by William Skink
There are Americans who have had their lives destroyed because they blew the whistle on government misdeeds. Sadly, Hillary Clinton is not one of them.
On Monday, Democracy Now broke an important story that shows why Edward Snowden was right not to go through formal whistle-blowing channels:
AMY GOODMAN: We’re in New York with this Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive with John Crane, former senior official at the Pentagon, who has revealed major privacy and security lapses within the government’s whistleblower program. For 25 years, he worked for the Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office, which helped federal employees, both in the Pentagon, at the NSA, expose abuse and corruption. And we’re joined by Mark Hertsgaard, who is the author of the new book, Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden, which recounts for the first time John Crane’s story. You call him the third man, Mark. Why?
MARK HERTSGAARD: Well, because, as you said at the top of the show, everybody knows what Snowden did at this point, but to really understand it, what Snowden did and why he did it the way he did it—he did it, you need to know the stories of two other men. And one is Thomas Drake, as you said, and the other is the third man. And that third man is Mr. John Crane. And I called him that partly because I needed to keep his identity confidential myself, until we broke the story here today in New York on Democracy Now!, but also in The Guardian and Der Spiegel newspapers. And I chose to work with The Guardian and Der Spiegel because they broke the original Snowden stories, and they understood just how significant Crane’s revelations are, because when you see everything that John Crane tells us about how the whistleblower protection system inside the Pentagon is broken, only results in a whistleblower having his life ruined, as we saw with Tom Drake, you see that really Edward Snowden had no other choice but to go public.
I guess he had two choices. He could have remained silent about the NSA surveillance and then continued to leave the public in the dark about the fact that the United States government was conducting mass, warrantless surveillance, illegal surveillance. He could have done that, but Snowden decided, for reasons of conscience, he could not remain silent. He could have gone Tom Drake’s direction and ended up destroyed like Tom Drake. So, instead, Snowden went out and went public. And he did kind of what Daniel Ellsberg did 40 years ago with the Pentagon Papers, which is to say, “I’m going to take these documents. I’m going to give them to the press.” And as you said in that quote at the top of the hour, from The Guardian report yesterday, Snowden says, “Look, going to the press is not without its risks”—you know, Snowden is now living in exile—”but at least you have a chance—at least you have a chance to get the news out.”
And so I think that’s what’s important about John Crane’s story, is it puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning. “He broke the law, bring him home. He should face the music,” is what Hillary Clinton said. “Face the music. He could have been a whistleblower,” Hillary Clinton added, “and he would have gotten a very good reception, I think.” Well, I would just like to invite Secretary Clinton, tell that to Thomas Drake, tell that to John Crane, that you would have gotten a good reception by following the whistleblower law inside of the Pentagon.
Hillary Clinton’s words should be haunting her presidential campaign, considering her handling of classified information on a private server is being investigated by the FBI. But they are not because the media is refusing to put the FBI investigation into the context it deserves.
Locally, I have read virtually nothing about the FBI investigation into Hillary’s criminal actions. I see another Zinke post at Intelligent Discontent demanding the media digs into Zinke’s claim that he is being considered Vice President, but there has been pretty much nothing on the looming June 7th primary between Hillary and Bernie. Why?
If Democrats truly fear a Trump presidency, and the polling gap is closing between the two front-runners, why persist in treating the growing investigation with continued silence? Are Democrats just hoping it will go away?
I came across an article from early March that tackles the Hillary investigation in a manner that echoes my befuddlement on how marginalized this issue has remained, despite growing evidence that Hillary lied and obstructed justice, actions that warrant multiple felony indictments. From the link:
Clinton’s own defenses haven’t been particularly reassuring, either. Initially, Clinton’s campaign insisted that none of the material sent on the unsecured server was classified: “Hillary didn’t send any classified materials over email: Hillary only used her personal account for unclassified email.” Then, the Clinton campaign admitted that classified information had been sent, but insisted that the initial statement was still simultaneously true because none of the material was “marked” classified “at the time.” That defense was laughable on its face, because everyone at every level of the State Department is trained to recognize what sort of information is presumptively classified and should be handled accordingly. Of all people, the highly experienced Hillary Clinton would be the last to be oblivious to basic departmental protocol.
