News Release

Whistleblowers on Assange, Manning, “Absurd” Secrecy, Leaking and Assassinations

The Guardian reports on “A letter signed by leading U.S. figures in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s application for political asylum in Ecuador has been delivered to the country’s London embassy.” Among those who signed the letter were Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky and Danny Glover.

The letter, organized by Just Foreign Policy, which is also signed by a number of whistleblowers, including those below, states: “The U.S. Justice Department has compelled other members of Wikileaks to testify before a grand jury in order to determine what charges might be brought against Mr. Assange. The U.S. government has made clear its open hostility to Wikileaks, with high-level officials even referring to Mr. Assange as a ‘high-tech terrorist,’ and seeking access to the Twitter account of Icelandic legislator Birgitta Jónsdóttir due to her past ties to Wikileaks.

“Were he charged, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty.

“Prior to that, the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing U.S. government documents to Wikileaks, provides an illustration of the treatment that Assange might expect while in custody. Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliating treatment such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell. These are additional reasons that your government should grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

“We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the ‘crime’ that he has committed is that of practicing journalism. He has revealed important crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. government, most notably in releasing video footage from an Apache helicopter of a 2007 incident in which the U.S. military appears to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees.”

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Drake was a senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency. He recently and successfully concluded a legal ordeal with the federal government including an Espionage Act centered indictment over the past several years. He blew the whistle on vast illegal electronic surveillance and data mining inside the U.S. and other government wrongdoing. He has recently been given awards for his role as a whistleblower. His recent tweets include: “Important 2 know facts of Assange seeking asylum & not the spin. He faces grave danger if extradited as prey of power.” And “I consider Assange the most wanted info revolutionary of the Internet Age. Makes him 4most cyber refugee from forces of fascism.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @JesselynRadack
National security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, Radack is a former Justice Department adviser and a whistleblower. Her book TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the ‘American Taliban’ about how she exposed government wrongdoing in the John Walker Lindh case, including how Lindh was interrogated without a lawyer present and the government attempting to suppress that information, was recently released. She also acted as Drake’s lawyer. They both won the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award this year.

She said today: “Assange meets the criteria for asylum. He has a well-founded fear of persecution, for his political beliefs, that a government would be unable to stop. The Swedish charges are a pretext for getting him to a country that will extradite him to the United States, which has made no secret of its desire to prosecute him under the Espionage Act and seek the death penalty.” Radack has talked about a “war on whistleblowers” becoming a “war on journalism.”

Radack’s recent articles include “Government & MSM’s Deliberate Obfuscation of the Difference Between ‘Leaking’ & Whistleblowing

Also, see: “Why Ecuador Should Grant Julian Assange Asylum

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley

Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She highlights the importance of the government over-extending its claims of secrecy, saying: “I’m convinced, more than ever, that if that type of anti-secrecy publication [WikiLeaks] had existed and enabled the proper information sharing in early 2001, it could have not only prevented the 9/11 attacks but it could have exposed the fabricating of intelligence and deceptive propaganda which enabled the Bush administration to unjustifiably launch war on Iraq.”

She noted critical developments in secrecy of government this week, including, as AP reports on the Manning case: “A military judge is ordering prosecutors to account for themselves after accusations they withheld evidence from an Army private charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history.”

Rowley also notes the secrecy-invoking last minute government response to the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about the legal and factual basis for the killings of three U.S. citizens in targeted killing drone strikes last fall. Nathan Freed Wessler, fellow at the ACLU National Security Project, writes today: “The government’s brief amounts to a total secrecy snow job. In every relevant respect, the government’s stonewalling continues. … The government’s brief says that ‘whether or not the United States government conducted the particular operations that led to the deaths of Anwar al-Aulaki and other individuals named in the FOIA requests remains classified.’ But if U.S. responsibility for killing al-Awlaki is classified, someone forgot to tell the Department of Defense. Within hours of al-Awlaki’s death, DOD published a news article stating that ‘[a] U.S. airstrike … killed Yemeni-based terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki early this morning.’ President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have both acknowledged that the U.S. killed al-Awlaki. At this point, refusing to say whether the U.S. was responsible for killing al-Awlaki at all, not even whether the CIA or the military was responsible, is absurd.”