Obama: Snowden should have used “official channels”

Photo Gallery: The Risks Faced by Whistleblowers

Blowing the Whistle: Former US Official Reveals Risks Faced by Internal Critics By Mark Hertsgaard, Felix Kasten, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

US President Barack Obama has said that Edward Snowden should have used official channels instead of taking NSA spying public. Now, a former high-ranking US government official has revealed how the Pentagon retaliates against internal critics.

John Crane doesn’t live far from CIA headquarters on the south bank of the Potomac River, with its verdant forest and rolling hills. The Pentagon is just a few miles upstream. Crane, as a child of the US military-intelligence complex, feels at home here. He served as a part of the system for more than 25 years and he still believes in it — even if it has since declared him as its enemy.Crane is sitting in his kitchen. In front of him lies a leather briefcase embossed with the US seal. He is 60 years old, though he looks younger with his slicked-back hair and neatly trimmed beard. He still wears the typical uniform of day-to-day government business in Washington: a shirt monogrammed with his initials, cufflinks and a blazer with golden buttons. It’s the way he showed up to work for more than a quarter century, when he flashed his badge to security and drove up to his office inside the complex on Army Navy Drive in Arlington, Virginia. For a long time, he could see the Pentagon, the American Department of Defense, right out his office window.

Later they moved, to a non-descript office tower a little further out, but Crane and his staff remained an important part of the Defense Department. Over the years, he made a career within the US military hierarchy. In his final role as assistant inspector general, he had finally made it up into the senior leadership ranks. Around 1,600 civil servants report to the inspector general, of whom around 90 worked for Crane until his departure. Their job is to follow up on internal problems, corruption and other violations of the law. In modern democracies, an inspector general is a kind of free safety who is supposed to ensure that the government apparatus is functioning according to the principles of the rule of law.

Crane’s work inside the Pentagon was sensitive. It was his job to deal with grievances — from small squabbles to major scandals — within the military apparatus. He was responsible for relations with Congress and, first and foremost, the US defense apparatus’ internal whistleblowing program — a kind of complaint box for the close to 3 million civilian and military employees of the Pentagon as well as for the NSA, which is subordinate to the Defense Department. He remained in the position until he began suspecting that his superiors had bent the rules in order to nullify one unwelcome whistleblower.


There’s A New Edward Snowden Whistleblower!!!


The conflict led Crane to question almost everything he had ever believed in or worked for. The man who, during his career, had attended to dozens of whistleblower cases decided to become one himself. In a new book,* and in several interviews with SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL TV and theGuardian, he has now told his story for the first time. It’s one that covers far more than just the fate of a single high-ranking Pentagon employee who was ousted from his job in 2013 as a result of a dispute with his superiors.

Not Quite So Simple

The row stems from the fact that Crane disputes the version of events still put forward today by President Barack Obama and Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when discussing Edward Snowden, the most prominent whistleblower of our times. Snowden didn’t have to go underground and he didn’t have to take his story public — that’s the message the US government constantly repeats. The system works, the error was made by Snowden: That has been Obama’s subtext.

In reference to Snowden, Obama says there “were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.” Hillary Clinton has also expressed a similar sentiment during the primary campaign. Snowden “could have been a whistleblower” within the government apparatus, she said. “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.”

At his home in Virginia, Crane casts his gaze across the Potomac towards the Pentagon. He knows that the truth is rather different and that things aren’t quite as simple as Obama and Clinton seek to portray them. How could Snowden have taken advantage of the internal avenues available? He wasn’t a government official. He was the employee of a private company that worked for the NSA. As such, it was unclear whether Snowden enjoyed the same legal protections as whistleblowers within the government. And even if he were, Crane has doubts today that he would have been treated appropriately.

Crane sighs and struggles to find the right words to explain his doubts. “I witnessed a dramatic example of what can happen to a whistleblower if he behaves as stipulated and turns to the official channels,” he says. Yet everything had seemed so well thought out when the government in the 1970s provided a contact point for whistleblowers within the military apparatus and the NSA.

After completing his university studies, Crane worked for a Republican Congressman named Bill Dickinson, a leading member of the Armed Services Committee. Dickinson had been one of the proponents of the idea of establishing an Office of the Inspector General. Once the position was created, Crane became one of the first employees in the office of the newly named inspector. During his career, he worked under around a dozen different inspector generals and helped build the so-called “hotlines” for whistleblowers. For Crane, whistleblowers are a pillar of the democratic system and he is convinced that they help improve the work of government.

