A preeminent NSA whistle-blower salutes Bradley Manning

Thomas Andrews Drake is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency and a decorated U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy veteran.

Thomas Andrews Drake is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency and a decorated U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy veteran.

By Thomas Drake. January 14, 2013. This article was originally published on Politico.com

When President Barack Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act on Nov. 27 of last year, actual whistleblowers were notably absent from the event. Traditionally, supporters are invited to witness the signing of legislation, so where were the whistleblowers? The sad truth is that the “Whistleblower Protection” statements issued by the Obama administration are more public relations than actual practice. Despite Obama’s promise to create the most transparent government in U.S. history, the number of annual classifications continues to skyrocket and a record number of government whistleblowers have been charged under the Espionage Act.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old soldier arrested in May 2010 for revealing documents via WikiLeaks, is a victim of this war on whistleblowers. I attended Bradley’s December pretrial hearing at Fort Meade, Md., in which the defense sought accountability for the unlawful pretrial punishment Bradley endured at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia. For nine months, Bradley was held isolated in a 6-by-8 cell, and allowed only 20 minutes of sunlight and exercise per day, in violation of Navy instructions and also, as Judge Denise Lind this week determined, in violation of military law.

The U.N. Chief Rapporteur on Torture called these conditions “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” and any reasonable person would see them as torture. Brig staff knew that their actions were under intense scrutiny from three-star Gen. George Flynn and the Pentagon, leaving no doubt that the command structure exercised undue influence over Quantico’s “poor” decision making.

I would be more shocked by this egregious treatment of a U.S. soldier were it not for the malicious prosecution I experienced. Just before Sept. 11, I was hired by the National Security Agency as a senior change leader. However, when I disclosed how NSA officials perpetrated fraud with the multibillion-dollar Trailblazer program and exposed NSA as the White House executive agent for the illegal secret surveillance of U.S citizens with the Stellar Wind program (when a superior, legal and far cheaper alternative existed), the government came after me as an enemy of the state. I was subsequently targeted by the Justice Department in 2006 as part of a “leak” investigation. In November 2007, I was unceremoniously visited in a dawn raid by a dozen agents from the FBI and indicted in April 2010 by the Department of Justice.
Deplorably, the Obama administration has dropped whistleblower protections at the door for intelligence and national security issues. The words “national security” alone should not exempt any person or program from public scrutiny and questioning. But as I saw firsthand, the U.S. intelligence community today remains plagued with over-classification, the politics of personal ego among high-ranking officials and a willingness to trample on human rights and civil liberties for negligible benefit.

When I joined the military, I took a solemn oath to defend the Constitution. I have always operated with that principle in mind, and I believe Bradley did as well. In Iraq, Bradley came face to face with the dark underbelly of U.S. activities around the world. He saw activists in Iraq detained and tortured with tacit U.S. support, and when he brought his concerns to his chain of command, they told him not to bother. He found evidence in Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and the video of indiscriminate killing of civilians, unpunished torture and corruption. He saw the diplomatic cables detailing the State Department’s role in suppressing minimum wage legislation in Haiti and supporting corrupt authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. As a former veteran, I believe this critical information regarding our government is in the public interest.

Bradley, like myself, placed his conscience above his career. Yet those whose careers were embarrassed by the truth targeted the messenger with a chilling vengeance. As in my case, the government is unable to show any evidence of actual harm or advantage to a foreign nation or enemy as a result of Bradley’s actions. Also, as in my case, the prosecution has tried to prevent the defense from referencing any evidence of Bradley’s good intentions. Bradley stated prior to arrest, “I want people to see the truth, regardless of who they are, because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” For his honorable actions, Bradley faces life in prison.

An informed citizenry is the bedrock of democracy. Absent transparency in government operations, the executive increasingly rules through secrecy and propaganda, shielding its conduct from the press and public accountability. By condemning and vilifying Bradley so extremely, the prosecuting authority Gen. Karl Horst, and others in the Pentagon and State Department have merely highlighted their misplaced priorities. The aggressive persecution and prosecution that Bradley has experienced are not the result of his connection to WikiLeaks; it is part of a larger pattern, and increasingly the norm for how our government reacts to whistleblowers and truth tellers. Dissent is the highest form of patriotism — and for that, I salute Bradley.

Thomas Andrews Drake is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency and a decorated U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy veteran.

