The REAL Reason U.S. Targets Whistleblowers

George Washington's picture

U.S. leaders have long:

  • Labeled indiscriminate killing of civilians as terrorism.  Yet the American military  indiscriminately kills innocent civilians (and see this),  calling it “carefully targeted strikes”.   For example, when Al Qaeda, Syrians or others target people attending funerals of those killed – or those attempting to rescue people who have been injured by – previous attacks, we rightfully label it terrorism.  But the U.S. government does exactly the same thing (more), pretending that it is all okay
  • Scolded tyrants who launch aggressive wars to grab power or plunder resources. But we ourselves have launched a series of wars for oil (and here) and gas

Can you spot a pattern of hypocrisy?

Indeed, the worse the acts by officials, the more they say we it must be covered up … for “the good of the country”.

For example, Elizabeth Goitein – co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice – writes:

The government has begun to advance bold new justifications for classifying information that threaten to erode the principled limits that have existed — in theory, if not always in practice — for decades. The cost of these efforts, if they remain unchecked, may be the American public’s ability to hold its government accountable.



The government acknowledged that it possessed mug shots, videos depicting forcible extractions of al-Qahtani from his cell and videos documenting various euphemistically termed “intelligence debriefings of al-Qahtani.” It argued that all of these images were properly classified and withheld from the public — but not because they would reveal sensitive intelligence methods, the traditional justification for classifying such information. The government did not stake its case on this time-tested argument perhaps because the details of al-Qahtani’s interrogations have been officially disclosed through agency reports and congressional hearings. Instead, the government argued that the images could be shielded from disclosure because the Taliban and associated forces have previously used photos of U.S. forces “interacting with detainees” to garner support for attacks against those forces. Even more broadly, the government asserted that disclosure could aid in the “recruitment and financing of extremists and insurgent groups.”



The government’s argument echoed a similar claim it made in a lawsuit earlier this year over a FOIA request for postmortem photographs of Osama bin Laden. A CIA official attested that these images could “aid the production of anti-American propaganda,” noting that images of abuse at Abu Ghraib had been “very effective” in helping Al-Qaeda to recruit supporters and raise funds. The appeals court did not address this argument, however, resting its decision on the narrower ground that these particular images were likely to incite immediate violence.


The judge in al-Qahtani’s case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because “it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani … to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists.” When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that “it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government’s intelligence agencies.” In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones.


This approach is alarming in part because it has no limiting principle. The reasons why people choose to align themselves against the United States — or any other country — are nearly as numerous and varied as the people themselves. Our support for Israel is considered a basis for enmity by some. May the government classify the aid we provide to other nations? May it classify our trade policies on the basis that they may breed resentment among the populations of some countries, thus laying the groundwork for future hostile relations? May it classify our history of involvement in armed conflicts across the globe because that history may function as “anti-American propaganda” in some quarters?

Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government’s conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad. Indeed, the judge in the al-Qahtani FOIA case noted that “the written record of (al-Qahtani’s) torture may make it all the more likely that enemy forces would use al-Qahtani’s image against the United States” — citing this fact as a reason to uphold classification.


Using the impropriety of the government’s actions as a justification for secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. To prevent this very outcome, the executive order that governs classification forbids classifying a document to “conceal violations of law” or to “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.” However, a federal judge in 2008 interpreted this provision to allow classification of information revealing misconduct if there is a valid security reason for the nondisclosure. Together, this ruling and the judge’s opinion in the al-Qahtani FOIA case eviscerate the executive order’s prohibition: The government can always argue that it classified evidence of wrongdoing because the information could be used as “anti-American propaganda” by our adversaries.


Human rights advocates cannot rely on al-Qahtani to tell us what the photos and videos would reveal. The government asserts that his own knowledge of what occurred at Guantánamo — knowledge he gained, not through privileged access to government documents but through his personal experience — is a state secret. The words that Guantánamo detainees speak, once transcribed by their attorneys, are “presumptively classified,” and the government determines which of those words, if any, may be released. Legally, the government may classify only information that is “owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government.” Because the detainees are under the government’s control, so, apparently, are the contents of their memory.

