Friday, January 30, 2015

Transparency & Accountability: The war on journalists, activists & whistleblowers took 2 more casualties

"The Scales of Justice" - (Sodahead.com)


AGENDA-ETHICS
...Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.
  Change.gov            
Office of the President-Elect


In 2008, then candidate, Barack Obama, railed against the paradigm of secrecy and the lack of accountability as displayed by the US government. He promised, repeatedly, if elected, he will bring true transparency and accountability to the White House and the government. He would respect, support and protect whistleblowers; He would stop the revolving door between government and lobbyists and he would protect Americans from the overreach of surveillance...


Floor Statement General Michael Hayden Nomination

TOPIC: Foreign Policy & Defense
May 25, 2006
Senator Barack Obama
Floor Statement General Michael Hayden Nomination
Complete Text
Mr. President.

Let me start by saying that General Hayden is extremely well qualified for this position. Having previously served as head of the National Security Agency and as Deputy Director of National Intelligence under John Negroponte, he has thirty years of experience in intelligence and national security matters. And he was nearly universally praised during his confirmation to deputy DNI.

Unfortunately, General Hayden is being nominated under troubling circumstances as the architect and chief defender of a program of wiretapping and collection of phone records outside of FISA oversight. This is a program that is still accountable to no one and no law.

Now, there is no one in this Congress who doesn't want President Bush to have every tool at his disposal to prevent terrorist attacks - including the use of a surveillance program. Every single American - Democrat and Republican -- who remembers the images of falling towers and needless death would gladly support increased surveillance to prevent another attack.

But over the last six months, Americans have learned that the National Security Agency has been spying on Americans without judicial approval. We learned about this not from the Administration, but from the New York Times and USA Today. Every time a revelation came out, President Bush refused to answer questions from Congress.

This is part of a general stance by this Administration that it can operate with no restraints. President Bush is interpreting Article II of the Constitution as giving him authority with no bounds. The Attorney General and a hand full of scholars agree with this view, and I don't doubt the sincerity with which the President and his lawyers believe this constitutional interpretation. However, the overwhelming weight of legal authority is against the President on his unbounded authority without any checks or balances. This is not how our Constitution is designed.

We don't expect the President to give the American people every detail about a classified surveillance program. But we do expect him to place such a program within the rule of law, and to allow members of the other two coequal branches of government - Congress and the Judiciary - to have the ability to monitor and oversee such a program. Our Constitution and our right to privacy as Americans require as much.

Unfortunately, we were never given the chance to make that examination. Time and again, President Bush has refused to come clean to Congress. Why was it that 14 of 16 members of the Intelligence Committee were kept in the dark for four and a half years? The only reason that some Senators are now being briefed is because the story was made public. Without that information it is impossible to make the decisions that allow us to balance the need to fight terrorism while still upholding the rule of law and privacy protections that make this country great.

Every democracy is tested when it is faced with a serious threat. As a nation, we have to find the right balance between privacy and security, between executive authority to face threats and uncontrolled power. What protects us, and what distinguishes us, are the procedures we put in place to protect that balance, namely judicial warrants and congressional review. These aren't arbitrary ideas. These are the concrete safeguards that make sure that surveillance hasn't gone too far. That someone is watching the watchers.

The exact details of these safeguards are not etched in stone. They can be reevaluated from time to time. The last time we had a major overhaul of the intelligence apparatus was 30 years ago in the aftermath of Watergate. After those dark days, the White House worked in a collaborative way with Congress through the Church Committee to study the issue, revise intelligence laws and set up a system of checks and balances. It worked then and it could work now. But unfortunately, this Administration has made no effort to reach out to Congress and tailor FISA.

I have no doubt that General Hayden will be confirmed. But I am going to reluctantly vote against him to send a signal to this Administration that even in these circumstances President Bush is not above the law. I am voting against Hayden in the hope that he will be more humble before the great weight of responsibility that he has, not only to protect our lives, but to protect our democracy.

Americans fought a Revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches - to ensure that our government couldn't come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy, and liberty, of innocent Americans. We have to find a way to give the President the power he needs to protect us, while making sure he doesn't abuse that power. It is possible to do that. We have done it before, we could do it again.


