‘US govt uses classification as excuse to silence whistleblowers’
John Kiriakou, an ex-CIA agent, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for revealing the torture program at Guantanamo. Activist Sibel Edmonds told RT he became a victim of witch-hunt while hundreds of intentional leaks are not prosecuted.
Needless amounts of information are classified in the US and in some cases documents are criminally classified to cover up the state’s own illegal actions, Sibel Edmonds, founder of the National Security Whistleblower Corporation, told RT. Congress, the courts and the executive act together as a tool to silence whistleblowers getting the truth out, she added.RT: John Kiriakou says he’s being sentenced not for what he did, but for being a CIA officer who believed torture was wrong. What’s your take on that?Sibel Edmonds:This certainly appears to be the case. Every single day we have hundreds of intentional leaks, some of them classified from various intelligence and law enforcement agencies to the media, to the press and we do not see prosecution of those cases, we don’t see any actions on those cases. However, we do see this type of witch-hunt action against those who leak information that exposes either government criminality or government waste, fraud, abuse. So this is a selective hunt and just because of that, that makes Mr. Kiriakou’s statement accurate. RT: After 9/11, though, security has been paramount for the United States; it’s really put a premium on it. Do you think it can afford to let former agents run loose basically with classified information? SE: Well, it all starts with determining what is classified. When you have an executive branch that classifies information that shows that government, US government’s criminal actions, whether internationally with torture or domestically with the warrantless wiretapping, then you are looking at a totally different area, so first you have to look into what is being classified and classification and secrecy is justified and, as it has been proven many times, especially in the last few decades, the government here in the United States tends to obsessively classify millions and millions of documents.Government operation manuals are all classified, they are overly-classified, or in some cases they are criminally classified because there is actually an executive order that says the executive branch cannot classify its own criminal actions, or actions that are against the population’s welfare. RT: So what do you think, just for arguments sake, would be a better policy of classifying documents? Surely there are things that just for national security purposes shouldn’t get out? SE: Well, again, that boils down to how this process is implemented, and what kind of oversight we have on this process. Currently the executive branch is the sole determinant of what is classified and as long as this is the system and with the executive branch in complete power of criminalizing whistleblowers’ action based on what they claim to be classified. These are cases we are going to be seeing and this again does not go with anything near democracy or free society at all.RT: Do you think that if there was a good policy for classifying documents that could be considered national security risks and if there was also a formal plan in place that prosecutes people who leak those documents, do you think for arguments sake, it would be a good policy to go after people who do leak national security information?SE: Correct. Because in some cases what is being leaked, disclosed is detrimental, it may jeopardize people’s lives, security and if this leak was on information on operations or cases that are justifiably classified I would be the first person advocating for that, but on the other hand you have this situation where both the Congress and the courts and executive branch together, instead of having the separation of branches here, they are using the excuse of secrecy and classification as a tool to silence the truth. And whistleblowers – that’s what they are – these are the people who do see actions by government and these are government whistleblowers that are either criminal, unconstitutional or with severe implications on taxpayers’ integrity.
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