That’s why high-level CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was prosecuted him for espionage after he blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture.*

Obviously, the government wants to stop whistleblowers because they interfere with the government’s ability to act in an unaccountable manner. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

It should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration – including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush – to plug all leaks. It’s because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

But whistleblowers also interfere with the government’s ability to get away with hypocrisy.  As two political science professors from George Washington University (Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore) show, the government is so hell-bent to punish Manning and Snowden because their leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a weapon:

The U.S. establishment has often struggled to explain exactly why these leakers [Manning, Snowden, etc.] pose such an enormous threat.


The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government’s public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington’s covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.




As the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches. Hypocrisy is central to Washington’s soft power — its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions — yet few Americans appreciate its role.




American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one. This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning.




Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel’s nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India’s right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there’s the “war on terror”: Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.




Manning’s and Snowden’s leaks mark the beginning of a new era in which the U.S. government can no longer count on keeping its secret behavior secret. Hundreds of thousands of Americans today have access to classified documents that would embarrass the country if they were publicly circulated. As the recent revelations show, in the age of the cell-phone camera and the flash drive, even the most draconian laws and reprisals will not prevent this information from leaking out. As a result, Washington faces what can be described as an accelerating hypocrisy collapse — a dramatic narrowing of the country’s room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interest. The U.S. government, its friends, and its foes can no longer plausibly deny the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and will have to address it head-on.




The era of easy hypocrisy is over.

Professors Farrell and Finnemore note that the government has several options for dealing with ongoing leaks.  They conclude that the best would be for the government to actually do what it says.

What a novel idea …

* Note: That may be why Guantanamo is really being kept open, and even prisoners that the U.S. government admits are innocent are still being blocked from release: to cover up the widespread torture by keeping the evidence – the prisoners themselves – in a dungeon away from the light of day.

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swmnguy's picture

Some of the whistleblowers' revelations cause some discomfort to the liars, but only in a short-term and tactical way.  It's an inconvenient contradiction that needs to be negotiated away one way or another.  But on the larger level, the lies and the exposure of the lies as lies all work toward the same end.  If some of the sheep believe the lies, fine.  If others don't believe the lies, fine. What matters is that the unconvinced see the whistleblowers hounded to the ends of the earth, suicided, tortured into madness, revealed as sexually suspect if not outright child pornographers, and otherwise ruined.  Those at the top don't care if you believe their words; only that you recognize their power to destroy you should they so decide, for any reason or no reason at all.

There will always be those who don't believe the official story.  Those people won't be convinced by anything the officials say.  The officials don't care about getting the approval or buy-in of those people.  They just need to demoralize and de-legitimize them to the critical mass of the populace.  That they allow dissenters to exist just proves to the gullible that they are still free.

If Snowden didn't exist they'd have to invent him.

El Hosel's picture

 The Truth can get you in big trouble with big brother. We have Politicians that spend their Careers lying for a living rather than doing the peoples business.... Maybe nobody will notice for a few more years.


Jumbotron's picture

"Honesty would make the whole system collapse"  George Carlin

yellowsub's picture

People still believe in voting and that R and D have the answers to the problems now...



Sufiy's picture

Have fun:

Jon Stewart And Matt Taibbi: Banksters, Presstitutes And Why Nobody Should Shed a Tear for JP Morgan Chase

  Matt Taibbi continues his brilliant work as one of the last real investigative journalists left at his best. Jon Stewart is on par translating the situation for those who has difficulties with concentration and reading.    We will ask our rhetorical question again: after LIBOR fraud, FOREX manipulations, Mortgage scam and Pension looting - Is The Gold Manipulation To Be Admitted Next?

El Hosel's picture

..... Nobody should take seriously the JPM "Punishment", they sit in their Penthouse and laugh off the fines while the Presstitutes lick their toes. The Trillion dollar baby has no accounting, period. All winners all the time.

RaceToTheBottom's picture

The demise of scientific thought in the US is as much responsible as anything for the predicament with which we find ourselves.

Opinions become as good as facts and

feelings become as good as data and

summarizing data and information in media become food for milk toast and moron food

El Hosel's picture

Moron food is up 300% on QE.

orez65's picture

"Opinions become as good as facts and

feelings become as good as data and ..."