After Chelsea Manning passed along to WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of daily reports about the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq along with diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world, Crane advocated for the establishment of a new internal system for filing complaints about classified and highly classified procedures — a system that was then realized. During his time at the Pentagon, Crane says, he had the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1978 printed in pamphlet form “so that employees in the Office of the Inspector General could read verbatim the law they were supposed to be implementing.” Crane says he sought to “make sure there would never be an Edward Snowden.”

Doubts

To this day, he has refrained from publicly endorsing the actions of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. He considers Snowden’s flight and ongoing exile in Russia to be a tragedy that could have been avoided. He still believes that internal channels would have been better. The errors Crane decries are those he thinks were made by the people in charge, who he thinks failed to properly implement guidelines and laws.

John Crane first began having doubts in 2004. Shortly before, he had been promoted to the role of assistant inspector general and, as such, part of upper management. These were the years immediately following Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington had fundamentally changed the way US security agencies operated, with the administration of President George W. Bush massively expanding their budgets and authority.John Crane's Pentagon identification. After refusing to remain silent about the...

A small group of NSA employees viewed these changes with increasing concern. They recognized that the surveillance being undertaken* also captured information about US citizens — which they believed violated the US constitution. They saw that close to $4 billion was being spent on this program alone — money that was pumped into the companies that had been contracted — and they considered it to be a waste of taxpayers’ money. They argued that an internal solution named ThinThread would have been better suited and saved billions.

The group is comprised of three former NSA employees, a former employee of the House Intelligence Committee as well as Thomas Drake, who was still employed by the NSA at the time in a leading position in its surveillance programs.

Drake turned to the NSA inspector general with his complaint. The rest of the group (Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loomis and Diane Roark) complained to the office of the Pentagon Inspector General, where John Crane worked.* His staff had their own office at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, where signs have been hung in the hallways and elevators encouraging NSA employees to contact them if problems arise. In September 2002, an official complaint was submitted to Crane.

His inspectors met with Drake in January 2003 and repeatedly questioned him over the course of several years. Drake also delivered NSA documents to them in an effort to prove his allegations. Security staff logged each of his visits to the Office of the Inspector General. Drake felt he was under observation.

Crane’s staff contradicted the findings of the NSA officials. After a detailed examination, they deemed the concerns to be largely well-founded — a slap in the face to those responsible under then-NSA head Michael Hayden. In 2006, the US Congress voted to shut down the controversial Trailblazer program, though NSA continued its mass surveillance through other methods.

‘Extremely Unusual’

The story of the NSA whistleblower could have been a success story. But the five petitioners feared reprisals from the very beginning. Whereas four of them used their real names in their complaint, Thomas Drake only appears as a high-ranking employee from the management level — without his name, out of fear. Crane says he viewed Drake’s fear of revenge as a warning signal and found it to be “extremely unusual.” Internally, he pushed for further investigation into these concerns.

His boss rejected him. Crane was indignant. In his view, this was in violation of the rules governing the inspector general’s work. “One would think that is exactly what we should be investigating,” Crane says.

The fear was justified, as would become apparent during the summer of 2007. One morning that July, armed FBI officers raided the apartments and homes of the four whistleblowers named in the report. Four months later, they also turned up at the front door of the man who had sought to remain anonymous in the internal complaint: Thomas Drake.

Drake was a long-serving intelligence employee. For the intelligence service of the US Air Force, he once eavesdropped on radio communications from East Germany’s National People’s Army and the Stasi secret police from West German airspace. Later, he worked as an NSA contractor. His first day as a full-time employee at the agency was on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now he was being arrested by armed officers and charged under the Espionage Act of 1917 and threatened with 35 years in prison. He also lost his security clearance and, with it, his career — all because of trying to sound the alarm from the inside as a whistleblower using official channels he had trusted. Among the allegations against Drake were that he had leaked classified information to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun — a claim he denied. He also stood accused of saving an NSA document on his private computer.

Shortly before his trial was to begin, the government dropped all of the initial charges. Drake was sentenced to one year of probation and community service for the misuse of NSA computers. The judge in the case issued particularly harsh words against prosecutors, saying their actions had been “unconscionable.” Nevertheless, Drake lost his job, his pension and many friends.

READ Part 2: Shredded Documents


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U.S. Army Chaplain Resigns In Opposition of Drone assassinations by the United States

U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Christopher John Antal resigned from the U.S. Army Reserves on April 12, 2016 in opposition to U.S policies regarding militarized drones, nuclear weapons, and preventive war.

Antal stated he could not serve as a chaplain for an “empire” and could not reconcile his duty to protect and defend America and its constitutional democracy and his commitment to the core principles of his religious faith including justice, equity and compassion and the inherent worth and dignity of every person” with policies of the United States.