Since his election, now President Obama has touted his administration as the "most transparent and accountable" administration in US history, a protector of whistleblowers, a respecter of Constitutional freedom and rights to privacy; a champion of justice and due process. - the facts state otherwise.

The current administration jailed John Kiriakou - a former CIA officer from 1990-2004, who blew the whistle on torture and now sitting in prison since 2013; persecuted Snowden - who blew the whistle on the NSA spying on everyone and now living in the Soviet Union for another couple of years until a review comes up as to his status or until he can seek asylum in another nation - through cancellation of his passport (then demanded he travel internationally knowing full well he  could not),intimidation (and intimidation of other nations), threats to family and friends and in the media; persecuted, tortured, prosecuted, and jailed Chelsea Manning - a former US military service member who downloaded and released the "War Logs" to WikiLeaks to include a video of the murder of civilians and a journalist by the US Military and now sits in prison; continued the prosecution, indictment and persecution of Thomas Drake - charged secretly and formally under the Espionage Act for "leaking" information on the NSA ; prosecuted and/or jailed multiple individuals for actions as part of the collective known as Anonymous when they obtained and released information proving "Security Corporations" were involved in activities to include contracting with corporations and foreign nations to spy on and obtain private information on individuals (just who is committing espionage?), activists and organizations - a violation of all of our civil and human rights; persecuted and prosecuted activists like Aaron Swartz (Swartz committed suicide after months of fighting the DOJ's persecution for a crime that even the "victim" refused to pursue).

Over the past week, we have witnessed 2 more people failed by the US system of "Justice"; 2 more fall at the hands of an administration hell bent on preventing a transparent and accountable government; hell bent on ignoring the basic promise of the US Constitution that includes the right to free speech (and the right to protest), the right to a free press (and journalist's afforded the right to protect their sources), the right to a fair and speedy trial (to include the ability to confront one's accusers and their evidence in an open court as well as present an affirmative defense), and the right to privacy.  These two are not simply a few "perps" convicted of "lawbreaking" - they are a bellwether for what seems to be a growing attack on journalists, activists and whistleblowers.



The Cruel and Unusual Case of Barrett Brown:

Last Thursday, January 22, Barrett Brown, journalist and activist, was sentenced to 63 months (minus the 30 months he has already spent in jail awaiting his trial and sentencing) and has been ordered to pay $890,000 in restitution for "making threats against an FBI agent, obstruction of a search warrant, and assisting the Anonymous hackers who infiltrated and gutted Austin, Texas–based intelligence company Stratfor" (Slate, "Bad, Bad Barrett Brown" by Gabriella Coleman, January 23, 2015).  A sentence that may leave Brown an indentured servant to the State for the rest of his life, or face more jail time.

For those unfamiliar with Brown, Barrett has been a journalist writing for some of the most  recognized publications to include the Guardian, Vanity Fair, and Huffington Post; he has written two critically acclaimed books; and has been involved in  activism for years.  His statements, articles and actions have given rise to more than a little anger by a government that deludes itself with the idea that it is "a shining beacon of hope" or a "golden city on the Hill."

From DemocracyNow!, July 11, 2013:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As NSA leaker Edward Snowden remains at a Moscow airport, Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is on trial, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, today we look at the strange story of another man tied to the world of cyber-activism who faces over a hundred years in prison. His name is Barrett Brown. He’s an investigative reporter with ties to the hacking collective Anonymous. He has spent the past 300 days in jail and has been denied bail. He faces 17 charges, ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.

AMY GOODMAN: Before Brown’s path crossed with the FBI, he frequently contributed to Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and other news outlets. In 2009, Brown created Project PM, which was, quote, "dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance." He was particularly interested in the documents leaked by WikiLeaks and Anonymous. In the documentary We Are Legion, Barrett Brown explains the importance of information obtained by hackers.

BARRETT BROWN: Some of the most important things that have been—have had the most far-reaching influence and have been the most important in terms of what’s been discovered, not just by Anonymous, but by the media in the aftermath, is the result of hacking. That information can’t be obtained by institutional journalistic process, or it can’t be obtained or won’t be obtained by a congressional committee or a federal oversight committee. For the most part, that information has to be, you know, obtained by hackers.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2011, the group Anonymous hacked into the computer system of the private security firm HBGary Federal and disclosed thousands of internal emails. Barrett Brown has not been accused of being involved in the hack, but he did read and analyze the documents, eventually crowdsourcing the effort through Project PM. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and sympathetic journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails for Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked on Christmas Eve 2011. Shortly thereafter, the FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop and authority to seize any information from his communications—or, in journalism parlance, his sources. In September 2012, a troupe of armed agents surged into Brown’s apartment in Dallas, Texas, and handcuffed him face down on the floor. He has been in prison ever since.