Al Gore is the "poster boy" of what you are saying.

Kprime's picture

Why is Angela Merkle going after Obama?  I have it on good faith, directly from Obama's lips, when he came up for air, it's all Snowden's fault the NSA accidentally overheard her phone calls for 10 years.  They thot they were on hold for 888 fuck yo.  Honestly, they were just trying to get health insurance.  They never swallowed.

Element's picture

Nice one GW, you've captured the essence of the suppression, the legislated threats and all the usurping executive orders, and not just in the USSA's case - but globally.

The whistle-blowers are making a huge difference to public and govt perceptions, everywhere. It's all crumbling, but the hard-core of extremely deeply brainwashed beltway assholes, and the associated 'Feds', and the political cadres remain. They are typified by the absurd insanities and lies of White House spokesmen, daily in front of lecterns. That's their last line of defense of the indefensible, that pompous shopfront, replete with its Hollywood designed backdrops, teleprompters, and ear plugs to prompt the speaker to keep it on the message.

The battle is for the attention of the masses, as this is the only thing that offers them the ability to resort to force without resistance, via being able to convince the masses that it's all become 'necessary'. But now even that's finally breaking-down.

The US masses almost got to this point in the late 1960s, and early 1970s, and then stopped short - they didn't finishing the job. The Washington 'shopfront' must have its sordid little fig-leafs ripped away, left with nowhere to hide, no secrets, or at least no place where a secret will ever be safe again.

If we can't have privacy and personal data-security, and be free of arbitrary spying, and the chronic official lying, and its incredibly damaging societal undermining, then they don't get to escape any of the the blowback and repercussions.

That's fair, right?


If there were any justice it'd be the whistle-blowers, telling the tale of what the past winners of Nobel Peace Prizes have really been doing, who should be winning peace prizes.

Teddy Tenpole's picture



If you're not cheating you're not trying.  It's the bumbling and getting caught that is stoopid!  I don't trust the Germans or the Chinese... and my Great Grandfather died in a POW Camp -- ya,  he fell out of a guard tower.

Never One Roach's picture

Lets hear what Oprah thinks?

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Armed agents seize records of reporter, Washington Times prepares legal action

Maryland state police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for The Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department's Federal Air Marshal Service.

Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland's Coast Guard service, took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act during a predawn raid of her family home on Aug. 6.

The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at the Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid.

The warrant, obtained by the Times, offered no specific permission to seize reporting notes or files.

The Washington Times said Friday it is preparing legal action to fight what it called an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.

“While we appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter,” Times Editor John Solomon said. “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.


Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Speaking of hypocrisy.

I am not a big fan of Judge Napolitano but he does bring up some interesting points concerning leaking of information and hypocrisy in this interview.

The key point is this.

A brand-new report suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department leaked confidential national security secrets to New York Times reporter David Sanger. The leaks were allegedly in exchange for writings that made the department look tougher.

"All governments leak information, we know that. But when the government leaks national security secrets in return for favorable treatment in the press, the government is showing its hypocrisy because it is violating the very same statute that it's attempting to prosecute Edward Snowden for violating," Napolitano said.


ItsDanger's picture

Napolitano is my favorite legal analyst on TV.  The only one who seems to be able to explain legal aspects in a clear and concise manner.

q99x2's picture

Captain America is coming to save us in April 2014.

The Globalists in Washington D.C. and their handlers along with the banks have reached the doorsteps of the Hollywood elite. Alex Jones says that Hollywood has turned on the traitors and are offering Captain America as a weapon to fight the DHS and FEMA with.

Seems reasonable. I thought as much when I saw the scripts of Revolution getting better and better, with more and more money being poured into them. Finally Revolution's latest catch phrase of: "Every good occupation deserves a resistance" epitomizes the cultural shift against the D.C. globalists.

The banksters have erronously let the world know they have declared war against everyone else.

Not long before the US Military moves in and takes them all down at once.

It is a position waiting to be filled.

Joseph Campbell once said with air quotes, "when the individual is ready doors will open where before there were none."

q99x2's picture

The world hates the Washington D.C. globalists and their president. Hitler never had to fight as many fronts.

Pretty sure their reign of terror is about to end.

lieto's picture


Off topic but our scientists are starting to really see the affects of Fukashima in their sampling.

