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United States Security The Courts Your Rights Online

Why Whistleblowers Can't Get a Fair Trial 441

phantomfive writes "'Seven whistleblowers have been prosecuted under the Obama administration,' writes Jesselyn Radack, a lawyer who advised two of them. She explains why they can't get a fair trial. In the Thomas Drake case, the administration retroactively marked documents as classified, saying, 'he knew they should have been classified.' In the Bradley Manning case, the jury wasn't allowed to see what information was leaked. The defendants, all who have been charged with espionage, have limited access to court documents. Most of these problems happen because the law was written to deal with traitorous spies, not whistleblowers."
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Why Whistleblowers Can't Get a Fair Trial

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:27AM (#46045051)

    As an outsider (not a US Citizen) I laugh everytime I read an account of how persecuted US citizens are.

    Even in Soviet Russia at the height of the cold war russians had rights. (It's interesting reading the real account of life in russian from people who lived it not the propaganda)

    Chinese citizens have more rights than you do (as long as they stay within the political party rules) and the law is mostly clear with clearly defined rules and laws.

    The US system of laws and bylaws is so convluded that the Avg person commits 3 felonys a day ("http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/three-felonies-a-day-how-the-feds-target-the-innocent#axzz2rEA3eW6J)

    USA's Tax law along is almost 4 million pages long.
    Welcome to the Land of the ^ free

  • Re:One and the same (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:45AM (#46045165)

    Will there ever be a President that I can respect?

    I hope not, that would lull you into a false sense of security.

  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @09:49AM (#46045219)
    The link is to a news story behind the Wall Street Journal's paywall; I think such stories should be reconsidered. Such situations are acceptable with posts on science, which often link both to a popular-science write-up and to the original journal article: probably those readers with the expertise to read the original literature are subscribers. Links to ordinary news stories should follow the same policy: if there must be a link to a paywalled story, a link to a generally accessible version should be expected as well.
  • by DrLang21 ( 900992 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:04AM (#46045381)
    That's why there are supposed to be legal protections for whistleblowers. These cases are not supposed to even get past the court hearing. However, they made a stupid exception for anything dealing with national security, which is where the most egregious corruption can occure.
  • Re:One and the same (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @10:48AM (#46045783)

    But was the jury told that the material was classified, or that it "apparently should" have been classified? Even telling the jury that it was classified after the fact is unacceptably prejudicial. Was defense allowed to point out that the material wasn't classified at the time that the alleged act occurred? If not, then it's the same as an ex post facto law.

  • Re:One and the same (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:03AM (#46045943)

    Why do we say when someone who turns their back on a company, or even most government agencies, they're a whistleblower; but when they do the same to the military, or the intelligence apparatus, they are said to have betrayed the country itself?

    Because it serves to conflate the interests of the military or intelligence agencies with that of the country as a whole. People are less likely to view them poorly when it is axiomatic that the CIA (or whomever) is working in the best interests of the United States. They overthrew an elected government? Must be okay, since they're only trying to look out for us.

  • Re:One and the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:07AM (#46045987)

    I'm old enough to remember the Watergate hearings, but as time goes by Nixon doesn't seem so bad.

    What about Iran-Contra, which raised much more serious questions of unconstitutionality and abuse of power. No higher-ups were prosecuted. It makes Watergate look like an honest affair.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:11AM (#46046025) Journal
    And yet they went with a set of first-past-the-post elections that pretty much guarantee this outcome. If they'd written their constitution a hundred or so years later, then they'd have had the mathematical tools available to study and understand this, rather than just some vague disquiet.
  • Re: One and the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:53AM (#46046477)

    Voting 3rd party is for people who have a great deal of idealism but a poor grasp of math, politics, or history.

    ... or for people who do not feel that they, in good conscience, could actually support either of the candidates being offered by the two major parties.

    Keep in mind that a significant percentage of people who vote 3rd party might otherwise stay home and not vote at all. If they choose to vote for a 3rd-party candidate, they are not altering the outcome of the race between the two parties, since otherwise they wouldn't be participating at all. You can argue that their choice is irrational, but if they don't actually see a significant difference between the two major parties (which is increasingly difficult to see on many issues outside of "hot-button" social issues), they may not feel like they could support either one. Would you rather that they simply stayed home and not express their voice at all?

