll resulting from an allegation that he gave a reporter classified information about inefficiencies and cost over-runs in an NSA surveillance program. Drake, who was prosecuted in 2010 by Obama's Justice Department under the Espionage Act and maintains he never shared classified information, spoke this week to Bloomberg's David Ellis.
In 2009, former FBI linguist Shamai Leibovitz was indicted for handing over transcripts of government wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington to a blogger. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
"There's a problem with prosecutions that don't distinguish between bad people -- people who spy for other governments, people who sell secrets for money -- and people who are accused of having conversations and discussions," said Abbe Lowell, attorney for Stephen J. Kim, an intelligence analyst charged under the Act.
Lowell, the Washington defense lawyer who has counted as his clients the likes of Jack Abramoff, the former Washington lobbyist, and political figures including former presidential candidate John Edwards, said the Obama administration is using the Espionage Act "like a club" against government employees accused of leaks.
Despite Transparency Promise, U.S. Denies More Than 300,000 Information Requests in One Year.
The prosecutions, which Obama and the Justice Department have defended on national security grounds, mean that government officials who speak to the media can face financial and professional ruin as they spend years fighting for their reputations, and, in some cases, their freedom.
Posted by: Deacon Blues