I know you have talked about it a lot.

The wildlife in the pacific, Fish, Seal, and Polar Bear are suffering greatly.

Even Tepco is admitting to huge cesium releases.

Anything they divulge is probably understated by many multiples.

Why isn't there a worldwide clamor to send help?

Can the world be this stupid and distracted?

Can the Japaneese authorities be this stuborn and neglectful?

What a clusterbang!


uno's picture

very good summary, also operation mockingbird and changing the law for propoganda for inside the US (I know MSM is always about that).

THen CIA having input in Hollywood movie blockbusters.  THen leturing Japan about zombie banks, of course the Human RIght lecturing (Hillary), drug war (please), floride in water, gmo, chemtrails....

2hangmen's picture

It has come down to the fact that our nation's future is (a) in the hands of a few brave whistle blowers AND (b) if there are enough people that even give a crap to listen. Right now, I wouldn't bet on it.

Geruda's picture

A lot of those sounded like planks in the neo-con/teabagger platform.  Are you sure you posted it to the correct audience?

failsafe's picture

Hey GW maybe if you are in the mood you could direct some of your awesomeness toward science-worship in our culture. Like the awesomeness of taxpayer dollars in fed grants that pay scientists to collect one set of data and chisel into five pubs and lets them pay less qualified people to teach those icky students..which now is a req for t... I have to stop now and sob at the ridiculousness of science worship. But you would dig up all those cool embarrassing details and links and write it out so people would see it for what it is...just sayin, if ever inclined

cosmictrainwreck's picture

well...I wish I had enough hope to believe a coup if it really got "toooo bad" but can't - when the 5-side building is bloated with fucking bloated bureaucrats just killing time to collect their fucking pensions (and likely wire-tapped, themselves, too) SHIT

Geruda's picture

Oilslick cheney gave it a try thinning them out.   Isn't everyone just killing time?   Look at yerself...what could be a bigger waste than reading the last sentence you just read?   You should take a shower and give your computer away to someone with a better use for it.

cosmictrainwreck's picture

speak for yerself, asshole; I reckon you're just killing time, since "everybody is". I'm not---bust my ass every day to do what I can in my particular responsibilities...which,  by God's grace, do not include Nat Sec. Do a little research on overweight (in numbers) top miltary ranks - if you can figure out how to use google, that is 

bugs_'s picture

His target?  His target is......EVERYWHERE

kchrisc's picture

Theses criminals have a monopoly on theft and murder. Expecting less than lies and hypocrisy from them is like expecting shit not to stink.


Is it time for the guillotines yet?!

Trampy's picture

Hypocrisy?  Why not call a spade a spade.

We have FASCISM under a totalitarian dictatorship that uses the "law" and secrecy to crush any opposition.

The only good I see is that the Trojan Horse of the Unaffordable Healthcare Act has a chance of showing the ignorant masses that our entire system is their enemy, not their friend.

Trampy's picture

Karl Marx correctly predicted what is now happening!  When the people are pushed to the breaking point they will overthrow a tyrranical government which will "wither away" ... presumably only after many decades of bloodshed.

Look at the French Revolution to guidance.  Robespierre, et al.

Boy am I glad I made my mark and don't care any more. 

Winston Smith 2009's picture

"The government has begun to advance bold new justifications for classifying information that threaten to erode the principled limits that have existed — in theory, if not always in practice — for decades. The cost of these efforts, if they remain unchecked, may be the American public’s ability to hold its government accountable."

I'd say that already happened quite some time ago...

Widowmaker's picture

Mission accomplished!

Now, back to the teleprompter in chief and the elected fuck that gets paid to only read the words.

Peter Pan's picture

It is all a vicious circle. The government does not want disclosure because it incites the enemy and then the guarantee of non disclosure causes them to become even more violent to prisoners which in turn makes it even more necessary to keep such evidence from entering the public domain.

Seize Mars's picture

A bunch of Americans, horrified that their representatives were ignoring them blatantly - for the first time waking up to the fact that these animals were employees of TPTB and not representatives at all - banded together in protest groups as a last resort, calling themselves "Tea Party" activists in honor of the original brave American colonists.

