One of the biggest clauses the US government uses to detract from Edward Snowden’s actions is that he did not go through the proper channels. They claim (as in this TED talks with Richard Ledgett) that Snowden had several other avenues in order to lodge a complaint about the way the NSA was conducting business. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the US’s political and judicial system would have reason to doubt this. Sure enough, in a lawsuit filed in the last week of August, four whistle blowers from the NSA and a congressional staffer claim they did what the government proposes is the right thing to do. Instead of being heard objectively, however, they became targets.
Follow the Proper Channels- So we Can Persecute You Easier
Thomas Drake, Diane Roark, Ed Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney have filed a lawsuit against the FBI, NSA, and DOJ; the whistle blowers also named specific people. The lawsuit is attempting to extract over $115 million from the defendants.
When the NSA’s internet surveillance efforts were just coming online they were following two courses of actions to develop the technology. The first was a program called Trailblazer. It was to be outsourced to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) at a cost of $4 billion, provided no safeguards to prevent spying on Americans, and at the time had not been proven effective.
The second program was called ThinThread. Which was basically everything that Trailblazer wasn’t. It was cost effective at only $4 million, internally developed, had safeguards to protect Americans, and was already tested and proven to be an effective program.
I don’t need to tell you which one the government chose, do I?
The four NSA employees and a congressional staffer reported the ‘funneling’ of taxpayers dollars to the politically connected SAIC to the Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD then issued a report that reprimanded the NSA for its poor decision making. This, of course, angered the NSA who does take kindly to being made into a fool.
This is where the trouble begins for the whistle blowers. Shortly after, the NSA had the DOJ on the whistle blowers’ case. According to the lawsuit they “knowingly and intentionally fabricated” a claim that they leaked information about the NSA’s domestic spying program to the New York Times.
What followed is exactly what most people speculate what happens to you when you do something the government doesn’t like. The lawsuit reads,
[The defendants] used this fabricated claim for retaliation, illegal searches and seizures, physical invasion of their residences and places of business, temporary false imprisonment, the confiscation of their property, cancellation of security clearances leading to the loss of their jobs and employment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment and intimidation.
Comically, the lawsuit also points out that those agencies and the people associated with them and the fictitious allegations should have known better. As we all know, the NSA was- and is- “tracking all domestic telephone calls for the supposed purpose of protecting national security.” So they certainly had the means to know that their accusations were unfounded.
Five years later, after the program had been proven unusable, the NSA abandoned Trailblazer.
Larry Klayman: The Weakest Link in the Whistle Blowers Lawsuit?
Many people have doubts about this lawsuit; but not because of the legality of the issue or the merit of the plaintiffs. The doubt stems from the lawyer making the case on behalf of the whistle blowers. Larry Klayman.
Mr. Klayman is an eccentric lawyer who toes the line- to say the least. To put it bluntly, many people classify him as a ‘conspiracy theorist nutjob.’ During the Clinton era he became known as the “Clinton nemsis” after launching dozens of lawsuits aimed at his administration.
Klayman has been barred from courtrooms, banned from practicing law in front of a New York district judge, wrote a book called Whores, reprimanded by the bar association after not representing- and then not repaying- a woman who paid a $25,000 retainer in Florida, and otherwise censured or sanctioned in other events.
For all of his faults and eccentricities, Klayman has still proved valuable time and time again. His most recent victory came in 2013 when he was able to get judge Richard Leon of DC district court to rule that section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act- and thus the NSA’s metadata collection- was unconstitutional. Judge Leon went as far as calling the the NSA programs “almost Orwellian” in nature.
Of course, the government filed an appeal to this ruling and it was overturned in late August. The reason was due to a defense that the government has found particularly useful in nearly all lawsuits against it: you can’t sue if you can’t prove that we spied on you in particular- even though we admit to spying on everyone generally.
Amazing that such an asinine defense can work in the court of law, isn’t it?
This particular case isn’t over yet. In a hearing back in the DC district court, judge Leon insisted that Klayman get the appeals court to formally end the appeal promptly so that the case with Leon can continue.
He also advised Klayman to add a ‘Verizon business’ plaintiff to the case to continue the lawsuit, and discovery process. As Klayman pointed out, this difference is irrelevant. Even though Verizon Wireless and Business are technically two diferent companies a Freedom of Information Act request released by the New York Times last month shows that Verizon Wireless was also involved in metadata collection.
We have come a long way from essentially not knowing anything about NSA surveillance only a few short years ago. The government, however, is pulling out all the stops and pulling all the strings in order to impede, slow, and stop further discovery and action.
They are constantly involved in double speak. Claiming that Edward Snowden- who was a contractor and thus not even covered by the 1998 Whistleblower Protection Act- had proper channels to voice his objections. Yet when employees of these agencies do this they get- for lack of a better term- royally screwed. I don’t know where the buck stops with this hypocrisy, but I hope it does- and soon. It’s simply getting old, and the American people are losing their patience and any scrap of trust left in the government.
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