|Years ago, Congress passed a resolution for National Whistleblower Day. But that doesn’t overly impress Thomas Drake. The U.S. government tried and failed to imprison him for the “crime” of telling crucial truths about his employer, the National Security Agency.
“The plight of whistleblowers and the price they pay, both personally and professionally, are devastating and life changing,” Tom says.
Tom certainly wasn’t expecting to become a whistleblower when he took the job of a high-ranking executive at the NSA eight years ago. He explains: “The vast overwhelming majority of people do not wake up one day and say ‘I want to blow the whistle today,’ because -- at a minimum -- that choice is more often than not career suicide.”
While some whistleblowers have protections, that’s hardly the case for “national security” whistleblowers. As Tom points out, they “make themselves vulnerable to not just losing their jobs and blowing up their career and professional livelihoods, but also facing criminal exposure and felony jeopardy, as witnessed by too many whistleblowers over the past decade -- with too many ending up in prison for their ‘crimes against the state.’”
The RootsAction Education Fund continues to support Tom Drake’s vital work on civil liberties issues, while he continues to pay a very high price for being a historic NSA whistleblower. Although Tom ultimately prevailed in court after a Kafkaesque ordeal that lasted years, the government completely wrecked his personal finances.
If you click here to support Thomas Drake as an NSA whistleblower who continues to speak truth to -- and about -- power, you can make a tax-deductible contribution. Whatever you can afford would be deeply appreciated. Half of every dollar you donate will go directly to Tom, while the other half will support the Whistleblowers Public Education Campaign that he chairs.
(If you’re not familiar with his courageous stand on behalf of the Fourth Amendment, please see the links under “Background” at the bottom of this email.)
And now, here are some new comments from Tom Drake:
Senator Ron Wyden tweeted out in social media the following to acknowledge the vital role played by whistleblowers as a check on abuse and misuse of power: “Being a whistleblower has never been an easy road to travel, but the difficulties they face now are greater than ever. As a cosponsor of the National Whistleblower Day resolution, I'm proud to celebrate those who bravely shed light on government abuse today and every day.”
Becoming a whistleblower is one of the most difficult and challenging roads to travel and the dangers faced are greater now than ever before.
The fact remains that whistleblowing is a dangerous undertaking when speaking truth to power -- and especially when that same power can come after you with the full force of the government out for revenge, retaliation and retribution and especially in the national security side of government, where the government uses secrecy to hide accountability for its actions (even when violating the law and statute), and works to actively avoid public scrutiny in the name of national security.
I became an enemy of the state in the eyes of the government and they chose to go after me, precisely because I held up the mirror of transparency and accountability and would not break faith with the oath I had taken to support and defend the Constitution -- even against my own government violating that same Constitution with impunity through secrecy and under the exceptional exemption clause of national security.
The irony of course is that plenty of books, TV shows and movies glamorize as cultural icons the intelligence operative, hi-tech military ops, the rogue spy and off-the-books executive actions taken behind the scenes -- where state secrets and shadow ops are used as a form of symbiotic power between the public, the access press and those in power -- duping us with the name and invocation of national security for the purpose of ostensibly keeping us safe as a form of state-sponsored propaganda.
The reality is that whistleblowers are considered a direct insider threat in the national security arena when they expose state secrecy as a form of deception to keep the public uninformed regarding what the government is doing in the dark. While recognizing that modern states have intelligence agencies to keep legitimate secrets, the lines get very blurred when the corrosive effects of secrecy undermine the very democracy that same secrecy ostensibly defends.
I took an oath four times in my government career to the Constitution and blew the whistle on those in power who used national security as both a shield to protect their wrongdoing and failure to provide for our common defense and keep people out of harm’s way, and then as a sword to attack those who would dare defend the Constitution against the government violating it.
The price I paid was enormous, and I continue to dig out from the financial hardships and near bankruptcy I incurred as a direct result of my whistleblowing.
I want to thank all of you who have donated and contributed to this Education Fund as I continue to speak out and take the time to address the central core questions we face as a society to include governance, secrecy, surveillance, national security, privacy and the abuse of power -- while standing on that long arc of history and helping bend it toward justice and the inalienable rights of each and every one of us.
Thank you for continuing support and encouragement. I have dedicated the rest of my life to defending the heart of what it means to be human and the rights that protect our humanity.
PS from the RootsAction Education Fund team:
Truth-telling can be inspirational. Another NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has said: “If there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there couldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”
Meanwhile, Tom Drake remains deeply in financial debt. Ironically, we are in his debt -- morally, politically and ethically. We owe him so much because he stood up for civil liberties and human decency.
Let’s continue to help repay that debt to Tom Drake, who exposed extreme mass surveillance by the NSA.
Living in what is supposed to be a democracy, we get vital information because of the courage of whistleblowers.
Tom Drake has no intention of going silent. He wants to keep writing, traveling and speaking out. But he needs our help.
Please make a tax-deductible contribution in support of his work.
Please share on Facebook and Twitter.
>> Daily Beast: “U.S. Intelligence Shuts Down Damning Report on Whistleblower Retaliation”
>> Freedom of the Press Foundation: “Beware of Trump Administration’s Coming Crackdown on Leaks -- and Journalism”
>> Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Former NSA Executive Urges Public Vigilance Against Government Overreach”
>> “The Constitution and Conscience: NSA’s Thomas Drake”: Video of speech
>> The Washington Times: “Donald Trump on Edward Snowden: Kill the ‘Traitor’”
>> Jesselyn Radack, The New York Times: “Whistleblowers Deserve Protection Not Prison”
>> Jane Mayer, The New Yorker: Thomas Drake -- "The Secret Sharer"
>> Senator Ron Wyden: Tweet about National Whistleblower Day, 2019