'Reprehensible, Reckless, Illegal': Washington Officials Slam Heroic NSA Surveillance Leaker

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Common Dreams

'Reprehensible, Reckless, Illegal': Washington Officials Slam Heroic NSA Surveillance Leaker

Calls to punish the whistleblower follow exposure of sweeping surveillance program

by
Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The NSA's PRISM program, which accesses the systems of internet giants like Facebook and Google to obtain user data, was revealed this week.

"Reprehensible." "Reckless." "Illegal."

These are the adjectives some officials in Washington are using to describe not the sweeping surveillance of Americans by the NSA revealed this week, but letting Americans know that such surveillance exists.

Speaking to CBS on Friday, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange said, “Let’s ask ourselves whether the whistleblower who has revealed those, and there’s more to come, is going to be in exactly the same position as Bradley Manning is in today.”

Journalist and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, part of the team that broke the stories, wrote on Friday of the courage of whistleblowers in the face of such intimidation:

Like puppets reading from a script, various Washington officials almost immediately began spouting all sorts of threats about "investigations" they intend to launch about these disclosures. This has been their playbook for several years now: they want to deter and intimidate anyone and everyone who might shed light on what they're doing with their abusive, manipulative exploitation of the power of law to punish those who bring about transparency.

That isn't going to work. It's beginning completely to backfire on them. It's precisely because such behavior reveals their true character, their propensity to abuse power, that more and more people are determined to bring about accountability and transparency for what they do.

They can threaten to investigate all they want. But as this week makes clear, and will continue to make clear, the ones who will actually be investigated are them.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said the revelations proved "we are a culture of leaks" and said there should be an investigation to find the source of the leak:

“The fact of the matter is, this was a routine three-month approval that was under seal that was leaked,” Feinstein told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who followed up by asking if the source of the leak should be investigated.

“I think so,” Feinstein said. “I think we’ve become a culture of leaks now.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the leak was "reprehensible" and could cause "irreversible harm:"

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the disclosure of an Internet surveillance program “reprehensible” and said it risks Americans’ security. He said a leak that revealed a program to collect phone records would affect how America’s enemies behave and make it harder to understand their intentions.

“The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret U.S. court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation,” Clapper said in an unusual late-night statement.

An ABC News headline reads ominously: "On the Hunt for the NSA Wiretapping Leaker:"

"It's completely reckless and illegal... It's more than just unauthorized. He's no hero," one senior law enforcement source told ABC News of the unidentified leaker. The source speculated that a single person could be behind both recent leaks to the British newspaper The Guardian and to The Washington Post. [...]

"This guy's trying to be some kind of martyr," the law enforcement source said. [...]

If the leaker is in the government, former Deputy Director of the FBI Tim Muphy said he should be punished.

"You have an obligation when you have a clearance not to leak this kind of information," Murphy said.

At an event in San Jose, California on Friday, President Obama offered this blunt statment:

"I don't welcome leaks."

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