5 thoughts on “A preeminent NSA whistle-blower salutes Bradley Manning

  1. The corporate/institutional/state persecution and subsequent suicide of Aaron Swartz testify to the lock and key, gate keeper/rentier, take-no-prisoners attitude of the entire neoliberal ‘justice’ system.

    Swartz’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto outlines the steps all of us need to take to keep information flowing.

    Bradley Manning’s acts were above and beyond the call of duty and he should decorated, not denigrated, for his efforts in the struggle against the classifiers, the gatekeepers, the rentiers … all who would impede our right to know just what is going on, and then to make informed decisions based on knowledge, not propaganda.

  2. Pardon Private Bradley Manning Stand-Out-Central Square, Cambridge, Wednesdays, 5:00 PM -Update

    Let’s Redouble Our Efforts To Free Private Bradley Manning-President Obama Pardon Bradley Manning -Make Every Town Square In America (And The World) A Bradley Manning Square From Boston To Berkeley to Berlin-Join Us In Central Square, Cambridge, Ma. For A Stand-Out For Bradley- Wednesdays From 5:00-6:00 PM
    The Private Bradley Manning case is headed toward an early summer trial now scheduled for June 2013. The news on his case over the past several months has centered on the many (since about April 2012) pre-trial motions hearings including defense motions to dismiss for lack of speedy trial (Private Manning’s pre-trial confinement is now at 900 plus days and will be over 1000 days by the time of trial), a motion still not ruled on, dismissal as a matter of freedom of speech and minimal effect on alleged national security issues (issues important for us to know what the hell the government is doing either in front of us, or behind our backs), a motion also not ruled on and now the subject of prosecution counter- motions, and dismissal based on serious allegations of torturous behavior by the military authorities extending far up the chain of command while Private Manning was first detained in Kuwait and later at the Quantico Marine brig for about a year ending in April 2011. In December Private Manning himself, as well as others including senior military mental health workers, took the stand to detail those abuses.

    The results of that last motion are now in, as announced at an early January pre-trial hearing, and while every Bradley Manning supporter should be heartened by the fact that the military judge ruled that he was subject to illegal behavior by the military during his pre-trail confinement her remedy, a 112 days reduction in any future sentence, is a mere slash on the risk to the military authorities. No dismissal and, alternatively, no appropriate reduction (the asked for ten to one ratio for all his first year or so of confinement) given the seriousness of the illegal behavior. And a deterrent to any future military whistleblowers, and others who seek to put the hard facts of future American military atrocities before the public.

    Some other important recent news, this from the November 2012 pre-trail sessions, is the offer by the defense to plead guilty to lesser charges (wrongful, unauthorized use of the Internet, etc.) in order to clear the deck and have the major (with a possibility of a life sentence) espionage /aiding the enemy issue solely before the court-martial judge (a single military judge, the one who has been hearing the pre-trial motions, not a lifer-stacked panel). Also there has been increased media attention by mainstream outlets around the case (including the previously knowingly oblivious New York Times), as well as an important statement by three Nobel Peace Laureates (including Bishop Tutu from South Africa) calling on their fellow laureate, United States President Barack Obama, to free Private Manning from his jails. Check the Bradley Manning Support Network for details and future updates.

    Since September 2011, in order to publicize Private Manning’s case locally, there have been weekly stand-outs (as well as other more ad hoc and sporadic events) in various locations in the Greater Boston area starting in Somerville across from the Davis Square Redline MBTA stop on Friday afternoons and later on Wednesdays. Lately this stand-out has been held on each week on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 6:00 PM at Central Square, Cambridge, Ma. (small park at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Prospect Street just outside the Redline MBTA stop, renamed Manning Square for the duration of the stand-out) in order to continue to broaden our outreach. Join us in calling for Private Manning’s freedom. President Obama Pardon Private Manning Now!

  3. Thank you Mr Drake for your courage and perseverance for the protection and defense of the American people.

    You are a true patriot with great love of country.

    I am also grateful to you for writing about what you encountered while serving the nation, how you were vilified for defending your oath, and especially for writing in defense of Bradley. Please continue to make your voice heard.

    – Pat

  4. Bravo.
    It is not difficult to prove that Obama is the traitor . He is obeying instructions from the Bank of England who with the EU hope to destroy the UK and USA and create a blend of Soviet Marxism with Fascist Corporate Bankers. It is up to each soldier to protect his people isn’t it? Bradley did just that for which I thank him. The media in their complicity are also worthy of arrest. And then there are the 9/11 traitors , and Kennedy’s assassination. Same root causes, same old faces. Do they own the armed forces or do we as tax payers?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *