Politics

Former NSA official: ‘This administration is exhibiting narcissistic tendencies’

The Obama administration’s targeting of journalists and their sources is an assault on the First Amendment, a former National Security Agency official and prominent whistleblower says.

“[R]eporters have shared with me privately that some of their most trusted sources within government are increasingly afraid to speak with them, even off-the-record, for fear that they will be monitored and surveilled,” Thomas Drake, a former senior executive of the National Security Agency and a whistleblower who was prosecuted by the Obama administration, told The Daily Caller in an exclusive interview.

“That’s self-censorship,” he said.

Drake explained to TheDC that he sees a “soft tyranny” enveloping the United States through the federal government’s targeting of journalists and their sources.

Such a fear of speaking to the press, he said, interferes with the freedom of association —  recognized in the First Amendment as an essential component of free speech.

Reporters are then left with talking points and privileged access to government officials, he explained, all amounting to government propaganda.

Drake was first caught up in the whistleblower investigations of the second Bush administration, but was indicted and prosecuted under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration in 2010.

Drake passed along unclassified information about wasteful spending on the development of the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 secret surveillance program. For that, he was singled out by the Obama administration for indictment and prosecution.

“We were the canaries in the coal mine,” Drake said.

Drake fought the charges leveled against him, which were ultimately dropped in 2011 in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor, but the damage was done.

“I became a criminal and was labeled an enemy of the state because I was calling out government wrongdoing and illegality,” he said.

When the Associated Press revealed that the Department of Justice was engaging in the secret surveillance of its journalists to find a source that leaked classified information about a confidential foreign espionage operation, Drake took to his Twitter account in a fury.

The prosecution or targeting of journalists has been central to the government’s expanding investigations against leakers and whistleblowers who have disclosed embarrassing or confidential national security and foreign policy information.