The following is the 20th in a series of excerpts from my New York Times bestseller “Stonewalled,” which recounts the government intrusions of my computers. More excerpts to follow. Links to previous excerpts are below.
| THE TURNAROUND
Now mired in the bad press about Clapper, AP, FOX, and Snowden, the Obama administration is working overtime to try to turn it all around—not the government’s behavior, mind you, just the public’s perception of it. That translates into tightening the noose around government secrets and those who hold them.
One of my sources is called into a group meeting at a government agency.
“If you speak to reporters, we’ll f**k you up, put you in a box,” they’re told.
The message: don’t view the current whistleblower environment as an opportunity to join in on revealing the federal government’s possible misdeeds. Federal supervisors circulate internal emails reminding the line staff and field guys, in so many words, that this administration has prosecuted more leakers than all previous administrations combined.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through years of dealing with federal whistleblowers, it’s that they’re terrified of losing their jobs and eventual retirements. I guess most people would be. But federal workers have pretty sweet retirement deals and the threat of that evaporating usually convinces them to keep their mouths shut about suspected ethical and even criminal violations by their bosses and agencies. It’s effective. (“We’ll fuck you up,” is pretty effective, too.)
On June 21, 2013, the Justice Department unseals a criminal complaint charging Snowden under the Espionage Act.
The Big Chill is on.
Many sources, including congressmen, become more wary of com- municating the ordinary way. One evening, I’m talking with a member of Congress on my regular mobile phone about a somewhat sensitive news matter. He’s avoiding giving straight answers. I keep pressing. Finally, sounding exasperated, he blurts out, “Sharyl, your phone’s bugged!” I can’t argue the point. We decide to meet in person and work out alternate ways to communicate. It’s the new reality in a society where journalists and politicians suspect their government is listening in.
Beyond its move to privately contain and even threaten some federal employees, the Obama administration must also try to recapture the hearts and minds of the public and the press. How? One strategy is to convince the public to view Snowden as the villain. This might not fly if too many people decide he’s a hero. But if enough people buy the argument that he put American lives at risk, it just might turn things around for the Obama White House.
Thus begins Operation Where’s Waldo. Only it’s Where’s Snowden.Attention is diverted from the questions that Senator Wyden and Snowden have raised. It turns away from Obama’s War on Leaks. It’s redirected from the targeting of journalists. Instead, we’re consumed by the imponderable question of Snowden’s whereabouts. What country is he in? What plane is he boarding next? Is it the 2:30 p.m. nonstop to Moscow? Or the 4:45 p.m. to Cuba? Who will grant him asylum?
Where’s Snowden dominates the White House briefings and the news headlines.
Oral arguments have been set for Jan. 29 in Attkisson v. DOJ and FBI. A diverse group of Constitutional free press and privacy advocates is supporting Attkisson v. Dept. of Justice/FBI to fight the government computer intrusions. Click here to support.
Before long, the quest branches out into a full-blown news media obsession with all things Snowden. Everything except the editorial content of what he revealed. How many documents did he get? How did he get access? Who passed his background checks? Did he graduate from high school? And what about rumors of a questionable discharge from the army? Looking into Snowden’s background is certainly a legitimate and reasonable area of inquiry. But it seems as though disproportionate media attention is being devoted to dissecting his character rather than also looking into the merits of the issues he raised.
“How much did Snowden steal?” screams a July 18, 2013, sub- heading on a news wire service. Unidentified sources are quoted in the article as saying Snowden took “tens of thousands” of documents. Nowhere does the article represent Snowden’s side of the story or that of those who view him as a whistleblower.
To be continued…
[hr]Read excerpt #1 here: The Computer Intrusions: Up at Night
#12: Obama’s War on Leaks
#16: URGENT dispatch