From BoingBoing ("Barrett Brown’s sentence is unjust, but it may become the norm for journalists," by Trevor Timm, January 26, 2015:

Brown—a longtime journalist and activist has written for Vanity Fair, the Onion, and the Guardian—has been the subject of a controversial government witchhunt for more than two years now, stemming from his association with members of the hacker collective Anonymous and his own journalism website known as “Project PM,” which investigated shadowy intelligence contractors like Booz Allen (long before Edward Snowden made them a household name).

The FBI relentlessly pursued Brown for his relationship with source and hacker Jeremy Hammond, who last year pled guilty to hacking into Stratfor, the intelligence contractor whose emails were the subject of that notorious link. It’s important to note: the FBI never accused Brown of hacking. (For more on this, read Anonymous expert Biella Coleman in Slate: “Barrett Brown isn’t a hacker, but he’s being punished like one.”)

However, the FBI would eventually charge Brown with obstruction of justice and threatening an FBI agent that stemmed from his reaction to their hacking investigation, and also included a charge of “trafficking” in stolen information for merely sharing a hyperlink with his collaborators on Project PM.

The hyperlink, which Brown just copied from an Anonymous chatroom into a private Project PM chatroom, led to a trove of the Statfor documents, some which contained newsworthy information, and some which also contained private credentials. In other words, it’s the type of link journalists share between each other and on Twitter all the time.

After Brown’s lawyers wrote a blistering legal brief accusing the Justice Department of violating the First Amendment, the government swiftly drop the linking indictment, but Brown eventually had to plead guilty to three lesser charges (including threatening an FBI agent, which Brown freely admitted in court was wrong and stupid).

But you’d think that would be the end of trying to punish him for linking. But at the sentencing hearing on Thursday, the Justice Department again brought the hyperlink up, arguing that even though Brown was NOT charged for the linking to a public document, he should still be punished more for his other crimes because it is “relevant conduct.”

So instead of being sentenced for just his crimes, Brown—as explained in detail by his defense attorney Marlo Cadeddu—got at least a year more in jail because the judge accepted the argument sharing a hyperlink—his First Amendment right, mind you—should factor into a longer sentence.

Barrett Brown's allocution statement to the court (Free Barrett Brown, "Barrett Brown’s allocution / sentencing statement," January 22, 2015):

Good afternoon, Your Honor.

The allocution I give today is going to be a bit different from the sort that usually concludes a sentencing hearing, because this is an unusual case touching upon unusual issues. It is also a very public case, not only in the sense that it has been followed closely by the public, but also in the sense that it has implications for the public, and even in the sense that the public has played a major role, because, of course, the great majority of the funds for my legal defense was donated by the public. And so now I have three duties that I must carry out. I must express my regret, but I must also express my gratitude. And I also have to take this opportunity to ensure that the public understands what has been at stake in this case, and why it has proceeded in the way that it has. Because, of course, the public didn’t simply pay for my defense through its donations, they also paid for my prosecution through its tax dollars. And the public has a right to know what it is paying for. And Your Honor has a need to know what he is ruling on.

First I will speak of regret. Like nearly all federal defendants, I hope to convince Your Honor that I sincerely regret some of the things that I have done. I don’t think anyone doubts that I regret quite a bit about my life including some of the things that brought me here today. Your Honor has the Acceptance of Responsibility document that my counsel submitted to you. Every word of it was sincere. The videos were idiotic, and although I made them in a manic state brought on by sudden withdrawal from Paxil and Suboxone, and while distraught over the threats to prosecute my mother, that’s still me in those YouTube clips talking nonsense about how the FBI would never take me alive. Likewise, I didn’t have the right to hide my files from the FBI during a lawful investigation, and I would’ve had a better chance of protecting my contacts in foreign countries if I had pursued the matter in the courts after the raid, rather than stupidly trying to hide those laptops in the kitchen cabinet as my mother and I did that morning. And with regard to the accessory after the fact charge relating to my efforts to redact sensitive emails after the Stratfor hack, I’ve explained to Your Honor that I do not want to be a hypocrite. If I criticize the government for breaking the law but then break the law myself in an effort to reveal their wrongdoing, I should expect to be punished just as I’ve called for the criminals at government-linked firms like HBGary and Palantir to be punished. When we start fighting crime by any means necessary we become guilty of the same hypocrisy as law enforcement agencies throughout history that break the rules to get the villains, and so become villains themselves.

