Deeply mindful that the United States is entering its 19th year of endless war, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake wrote the letter below to supporters of the RootsAction Education Fund.
As you probably know, Tom has grim firsthand knowledge of how risky it can be to tell difficult truths about the “national security” state -- and how devastating it can be for the lives of whistleblowers even without ending up imprisoned.
“The good news is that I did face down many decades in prison and kept my precious freedoms and individual liberties,” he says, “but I paid an enormously high cost and price for doing so. The government listed 10 felony counts in the indictment they brought against me, because I disclosed government information to the press in the public interest.”
Tom adds: “What I experienced is symptomatic of the rising power of the national security state since 9/11 and its direct assault on freedom of speech (including speaking truth to and about power), association, thought, innovation, and privacy -- the very things that make us human beings and sustain society.
“This abuse of power is very much the practice of autocrats and authoritarian regimes preferring propaganda and Orwellian Newspeak instead of a free and independent press with the right of the people to know what their government is doing -- and especially when done behind the public’s back without their knowledge.”
We want to remind you that whether or not the rare whistleblowers at places like the National Security Agency go to prison, a key official goal is to drive them close to the poverty line for the rest of their lives, deprived of pensions and rendered unemployable for all but low-paid jobs.
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.
Although Tom ultimately prevailed in court after a Kafkaesque ordeal that lasted years, the government completely wrecked his personal finances. (If you’re not familiar with his brave stand on behalf of the Fourth Amendment, please see the links under “Background” at the bottom of this email.)
If you can, please support Tom’s ongoing work with a tax-deductible donation.
From Thomas Drake:
I began writing this note to you all on 9/11 this year, as we now enter the 19th year of the U.S.’s “global war on terror” and perpetual war -- triggered by that fateful day over 18 years ago now -- a day that will always remain a slow motion day for me, splitting my life in two.
9/11 is still a very personally and professionally difficult day for me, as I am acutely burdened by the “what if” of history and my first day on the job at the National Security Agency, and now knowing without any reservation or doubt that 9/11 was fully preventable.
On 9/11, the U.S. government utterly failed to provide for the common defense under the Constitution and did not keep almost 3,000 people out of harm’s way that tragic day.
So I spent most of the day this 11 September 2019 pensive and reflective, while also contemplating and dwelling on what that day brought and wrought.
After taking the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic for the fourth time in my government career, I reported at zero dark thirty very early the morning of 9/11 to the #3 at the National Security Agency -- the Signals Intelligence Director -- as a newly hired senior executive.
But, for me now, and more than 18 still surreal years later, there was life before 9/11, and then I found myself after 9/11 defending the Constitution against my own government and National Security State exceptionalism first in secret and then in public.
The 9/11 attacks were indeed a horrific crime. But so too was our unconscionable global response to the failure to prevent the tragedy and horror of 9/11.
Many trillions of dollars to date have funded the U.S. global “war on terror” at enormous cost in human lives and suffering, with hundreds and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives wiped out, and many more millions displaced with lives ruined and desperate.
Enormously consequential strategic decisions were made in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, at the highest levels of the U.S. government (up to and including President Bush) in the deepest of state secrecy, including a torture regime and a mass surveillance program led by NSA.
In addition, the U.S. is also entering the 19th year of its longest conflict in history over in Afghanistan while continuing secret drone warfare and special dark ops around the world; at the same time, we should also not forget the disastrous horror of Iraq, Libya and all the militarism in its many shades of projection as the U.S.’s go to “might is right” foreign policy.
Right after 9/11, I was eyewitness to crimes against the Constitution committed by the U.S. government. I could not remain silent as silence meant complicity in the subversion of the Constitution and rights of people on a mass scale.
The U.S. government willfully violated that same Constitution as acts of commission under the banner of executive privilege and national security authority in a blatant ends-justify-any-and-all-means approach to turn the entire world into a battlefield as compensation to keep people “safe” again.
And so I became a whistleblower about the pre- and post-9/11 intelligence failures of NSA as well as the billions in massive fraud, waste and abuse, along with disclosing the NSA mass surveillance program launched in the greatest of secrecy without the consent of the people.
At the heart of national security are our precious rights and liberties, yet the government has sacrificed those rights and liberties on the altar of national security while hiding behind secrecy to justify its action.
What future do we want to keep?
It is up to us, We the People, to make the difference no matter how bleak or dim the horizon of the future appears -- in order to form a more perfect Union together -- as I still have hope -- the very hope that still lies at the bottom of Pandora’s Box after all the furies escape.
Will you all help me retrieve and sustain that hope as I continue to dedicate the rest of my life to the defense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people?
Thank you for all your support as we continue to bend that long and winding arc of history a little bit closer to justice, jumping up and down on it, while also protecting and preserving our inalienable rights for all in the face of dystopian drift, the rise of authoritarianism and autocracy in even democracies, and what I call democracide and privacide.
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”
>> Thomas Drake and other whistleblowers at Cato Institute forum: “The NSA & the Road to 9/11: Lessons Learned & Unlearned”
>> RootsAction.org: “Stop the Illegal Spying on Everyone”
>> 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"