CIA’s Sterling case is ‘message to journalists and whistleblowers’

​The US government is prosecuting whistleblowers for sharing information with journalists as the latest Jeffrey Sterling case shows, retired NSA analyst and whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe, told RT. Often, government witch hunts are driven by cash, he added.

RT:The prosecutors had to build a case on circumstantial evidence. But if the information that Sterling was leaking was so damaging, why is it then do you think they were not able to build a stronger case against him?

J. Kirk Wiebe: We get a little bit of the insight into that question when you look at the fact that the prosecution was using evidence portrayed by metadata, which consists of things such as addresses, your email address, your telephone number, to convict Sterling. Now, there is a real issue here. As most people know now because of the Snowden disclosures and the many discussions – metadata establishes relationships. What it does not do is establish guilt or innocence. It is simply a fact of a relationship. It would be as if you were a terrorist and you called a pizza guy to bring a pizza to your home. Just based on the metadata, if we were to follow the logic of the prosecution, the government, the pizza guy is a terrorist, because you called him. It is ridiculous.

RT:Do you feel that the Obama administration war on whistleblowers is escalating and if so, what is behind this trend?

READ MORE: CIA leaker Jeffrey Sterling sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for Espionage Act violations

JKW: I don’t know if it has escalated. I think he has a pretty bad track record for the entire period he has been in the White House. But I do not believe it is not just Obama. I believe there is a monster standing behind him. And that monster is the whole host of people who do not want their power questioned, people more interested in controlling the message than getting out the truth, and living by a code of principle and integrity. Much of this is money driven, I believe. Not necessarily in the case of Sterling's issue, but in many cases it is driven by money, people who would have contracts with the government, in the military, in the intelligence complex that Eisenhower warned about in 1961. We have undue influence being exercised politically and brought to bear by people interested in big budgets.

RT:We are seeing a number of cases where a number of whistleblowers seems to be on the increase. Are more people prepared to step forward at the moment?

JKW: I do not know the answer. I do know this – there are whistleblowers that have not decided yet to become public. In other words, they are talking to people but they have not given their permission to be revealed yet. So, I’m hopeful that more whistleblowers, in whatever venue, in whatever domain they work in will indeed come forth, because if we don’t have a modicum, even a modicum of truth in our governments, how are we to survive as a democracy? How are the people to believe in those that would rule them?

RT:Can you briefly outline to us your story, what you had gone through?

READ MORE: Whistleblower says US keeping him from think tank work, as he ‘might comment on prison reform’

JKW: Well, my story is connected to the one of William Binney and Ed Loomis and Diane Roark and ultimately Tom Drake somewhat later, who were appalled that the government was turning the machinery of its intelligence agencies, in particular the NSA, against the American people. Indeed against innocent people globally. You know we had always thought that the goal was to find bad guys and to go after the bad guys – the criminals and the terrorists. But now we are actually using the machinery to collect information about innocent people. So I guess that makes all of us suspects. Suspects of doing what? Just about anything. And who decides what the anything is? The powers who have the machinery. So we have government in possession of machinery that can be used to oppress free people. And that is of course a big concern, something that the founders of our constitution in the US were very, very worried about.

RT:And back to today’s case briefly, Sterling who is an African-American claimed he was discriminated against on racial grounds by the CIA. How much of a factor was it in this case? What is the relevance here? Do you think it played any part?

JKW: If it did, it is a relatively small part. Discrimination as an issue has been around for many years. Sterling certainly is not the first black person to bring such charge against the government, it happened in other agencies. So I don’t believe that is the primary issue. That may have ruffled some feathers, but it is not a big player. The big player is the charge about....I don’t even think it is the issue about Iran and whether or not Sterling spoke to a Russian physicist and whether Sterling had a bad conscience about giving the Iranians poor plans. I’m not even sure that is it. I think it is more about talking to Risen, to Jim Risen the journalist. We know the government does not like people in the intelligence community talking to journalists. They have much to hide, some of it legitimate, much of it not. Much of the classifications that the government puts on documents is because it contains embarrassing, not truly sensitive information in turns of keeping secrets that otherwise would affect the national security. So we have a government controlling classification, using it for its own convenience to hide its mismanagement, to hide its misuse of power, and that kind of thing. I think it is meant to send a message to journalists and whistleblowers: “Don't do it, or we will hammer you!”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.