    The key thing often forgotten by those who argue against anyone ever voting for a 3rd party is that they somehow think that all voters are "owned" by the 2 major parties. And if someone chooses to vote for a 3rd party, they are somehow "taking votes away" from a major party candidate.

    Here's a newsflash: LOTS of people DON'T VOTE. Some are just lazy, but others simply can't be bothered to make a "choice" between two candidates when they like neither one of them. If a 3rd-party guy comes along and excites them enough to get that person to vote, no vote was "stolen" from any major party.

    Contrary to popular belief, candidates actually need to EARN their votes. They don't come by default to them just because Democratic voters always vote Democrat or whatever. Lots of registered Democrats don't vote at various times, and other times they will vote Republican or even for some other party.

    There's a reason why "get out the vote" campaigns are so critical to elections -- it's that many people are not even motivated enough to support a major-party candidate by getting off their butt and going to the local polling place. For many of those people, who otherwise might not vote at all, the major parties have not succeeded in convincing them of anything -- they didn't EARN those votes.

    If such people come out and vote for a 3rd-party candidate they actually believe in, they are making a positive contribution to the process: and they should be applauded for it, not told that they are simply stupid or ignorant.

  • Re: One and the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:33PM (#46046937) Homepage

    Voting for a third party can make a real difference, actually, and thinking otherwise is also demonstrating a poor grasp of US history:
    1. An upstart single-issue party in the 1860's ran a not-very-prominent Congressman for President, and won. The party in question implemented the policy proposal they had organized around, dramatically changing the nature of the country.

    2. A popular president who was disillusioned with the policies of his own party split off and formed his own party in 1912. He didn't win an unprecedented third term for the presidency, but his party elected a bunch of people to state offices and the US House. More importantly, many of the policies advocated by that party, previously considered political non-starters, were implemented in many of the states where the party had significant following, and a later president (more on him in a moment) implemented quite a few of those policies on the national level.

    3. In the 1930's, the president who implemented the 1912 party's policies was able to convince his party to go along with it in part because they were supported by a third party that was winning hundreds of thousands of votes and some local elections in key states.

    When you look at the history of third parties, generally speaking the credible threat of a third party challenge forces the major party that the third party is most like to adopt enough of that third party's positions to keep the voters who are considering bolting to the third party. Otherwise, the only competition the two major parties have is each other, and they can between the two of them take any issue completely out of public consideration by simply agreeing between the two of them that a particular policy is acceptable to both of them.

    For a recent example of this, look at the Patriot Act - there was nobody to vote for that actually opposed it, so it was going to happen regardless of what the pesky voters thought. Had there been credible third-party threats opposing the move (e.g. Greens or Libertarians), then sitting Republicans would be worried that they might lose because enough people voted Libertarian to let the Democrat win, while sitting Democrats would be worried that they might lose because enough people voted Green to let the Republican win.

  • Re: One and the same (Score:2, Interesting)

    by penix1 ( 722987 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:47PM (#46047109) Homepage

    That will never happen due to "winner takes all" laws in the States. For example, if you have 5 electors, and manage to get 2 of them third party, all it takes is for the other 3 to agree on a candidate for that guy to win all 5.

    In states like Florida and Ohio that have a large number of electors, the winner takes all laws is what keeps the two parties in power.

    The only way to cure it is to do away with the electoral college and go solely with the popular vote. I believe the reasons for the existence of the college, namely the problems of large distances to travel and no mass communication systems, have been solved.

  • Re: One and the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:04PM (#46047343)

    That will never happen due to "winner takes all" laws in the States.

    It has already happened, numerous times. A third party won in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln, of the upstart Republican Party, beat both the Democrats and the Whigs. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Socialist Party won enough votes that the Democrat Party co-opted much of their platform to win back those votes. In the 1990s, "culture war" conservatives like Pat Buchanan won enough votes to pull the Republican Party sharply to the right on social issues.

    History has shown that voting third party is by far the most effective way to change how America is governed.

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