I’m going to say a few more words about my regrets in a moment, but now I’m going to get to the unusual part of the allocution. I’m going to make some criticisms of the manner in which the government has pursued this case. Normally this sort of thing is left to one’s lawyers rather than the defendant, because to do otherwise runs the risk of making the defendant seem combative rather than contrite. But I think Your Honor can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. I think Your Honor understands that one can regret the unjust things one has done, while also being concerned about the unjust things that have been done to him. And based on certain statements that Your Honor has made, as well as one particular ruling, I have cause to believe that Your Honor will understand and perhaps even sympathize with the unusual responsibility I have which makes it necessary that I point out some things very briefly.

I do so with respect to Your Honor. I also do it for selfish reasons, because I want to make absolutely certain that Your Honor is made aware that the picture the government has presented to you is a false one. But it is also my duty to make this clear as this case does not just affect me. Even aside from the several First Amendment issues that have already been widely discussed as a result of this case, there is also the matter of the dozens of people around the world who have contributed to my distributed think tank, Project PM, by writing for our public website, echelon2.org. Incredibly, the government has declared these contributors — some of them journalists — to be criminals, and participants in a criminal conspiracy. As such, the government sought from this court a subpoena by which to obtain the identities of all of our contributors. Your Honor denied that motion and I am very grateful to Your Honor for having done so. Unfortunately the government thereafter went around Your Honor and sought to obtain these records by other means. So now the dozens of people who have given their time and expertise to what has been hailed by journalists and advocacy groups as a crucial journalistic enterprise are now at risk of being indicted under the same sort of spurious charges that I was facing not long ago, when the government exposed me to decades of prison time for copying and pasting a link to a publicly available file that other journalists were also linking to without being prosecuted. The fact that the government has still asked you to punish me for that link is proof, if any more were needed, that those of us who advocate against secrecy are to be pursued without regard for the rule of law, or even common decency.

Your Honor, I understand that this is my sentencing hearing and not an inquiry into the government’s conduct. This is not the place to go into the dozens of demonstrable errors and contradictions to be found in the government’s documentation, and the testimony by the government. But it would be hypocritical of me to protest the government’s conduct and not provide Your Honor with an example. I will do so very briefly. At the September 13th bond hearing, held in Magistrate Judge Stickney’s court the day after my arrest, Special Agent Allyn Lynd took the stand and claimed under oath that in reviewing my laptops he had found discussions in which I admit having engaged in, quote, “SWATting”, unquote, which he referred to as, quote, “violent activity”, unquote. Your Honor may not be familiar with the term SWATting; as Mr. Lynd described it at the hearing it is, quote, “where they try to place a false 911 call to the residence of an individual in order to endanger that individual.” He went on at elaborate length about this, presenting it as a key reason why I should not receive bond. Your Honor will have noted that this has never come up again. This is because Mr. Lynd’s claims were entirely untrue. But that did not stop him from making that claim, any more than it stopped him from claiming that I have lived in the Middle East, a region I have never actually had the pleasure of visiting.

Your Honor, this is just one example from a single hearing. But if Your Honor can extrapolate from that, Your Honor can probably get a sense of how much value can be placed on the rest of the government’s testimony in this case. Likewise, Your Honor can probably understand the concerns I have about what my contributors might be subjected to by the government if this sort of behavior proves effective today. Naturally I hope Your Honor will keep this in mind, and I hope that other judges in this district will as well, because, again, there remains great concern that my associates will be the next to be indicted.

I’ve tried to protect my contributors, Your Honor, and I’ve also tried to protect the public’s right to link to source materials without being subject to misuse of the statutes. Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient. Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plea to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time — but it would have been wrong. Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign on to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable.

