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 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.
4all hypertwitterlating abt gov’t spying on AP. Wake up Amerika! Welcome 2 NatSec surveillance state! Just the tip. Whereya been past 10yrs?
— Thomas Drake (@Thomas_Drake1) May 14, 2013
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.