About that transparency and accountability Mr. President.

John Kiriakou

AP Photo

Obama’s State of the Union hit all of the right chords. Tax the rich, get manufacturing back, don’t go to war with Iran (unless we go to war with Iran), blah blah blah. I felt better about his policies before he asked Congress to write indefinite detention into the defense budget, and stumped for a 20-billion-dollar slap on the wrist for the banks and cracked down on whistleblowers.

Obama talked a great deal about holding people “accountable” for their actions. As Obama noted in his speech, “Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”  A great deal of credit can be given to the man who was the head of CIA operations in Afghanistan, John Kiriakou. Kiriakou though controversially came out against waterboarding, of which President Obama himself said “Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to America’s traditions, it’s contrary to our ideals, it’s not who we are, it’s not how we operate.”  And as of Monday, Kiriakou is being charged with allegedly disclosing classified information to reporters about the CIA’s waterboarding program. Included among those charges are two counts under the Espionage Act of 1917, based on the allegation that he disclosed information which he “had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States and to the advantage of any foreign nation.” So, it’s hard for me to get turned on by Obama’s speech when he has spoken out on waterboarding, but his actions are to jail the very federal agent who did something about it.

The John Kiriakou case is one we will following closely.  Full disclosure, John is my cousin, and a man who has lived his life selflessly for his country.  He is now the 6th victim of Obama going after whistleblowers, while in the history of the nation there have been only 3 people brought up on similar charges.  And this coming from the President who promised to have a “transparent presidency”. When campaigning in 2008, Obama promised to protect whistleblowers, saying their “acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

In an Huffington Post article today, John Rudolf writes: 

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney with the Government Accountability Project, which defends whistle-blowers, called Kiriakou’s arrest the most recent example of a broader administration crackdown against federal officials who disclose illegal, abusive or wasteful government activity.

‘This is being done to send a chilling message to whistle-blowers, journalists and defense lawyers to keep quiet,’ Radack said.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, revealing a long history of government duplicity over the Vietnam War, said it was brazenly hypocritical to prosecute Kiriakou for leaking information related to waterboarding while those who performed it were granted immunity.

“You’re criminalizing the revelation of illegality and you’re decriminalizing the illegality — the torture,” Ellsberg said.

Ellsberg added that there had been no prosecution of the former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, who admitted ordering the destruction of 92 videotapes of brutal interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in Thailand.

“Is that person prosecuted?” Ellsberg said. “Absolutely not.”

Not even Nixon himself, the great paranoid spectre of the White House demanded this kind of merciless, unflinching “loyalty”. If he had, would Ellsberg himself have leaked the Pentagon Papers, could the Watergate investigations have happened, or Iran Contra? The environment our once great liberal hope has created stifles exactly the transparency and accountability he pretends to cherish.

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