But once it became difficult to deny that classified information was sent, Clinton’s team shifted their stance. They began calling the situation “overclassification run amok,” saying that “our system for determining what ought to be classified is broken,” and her defenders said the Espionage Act was “antiquated.” Note, though, how different this is from saying that the material wasn’t classified. It is, in fact, an admission that the material was classified. It essentially concedes that Clinton may well have committed a prosecutable offense. This is not a defense that says the law was not violated, but that the law is unfair.
Unfortunately for Clinton, protesting that the classification laws should be different doesn’t mean that they are different. The fact that the Clinton campaign are casting around the word “overclassification” should be deeply alarming, because talking about overclassification is the last refuge of someone who knows that by the letter of the law, they have mishandled classified information.
This is huge. If you read the whole article, there were examples provided before this quote that highlight similar mishandling of classified information, showing just how weak the Hillary camp’s initial excuse-making was in regards to Hillary’s criminal behavior. As that weakness became obvious, the Clinton campaign shifted its approach, basically admitting that Hillary broke the law with how she chose to handle classified information through her private email server. And the reaction from Democrats? Crickets.
Here is a lengthly quote from the article for better context:
The real curious thing about the whole affair, however, is that nobody seems to believe there’s actually much risk to the campaign. Why is that? If the evidence seems like it may well be enough to make out a case (even if there is a plausible defense theory), shouldn’t this be concerning? Why isn’t it a major topic in the nominating contest?
Lizza believes it’s because Bernie Sanders has downplayed the issue and refused to campaign on it. Lizza says that many Democrats are alarmed that the issue is not being taken more seriously. He quotes a senior Democratic consultant saying:
The person that the White House cleared the field for, and that everyone has fallen in line for, has three federal investigations going on… The guy who set up the system for her took the Fifth. You’re not supposed to read anything into that, but please. It’s the elephant in the room, and Sanders took it off the table.
But perhaps the issue goes beyond Sanders’s refusal to make an issue of the investigations. Part of the scandal’s seeming negligibility has to simply be that nobody believes there is any chance of the Obama administration prosecuting Hillary Clinton. For a Democratic president to tank the prospects of the Democratic nominee by prosecuting her over something that appears both harmless and trivial seems unthinkable. Regardless of all questions about what the law is and whether she violated it, a criminal prosecution seems beyond the realm of reasonable possibility.
And it very well may be. It’s certainly difficult to imagine an indictment coming down, and Clinton even having to plead to some tiny misdemeanor. It’s only because it seems so unthinkable that Clinton can get away with answering the question “Will you drop out if indicted?” by saying “My goodness. That is not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.”
But the very fact that this is unimaginable implies something troubling: people have an entirely different collective understanding of what justice looks like for those with political power and those without it, and that difference is simply accepted as natural.
Recall Bryan Nishimura’s case. The facts are the same. Yet somehow Nishimura’s prosecution raises no eyebrows, seems like business-as-usual for the FBI. If prosecuting Clinton is not just unlikely but inconceivable, but prosecuting Nishimura seems routine (or at least not unlikely, even if unjust), then there’s an implicit double standard at play. Even if we believe there are relevant differences in the facts, the level of difference in our expectations implies a passive acceptance of an openly inconsistent set of laws. The central idea behind the “rule of law” is that all are treated equally before the law, but here we have no expectation that the Democratic presidential nominee will be subject to the same strict standard as a minor agency functionary.
In fact, for any other individual than Hillary Clinton, one would be foolish to doubt the Obama Administration’s willingness to prosecute. The administration has prosecuted individuals under the Espionage Act more than every previous presidential administration combined. It has waged a relentless war on whistleblowers, and its promise to be “the most transparent administration ever” has become an ironic Orwellian joke. If anyone doesn’t view the Espionage Act as “antiquated,” it’s the Obama Justice Department. Chelsea Manning sits in prison because of the Espionage Act under Obama. Journalists worry about their freedom to report because of the Espionage Act under Obama.
This criminal investigation into an actively running presidential candidate should be a huge story, but it isn’t. Democrats who claim to be terrified of a Trump presidency should be raising the alarm that their candidate is terminally flawed, but they aren’t. The law should be equally applied to everyone, but that quaint notion is more laughable today than ever.
If you or I did what Hillary Clinton did, we would be sent to prison, just like others have been sent to prison for mishandling classified information.
Local Democrats here in Montana got a chance to revel in a Republican being caught breaking the law when Art Wittich was found guilty. The glee from the Democrat attack blogs was palpable.
But now, as Hillary faces possible indictment, those same blogs are silent. I guess Democrats only care about the law as a political tool and not as a lynchpin principle holding society together.