Whistleblowers sue DOJ, FBI, and NSA for malicious prosecution, civil rights violations
According to the complaint, filed in Washington, DC’s federal district court, all five were subjected to illegal searches and seizures, raids on their homes and places of business, false imprisonment, and cancellation of their security clearances after they complained about government waste and fraud at the NSA.
Four of the five whistleblowers worked at the National Security Agency: Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney. The fifth, Diane Roark, worked at the Department of Energy. They are seeking some $100 million in damages.
The plaintiffs blew the whistle on the wasteful abandonment of a short-lived surveillance program called THINTHREAD which was being built by the NSA, but was then scuttled in favor of a more expensive program less protective of Americans’ communications.
The plaintiffs had worked on developing the THINTHREAD program, which was capable of effectively performing the technical work required by the NSA at the low cost of $4 million. The program was dumped at the direction of Lt. General Michael Hayden in favor of an outside contract for an expensive program called TRAILBLAZER, which ended up costing the government $4 billion. The TRAILBLAZER program never worked properly and was abandoned in 2006.
The plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Department of Defense arguing that, in using an outside contractor, the agency was committing fraud and wastefully misusing taxpayer dollars. The Department of Defense inspector general issued a scathing report on the abuse.
In response, the complaint argues, the NSA concocted a story claiming the whistleblowers were responsible for leaking information on the NSA’s surveillance of Americans to The New York Times. As a result, the Department of Justice conducted a series of raids that disrupted the plaintiffs’ lives and livelihoods.
The plaintiffs argue that the raids were retaliatory as the government had already determined that they had had nothing to do with the disclosures to the New York Times. The real leaker was a former lawyer who worked at DOJ with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Among the six named defendants are two former NSA directors, Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The complaint alleges that the FBI, NSA and DOJ’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ protections under the 1998 Whistleblower Protection Act, and violated their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.
The whistleblowers are seeking punitive damages in excess of $100 million in compensation for the loss of wages and employment they incurred as a result of the defendants’ alleged callous and reckless indifference.
While the raids and harassment took place in 2006 and 2007, the suit is only being brought now because the plaintiffs were only able to access all of the details concerning their case in 2013, after court documents were unsealed.