Journalists are especially vulnerable right now, Your Honor, and they become more so when the FBI feels comfortable making false claims about them. And in response to our motion to dismiss the charges of obstruction of justice based on the hiding of my laptops, the government claimed that those laptops contained evidence of a plot I orchestrated to attack the Kingdom of Bahrain on the orders of Amber Lyon. Your Honor, Amber Lyon is a journalist and former CNN reporter, who I do know and respect, but I can assure Your Honor that I am not in the habit of attacking Gulf state monarchies on her behalf. But I think it’s unjust of them to use this court to throw out that sort of claim about Miss Lyon in a public filing as they did if they’re not prepared to back it up. And they’re not prepared to back it up. But that won’t stop the Kingdom of Bahrain from repeating this groundless assertion and perhaps even using it to keep Miss Lyon out of the country — because she has indeed reported on the Bahraini monarchy’s violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in that country, and she has done so from that country. And if she ever returns to that country to continue that important work, she’ll now be subject to arrest on the grounds that the United States Department of Justice itself has explicitly accused her of orchestrating an attack on that country’s government.

Your Honor, this is extraordinary. Miss Lyon isn’t the only journalist that’s been made less secure legally by this prosecution. Every journalist in the United States is put at risk by the novel, and sometimes even radical, claims that the government has introduced in the course of the sentencing process. The government asserts that I am not a journalist and thus unable to claim the First Amendment protections guaranteed to those engaged in information-gathering activities. Your Honor, I’ve been employed as a journalist for much of my adult life, I’ve written for dozens of magazines and newspapers, and I’m the author of two published and critically-acclaimed books of expository non-fiction. Your Honor has received letters from editors who have published my journalistic work, as well as from award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, who note that they have used that work in their own articles. If I am not a journalist, then there are many, many people out there who are also not journalists, without being aware of it, and who are thus as much at risk as I am.

Your Honor, it would be one thing if the government were putting forth some sort of standard by which journalists could be defined. They have not put forth such a standard. Their assertion rests on the fact that despite having referred to myself as a journalist hundreds of times, I at one point rejected that term, much in the same way that someone running for office might reject the term “politician”. Now, if the government is introducing a new standard whereby anyone who once denies being a particular thing is no longer that thing in any legal sense, then that would be at least a firm and knowable criteria. But that’s not what the government is doing in this case. Consider, for instance, that I have denied being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, both in public and private, ever since the press began calling me that in the beginning of 2011. So on a couple of occasions when I contacted executives of contracting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton in the wake of revelations that they’d been spying on my associates and me for reasons that we were naturally rather anxious to determine, I did indeed pretend to be such an actual official spokesman for Anonymous, because I wanted to encourage these people to talk to me. Which they did.

Of course, I have explained this many, many times, and the government itself knows this, even if they’ve since claimed otherwise. In the September 13th criminal complaint filed against me, the FBI itself acknowledges that I do not claim any official role within Anonymous. Likewise, in last month’s hearing, the prosecutor accidentally slipped and referred to me as a journalist, even after having previously found it necessary to deny me that title. But, there you have it. Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the “rule of law”, Your Honor, it is the “rule of law enforcement”, and it is very dangerous.

Your Honor, I am asking you to give me a time-served sentence of thirty months today because to do otherwise will have the effect of rewarding this sort of reckless conduct on the part of the government. I am also asking for that particular sentence because, as my lawyer Marlo Cadeddu, an acknowledged expert on the guidelines, has pointed out, that’s what the actual facts of the case would seem to warrant. And the public, to the extent that it has made its voice heard through letters and donations and even op-eds in major newspapers, also believes that the circumstances of this case warrant that I be released today. I would even argue that the government itself believes that the facts warrant my release today, because look at all the lies they decided they would have to tell to keep me in prison.

