Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rutherford Institute Calls Out Obama Administration for Using Scare Tactics to Discourage Government Whistleblowers

Insisting that President Obama as a former constitutional law professor should know better than to allow the government to routinely violate Americans’ constitutional rights, especially as it relates to their First and Fourth Amendment rights, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, is calling on the president to direct the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to rescind a recent policy change which will not only further clamp down on whistleblowers’ ability to reveal government wrongdoing but will also create new and onerous restrictions on the speech of current and former intelligence agency employees, contractors, and staff.

These newly revised policies prevent the disclosure of sensitive information, even if it is unclassified, inhibiting intelligence officials from discussing matters of public interest, such as the recent revelations by Edward Snowden regarding the government’s domestic surveillance campaigns. The revised policy also prohibits both current and former intelligence employees from even discussing leaked information, even after it is clearly in the public domain, and from citing any “anonymous sources” from existing media reporting.

“By presiding over this policy change, which reinforces the government’s dogged pursuit of whistleblowers who expose government crimes, President Obama has demonstrated that in his legal and moral calculus, government transparency and the Constitution are of negligible importance,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, author ofA Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.“This is merely the latest development in the government’s ongoing efforts to discourage Americans from reacting as one would hope any honorable American would react when they witness their government acting in a manner that is corrupt, incompetent, inhumane, immoral and, it must be said, downright evil.”

On April 8, 2014, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which is responsible for coordinating the actions of the nation’s intelligence agencies, released revisions to its pre-publication review policies that govern the disclosure of information by intelligence organizations. The new policies included an expansion of ODNI’s mission from “preventing the disclosure of classified information,” to simply “preventing the unauthorized disclosure of information.” Additionally, ODNI added a section on “sourcing,” which included a restriction barring intelligence personnel from using any “sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.” These revisions elicited widespread outrage from media outlets, which saw the changes as a clear attempt to suppress discussion about leaked materials in the public domain, particularly concerning the 2013 revelations from former NSA security contractor Edward Snowden. Further, the broad language of the revisions raised concerns about the regulations being applied as a prior restraint to suppress legitimate protected First Amendment speech by employees no longer associated with the Intelligence community.

As constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead points out in his letter to President Obama, the new policy is significantly broader than all previous pre-publication policies, the clarifications in the update are not incorporated into the official policy, and all “anonymous” sources are still barred from sourcing under the updated rules, severely restricting the First Amendment rights of former intelligence employees, and creating a wall of silence blocking the public from accessing necessary information.

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