The media of course realized that the sentiment was resonating deeply with people and immediately made up a vulgar meme - "teabaggers," which they hoped would resonate with society's dregs - SEIU members and other mouth-breathers.

You know what's almost funny?

Dear Leader is an actual homosexual teabagger. The actual homosexual teabagger.

Now that's irony, no?

Geruda's picture

Dumbass.  The teabaggers, in their arrogant stupidity and ignorance came up with it on their own.   If you recall, which no doubt your limited cranial capacity precludes, in the early days they adopted a teabag as their physical icon.  What media did, in their shallow preoccupation with anything they suspected could penetrate the intellectual defenses of people like you and even marginally brighter, is focus on cultivating awareness of what the idiomatic meaning of the term was among those clearly a lot less clueless than the tea baggers themselves.    

Seize Mars's picture

So, you're a red team guy? Or a blue team guy?

JJSF's picture

The system is coming after whistleblower Andrew Maguire pretty hard. Kitco does a hit piece then an hour later it's on front page of forbes. Thier CFTC suit was dismissed a month ago..but thats not enough. Now the character assasination begins based upon what a scorned ex-wife says.  and Support him if you can.

Urban Redneck's picture

As long we're talking about hypocrisy as a weapon...

The USSA (under Obama) votes to condemn Eritrea for taxing overseas residents because the proceeds might be used to finance regional destabilization (UNSCR 2023) yet the same hypocritical USSA says that its taxation of overseas residents under FATCA is somehow different (and justifiable or good)...

Edit: And if you're a SWISS CITIZEN - sign the petition for referendum to reject American Fascism (deadline January 16th).

Sufiy's picture

And here is another story from the Gold manipulations chronicles; now GATA and Andrew Maguire are under fire:

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Who is the Real Fraud - Andrew Maguire or Jeffrey Christian?

 The ongoing war between the corrupt financial system and people still standing for the real human values will include all form of deception and treachery, we will judge all the involved by their deeds and not just words.
   We know what Andrew Maguire is doing now - he is exposing the fraudulent Fractional Reserve Gold System at LBMA and ongoing manipulations in Gold and Silver markets.

  We know what Jeffrey Christian is doing - he is attacking GATA and Andrew Maguire now in order to put all idea about Gold Market Manipulation under question mark.

  Our heart lies more with people like Matt Taibbi and Andrew Maguire here and we hope that baseless allegations will be met with facts by Andrew next week.

  Maybe it is just because Jeffrey Christian is part of the fraudulent system going as far back as to Goldman Sachs? Who are you really Jeffrey Christian? From CPM website:

WTFUD's picture

Jeffrey (un)Christian, anudda name for the hang book.
THE Noose tightens.

“Rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God.”-ThomasJefferson's picture

The time is near when US elected leaders will not be able to travel abroad for fear of indictment and incarceration due to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Arrogant A-holes truly deserve a lifetime sentence of being caged in a cold damp hole with past Obama and Al Gore speeches booming into their ears 24/7.

Geruda's picture

Doesn't say much for your level of honesty or else it suggests a lack of imagination that must put you in a category one notch above catatonia.  

The Joker's picture

Oh. I'm being honest allright.  I can imagine all kinds of torture but none comes close to the needles under fingernails of Al Gore and his stupid fuckin lies, over and over and over and over again.  Not to mention that stupid fucking drawl and everyone on the stupid fucking world believing every word he says no matter how contrary to common sense.  To hear him speak is to hear the death of truth, the death of science, the death of the world as we have come to understand it in the last 1000 years.  Torture is an understatement. 

Also, if the original commentator can embelish so can I in my response, douchebag.

divide_by_zero's picture

Especially the speeches where BO does the one version of his delivery with the whistling S's like the old pedophile on Family Guy

americanreality's picture

You're trying too hard.  Family Guy?  Get new writers.

Miles Kendig's picture

Even more broadly, the government asserted that disclosure could aid in the “recruitment and financing of extremists and insurgent groups.”

Actions by the US government and its coalition (business) partners are designed to illicit the maximum recruitment and financing opportunities for global financial jihadists, of which Al-Qaeda and its associated forces are all part.

paint it red call it hell's picture

Which came first hypocrisy or deception?