I thank you for your indulgence, Your Honor, and I want to conclude by thanking everyone who supported me over the last few years. I need to single out one person in particular, Kevin Gallagher, who contributed to my Project PM group, and who stepped up immediately after my arrest to build up a citizens’ initiative by which to raise money for my defense, and to spread the word about what was at stake in this case. For the two and a half years of my incarceration, Kevin has literally spent the bulk of his free time in working to give me my life back. He is one of the extraordinary people who have given of themselves to make possible this great and beautiful movement of ours, this movement to protect activists and journalists from secretive and extra-legal retaliation by powerful corporate actors with ties to the state. Your Honor, Kevin Gallagher is not a relative of mine, or a childhood friend. This is only the third time I’ve been in the same room with him. Nonetheless, he has dedicated two years of his life to ensure that I had the best possible lawyers on this case, and to ensure that the press understood what was at stake here. Your Honor, he set up something on Amazon.com whereby I could ask for books on a particular subject and supporters could buy them and have them sent to me. And he spoke to my mother several times a week. During that early period when I was facing over a hundred years worth of charges, and it wasn’t clear whether or not I would be coming home, he would offer support and reassurance to her, an effort that I will never be able to repay. He knows how much I regret the pain and heartbreak that my family has suffered throughout this ordeal.

A few weeks ago, Kevin got a job at the Freedom of The Press Foundation, one of the world’s most justifiably respected advocacy organizations. And, according to the government, he is also a member of a criminal organization, because, like dozens of journalists and activists across the world, he has been a contributor to Project PM, and the government has declared Project PM to be a criminal enterprise. I think that the government is wrong about Kevin, Your Honor, but that is not why I’ve brought him up. And although I am very glad for the opportunity to express my gratitude to him in a public setting, there are some gifts for which conventional gratitude is an insufficient payment. One can only respond to such gifts by working to become the sort of person that actually deserves to receive them. A thank-you will not suffice, and so I am not bringing him up here merely to thank him. Instead, I am using him in my defense. Your Honor, this very noble person, this truly exemplary citizen of the republic who takes his citizenship seriously rather than taking it for granted, knows pretty much everything there is to know about me — my life, my past, my work, from the things I’ve done and the things I’ve left undone, to the things I should not have done to begin with — and he has given himself over to the cause of freeing me today. He is the exact sort of person I tried to recruit for the crucial work we do at Project PM. I am so proud to have someone like him doing so much for me.

Your Honor, the last thing I will say in my own defense is that so many people like Kevin Gallagher have worked so hard on my behalf. And having now said all those things that I felt the need to say, I respectfully accept Your Honor’s decision in my sentencing.

Thank you.
The case of Barrett Brown proves that the US "Justice" system will allow for journalists to be prosecuted for their stories if those stories don't reflect the current paradigm promoted by that system; it will protect private corporations before the public interest; and will use manipulation tactics and innuendo to effect the sentencing of journalists instead of provable facts.

The obscene sentence handed down in the Brown case, based in part on an unproven and untried charge, should strike anger in any people still deluding themselves that "the American Justice System" is a fair process or still believing they have any Constitutionally guaranteed "Free Press." 

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, second from left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse, Jan. 26, 2015, in Alexandria, Va., with his wife, Holly, second from right, attorney Barry Pollack, right, and attorney Edward MacMahon, after his conviction. KEVIN WOLF/AP

The long and winding circumstantial case against Jeffrey Sterling:

Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer turned whistleblower, left the CIA in 2002...

"...As for Sterling, [John] Brennan played a role in his unhappy departure from the CIA a dozen years ago. In 2000, Sterling filed a discrimination complaint within the agency, asserting that he had been denied certain assignments because of his race. (Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American officers.) Brennan, as deputy executive director, was involved in rejecting Sterling’s claim. Sterling responded by suing the CIA; he was fired in 2002. The CIA rebuffed a number of settlement offers and then won dismissal of the entire lawsuit in 2004 after claiming that the litigation would expose state secrets.

In early March 2003, Sterling met with two Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to report that Operation Merlin—the CIA’s ill-conceived and bungled effort in 2000 to use a former Russian scientist to pass flawed nuclear-weapons blueprints to Iran—may have helped Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The government concedes that Sterling went through proper channels when he “disclosed classified information” to committee staff. (In court documents, the prosecution has complained that Sterling was unfairly critical of that operation when he spoke to committee staffers.)

The story of both "Operation Merlin" and US government warrantless wire-tapping under the GW Bush administration were exposed in Journalist James Risen's book, State of War, after the journalist's repeated attempts to get his employer, The New York Times, to publish his exposes over 6 years.

One might ask, what stopped The New York Times from publishing the stories?  The Times met with Bush Administration officials who threatened the paper and James Risen - a violation of the 1931 Supreme Court decision in the case, Near v Minnesota, the 1971 Supreme Court decision in New York Times Co. vs. United States, and the 1976 Supreme Court decision in Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart.