His letter of resignation stated that he resigned because he could not support “unaccountable killing: through the U.S. armed drone policy and the Executive Branch claiming “the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”

Antal also cites his opposition to the U.S. nuclear weapons policy calling it a policy of “terror and mutually assured destruction that threatens the existence of humanity and the earth.”

In his letter of resignation, Antal refuses to support the U.S. policy of “preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection” in what he calls “imperial overreach through extra-constitutional authority and impunity from international law.”

From September 2012 through February 2013 Chris Antal was an Army chaplain to a signals battalion supporting the 3rd Infantry Division at Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan. While his unit did not have operational responsibilities for drones, Chaplain Antal saw drones launch and land  where he gave services for military personnel killed in Afghanistan and whose remains were being transported back to the United States.  Additionally, he was concerned about the use of drones after hearing about a drone attack in which a grandmother had been killed while picking okra in a field near her home in the region around the military base.

On Veterans’ Day 2012, identifying himself as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan, , he posted “A Veterans’ Day Confession for America” on the Unitarian Universalist site, A Quest for Meaning, in the form of a poetic testimony (full text at http://www.questformeaning.org/military-2/a-veterans-day-confession-for-america/).

Antal wrote, “We have sanitized killing and condoned extrajudicial assassinations…war made easy without due process, protecting ourselves from the human cost of war./We have deceived ourselves…denying the colossal misery our wars inflict on the innocent.”  He had delivered this sermon during a worship service  of military personnel and contractors who had freely gathered for a service in the Unitarian Universalist tradition  at Kandahar Air Base.

Antal’s commanding officer was informed about his article, told him “you make us look like the bad guys” and “the message does not support the mission.”

The commander said he had lost confidence in Antal and had him investigated, grounded from travel and officially reprimanded by a letter from a general officer at Division level.  He was sent back to the U.S. with a “do not promote” evaluation and discharged from active duty. Antal challenged the punishment through New York Senator Gillibrand and her congressional inquiry resulted in his re-activation and promotion to Captain in the U.S Army Reserve.file:///Users/Owner/Downloads/DisarmamentTimesFinalsummer2015%20(1).pdf

The Rev. Antal spoke on March 30, 2016 at the Veterans for Peace symposium “Inside Drone Warfare: Perspectives of Whistleblowers, Families of Drone Victims and Their Lawyers,” held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School with military and CIA drone whistleblowers.  The symposium was held during the week of vigils called “Shut Down Creech 2016” at Creech Drone base, 60 miles outside of Las Vegas.

Rev. Antal said that the U.S. Army had changed its policy on the duties of chaplains to silence dissent on military policies that concern speaking with a “prophetic voice” and on issues of “moral turpitude.”  The phrase speaking with a prophetic voice and issues of moral turpitude was eliminated from the 2015 version of the Chaplain regulations.  While the 2015 regulation charges chaplains to speak “with candor as an advocate to confront and support resolution to challenges and issues of the command,” what happened to him when he spoke with candor demonstrates that the Army does not want chaplains speaking truth to power.

The 2009 Regulations for Chaplains Army Regulation165-1, 3-2 file:///Users/Owner/Downloads/2009AR165_1%20(1).pdf  states:

3-2  Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with a prophetic voice and must confront the issues of religious accommodation, the obstruction of free exercise of religion, and moral turpitude in conflict with the Army values.

The 2015 version of Army Regulation-165-3-2  file:///Users/Owner/Downloads/2015AR165_1.pdf states:

3-2  Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with candor as an advocate to confront and support resolution to challenges and issues of the command.

Currently, Rev. Antal is a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at  Rock Tavern, New York, is the convener of Veterans for Peace Hudson Valley Chapter 177, and chaplain at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. He is married and has five children.

Antal’s letter of resignation:

April 12, 2016

MEMORANDUM FOR Commander-in-Chief, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500

THRU U.S. Army Resources Command, ATTN; AHRC-OPL-P, 1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Ft. Knox, KY 40122

SUBJECT: Resignation in Protest

Dear Mr. President:

I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army.

I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy.  The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.  I refuse  to support this policy of unaccountable killing.

I resign because I refuse to support U.S. nuclear weapon policy. The Executive Branch continues to invest billions of dollars into nuclear weapons, which threaten the existence of humankind and the earth.  I refuse to support this policy of terror ad mutually assured destruction.

I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection.  The Executive branch continues to claim extra- constitutional authority and impunity from international law.  I refuse to support this policy of imperial overstretch.

I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain.  I cannot reconcile these policies with wither my sworn duty to protect and defend America and our constitutional democracy or my conventional commitment to the core principles of my religion faith.  These principles include: justice, equity and compassion in human relations, a free and responsible search for truth; and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Respectfully submitted,

Christopher John Antal

 


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