Pentagon officials tasked with protecting whistleblowers have lied under oath, illegally destroyed documents, and gone out of their way to ruin people’s careers and lives for attempting to raise concerns about government abuses of power, according to a high-ranking Department of Defense (DoD) official, John Crane, who went public with his story on Sunday.
Crane’s explosive revelations are being released in coordination by the Guardian, Der Spiegel, and Newsweek Japan.
“We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories,” whistleblower Edward Snowden responded to Crane’s revelations in the Guardian. “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.”
When Snowden revealed the NSA’s extensive illegal surveillance of American citizens in 2013, government officials were united in their condemnation of his actions—he should have followed the rule book and gone through government channels instead of releasing documents to the public, many argued.
Indeed, both President Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have continued to make this same critique.
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But Crane’s testimony reveals that, in fact, Snowden couldn’t have blown the whistle any other way.
“The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance,” as Snowden told the Guardian.
Crane also revealed why Snowden went public the way he did: a high-ranking whistleblower before him had tried to raise the same concerns about the NSA’s spying program through the “proper” channels, Crane said—and the Pentagon made certain to ruin his life for it.
“Thomas Drake […] blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did,” writes Mark Hertsgaard in the Guardian:
Hertsgaard also describes how retired NSA officials who also went through official channels to raise concerns about NSA surveillance with Drake ended up being similarly arrested and harassed by the U.S. government, and how that transformed their perception of the agency they once worked for:
“Democrats are less bloodthirsty, but no more forgiving,” Hertsgaard notes.
“He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that,” Clinton said during the first Democratic primary debate.
As Hertsgaardputs it: “Tell that to Thomas Drake. Tell it, for that matter, to John Crane.”