Once the book was published, the persecution of, both, John Risen and Jeffrey Sterling escalated - James Risen because he refused to reveal his source for the stories; Jeffrey Sterling because the CIA and the Bush DOJ,  Alberto Gonzales, decided that the stories "had" to come from Sterling.

Again, from The Nation:

Alarm bells had gone off as soon as the National Security Council got a bootlegged copy of State of War before its publication. Frantic skimming of the book alighted on its final chapter, devoted to the highly classified and embarrassing story of Operation Merlin. On the last day of 2005, officials at an emergency White House meeting tried to figure out how to block distribution. “As best anyone could tell, the books were printed in bulk and stacked somewhere in warehouses,” Rizzo’s memoir recalls. “We arrived at a rueful consensus: game over as far as any realistic possibility to keep the book, and the classified information in it, from getting out.”

The leak investigation of Sterling stretched over seven years, from suspicion in 2003 to indictment in 2010. The Justice Department has sought to justify the delay by relying on a McCarthy-era extension of the statutes of limitation associated with charges against him, and by holding Sterling responsible for the publication of Risen’s book chapter rather than for the conversations the two men allegedly had back in 2003.

The US government has been relentless in its pursuit of Risen in the Sterling investigation. Along with serving three subpoenas on the reporter, the DOJ obtained his credit reports, travel records, credit-card records and bank records. “One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen,” ABC News reported in May 2006. And the government appears to have obtained Risen’s phone records without alerting him, as required by DOJ guidelines. In an affidavit, Risen said that a witness who testified to the grand jury investigating the domestic wiretapping story had been shown “copies of telephone records relating to calls made to and from me.”

In its 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI formally authorized the use of national-security letters to obtain the call records of journalists who are witnesses to a crime. (NSLs are secret orders that the FBI can issue with no judicial review. Recipients are prohibited from telling anyone they’ve received such an order.) The FBI has not publicly changed this policy despite the attorney general’s revised guidelines issued last year and touted as protection for the press. The judge in the Sterling case, Leonie Brinkema, even pointed out that the government has never said whether prosecutors have recordings of Sterling’s conversations with Risen, indicating that she may suspect they do.

The way the Justice Department has constructed its legal case against Risen reeks of retaliation. With the rationale of seeking to rule out people other than Sterling as his sources, the government says it wants to make Risen go through the book’s offending chapter—statement by statement—and identify his sources by alias, at least, to indicate when he learned a certain fact. Such a process could implicate other sources. Given the small universe of people who knew about Operation Merlin (at least according to the government’s claims), such an extent of detail would likely identify all of Risen’s sources, regardless of any role Sterling may have had.

Meanwhile, the prosecution claims that Sterling lied about the details of Operation Merlin in order to get the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as Risen interested in the story. According to a government brief in Sterling’s case, “The grand jury specifically found that the defendant provided information to Risen in a false and misleading manner specifically as a means of inducing Risen to write about it, thus severely undercutting any First Amendment protection to be afforded that information.” (The government even claims that Sterling lied about believing that the Merlin scheme might help, rather than hurt, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.) But according to Rizzo’s memoir, the CIA came to very different conclusions about the accuracy of Risen’s reporting on Operation Merlin. The memoir, which went through CIA review and approval before publication, says the CIA’s chief of operations “confirmed that the details largely were all too distressingly accurate and damaging to CIA sources and methods.” In its prosecution of Sterling, the Justice Department is telling a notably different tale.

Legal maneuvers and contradictions aside, the government insists that such strenuous prosecution efforts are all about safeguarding the CIA’s “sources and methods” to collect information and run covert ops. But neither Risen nor Sterling had anything to do with the serious damage to sources and methods in Iran that the CIA actually suffered during the Bush years. Rather than being caused by journalism or whistleblowing, that damage was entirely self-inflicted. In 2004, an officer at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia mistakenly sent data to an agent that “could be used to identify virtually every spy the CIA had inside Iran,” Risen reported in his book. The mistake morphed into spook disaster when it turned out that the supposed CIA agent on the receiving end was a double agent. Wrote Risen: “The agent quickly turned the data over to Iranian security officials, and it enabled them to ‘roll up’ the CIA’s agent network throughout Iran.” But CIA leaders have no interest in acknowledging their Iran-related failures. Instead, they’ve made vague assertions that Sterling and Risen have caused harm. “All too frequently,” Risen points out, “the government claims that publication of certain information will harm national security, when in reality, the government’s real concern is about covering up its own wrongdoing or avoiding embarrassment.”
The DOJ finally dropped their case against Risen.  On January 12, 2015, it decided that it would no longer seek to compel James Risen to testify in the case they were continuing against Jeffrey Sterling.

For Sterling, now charged under the "Espionage Act," Obama's DOJ was not so "magnanimous."  On Monday, January 26, 2015, Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in a completely circumstantial case .


"... Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.

To understand why that’s true, you need to know a bit about how the Department of Justice larded on charges against Sterling to get to what represents a potential 80-year maximum sentence (though he’s unlikely to get that). Sterling was accused — and ultimately convicted — of leaking two related things: First, information about the Merlin operation to deal flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, as well as the involvement of a Russian engineer referred to as Merlin in the trial. In addition to that, the government charged Sterling separately for leaking a document (one which the FBI never found, in anyone’s possession): a letter Merlin included along with the nuclear blueprints he wrapped in a newspaper and left in the mailbox of Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the government convicted Sterling of leaking two things: information about the operation, and a letter that was used in the operation.

Then, having distinguished the operation from the letter, DOJ started multiplying. They charged Sterling for leaking the operation to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article about it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter about it: one leak, three counts of espionage.

Then they charged Sterling for improperly retaining the letter (again, FBI never found it, not in CIA’s possession, not in Sterling’s possession, and Merlin purportedly destroyed his version before anyone could find it in his possession). Then DOJ charged Sterling for leaking the letter to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article including it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter including verbatim excerpts from it (apparently Risen is a better investigator than FBI, because he found a copy): one letter, four more counts under the Espionage Act.

The participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.

To understand why that’s true, you need to know a bit about how the Department of Justice larded on charges against Sterling to get to what represents a potential 80-year maximum sentence (though he’s unlikely to get that). Sterling was accused — and ultimately convicted — of leaking two related things: First, information about the Merlin operation to deal flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran, as well as the involvement of a Russian engineer referred to as Merlin in the trial. In addition to that, the government charged Sterling separately for leaking a document (one which the FBI never found, in anyone’s possession): a letter Merlin included along with the nuclear blueprints he wrapped in a newspaper and left in the mailbox of Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the government convicted Sterling of leaking two things: information about the operation, and a letter that was used in the operation.

Then, having distinguished the operation from the letter, DOJ started multiplying. They charged Sterling for leaking the operation to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article about it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter about it: one leak, three counts of espionage.

Then they charged Sterling for improperly retaining the letter (again, FBI never found it, not in CIA’s possession, not in Sterling’s possession, and Merlin purportedly destroyed his version before anyone could find it in his possession). Then DOJ charged Sterling for leaking the letter to Risen, then charged him for causing Risen to attempt to write a 2003 New York Times article including it, then charged him for causing Risen to publish a book chapter including verbatim excerpts from it (apparently Risen is a better investigator than FBI, because he found a copy): one letter, four more counts under the Espionage Act.

Altogether, seven counts of spying, for one leak.

Here’s the really scary part though: the jury convicted Sterling based entirely on circumstantial evidence: there was not one shred of evidence showing Sterling handing Risen classified information on the operation, the Russian asset, or the letter that Risen found but FBI could not."

Sterling will be sentenced April, 2015.  The CIA thinks they will "save" their reputation (not even by a long shot will that happen) and the Obama Administration will have another bright, bloody red feather in their cap on "leaks" and "protection of whistleblowers" sham.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than any other president in history.  Since 1917, 11 people have been charged and prosecuted under the "Act," 8 of whom have been prosecuted under the Obama Administration.  

I imagine Jeffrey Sterling's conviction, in only 7 days, must have sent "whoops" of celebratory "congratulations" through the Capitol - "Hey, guys, we finally got another one!"

For the people who still actually believe in transparency and accountability, Constitutional rights, and the right of the people to know what the hell is being done in our name,  Jeffrey Sterling's conviction should enrage us all.


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