Thursday, 02 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

"Edward Snowden Is a Patriot": Ex-NSA CIA, FBI and Justice Whistleblowers Meet Leaker in Moscow

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 11:04 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

Media

In a Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with four former U.S. intelligence officials — all whistleblowers themselves — who have just returned from visiting National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia. They are former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake, and former U.S. Justice Department ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack, now of the Government Accountability Project. On Wednesday, the group presented Snowden with an award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. "In our visit, we told Edward Snowden that he had begun the debate by disclosing to American citizens what was going on — this massive spying upon American citizens," Rowley says. "We were happy to tell him the debate has begun, but he is very concerned, and this is actually the reason he has sacrificed so much: He wants to see these laws, these secret interpretations of the law, I should say, fixed."

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

 Amy Goodman: For more, we’re joined by four former U.S. intelligence officials who met with Snowden to give him an award for integrity in intelligence. In Minneapolis, we’re joined by Coleen Rowley. She was a special agent for the FBI from 1981 to 2004. She was a division legal counsel for 13 years, taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police. Rowley also testified before Congress about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks. She was awarded Time Person of the Year.

In Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Ray McGovern, the former senior CIA analyst whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He did that intelligence brief for former President George H.W. Bush.

We’re also joined by Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped.

We’re also joined by Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice.

We welcome you all back from Russia. I want to start with Thomas Drake, you yourself having worked for the National Security Agency. Tell us about this trip that you took to Russia to give Edward Snowden an award.

 Thomas Drake: Well, the Integrity in Intelligence Award is given to the recipient, and we make every effort to actually deliver it and present it in person. And given that he was in Russia, we made arrangements to go to Russia and present him with the Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence Award.

 Amy Goodman: Who was Sam Adams?

 Thomas Drake: I’ll let Ray McGovern share the history of that, because Ray really has the background, as well as the personal knowledge, of what Sam Adams did during the Vietnam War era.

 Amy Goodman: Well, Ray, you’re sitting right next to Thomas Drake in the studios in Washington, D.C., just back from Russia. Tell us about this award.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Amy, Sam Adams was a colleague of mine. He entered the agency under President Kennedy the same day I did. He was given the account to count up how many communist forces were under arms in South Vietnam, and discovered in 1967 that there were twice as many as our generals in Saigon would admit to. They said there could be no more than 299,000 enemy under arms. The precision of that number, sound like 1,429 people gassed to death in Damascus? The specificity of the thing gives it away. In any case, he fought the good fight, but his uppers, the superiors, director helms, caved and would not tell the president the real story. And Sam went to his death with profound regret that he didn’t go outside of channels. He stayed inside channels, where he got diddled and diddled and diddled by the inspector general of the Pentagon, of the CIA. And had he spoken out in 1967, halfway through that war, those of you who know what the Vietnam Memorial looks like, the whole left part of that memorial wouldn’t be there, because there’d be no names to chisel into that granite. And Sam went to his early death with profound regret that he hadn’t spoken out.

And so it is incredibly appropriate that this award for integrity in intelligence, given mostly to whistleblowers, but occasionally to people who do the job honestly in place—and that is Tom Fingar, for example, the last awardee last January, who shepherded the estimate in 2007 which said Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003—my arithmetic is right, that’s 10 years ago—and has not resumed work on a nuclear weapon. That judgment has been reiterated, revalidated every year since. And in [2007, '08], it played a huge role in preventing Bush and Cheney from starting a war with Iran. And if you don't believe me, just read Bush’s memoirs.

 Amy Goodman: And explain why you compare Edward Snowden to Sam Adams.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Edward Snowden came by very sensitive information, which he recognized that he had a choice. He could sit around and say, "Well, you know, isn’t that funny?" and draw his $100,000 salary, be very, very comfortable in Honolulu, but he decided, "Well, you know, I took a—I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I see—look what Tom Drake has done. I see what happened to Bradley Manning, where Julian Assange is. If I want to get this information into the mainstream, I got to get out of Dodge, OK?" And very cleverly, he got in touch with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitrus, met them in Hong Kong, gave them all the information that he wanted to get out, and then found himself kind of stranded there. To the rescue? WikiLeaks, in the person of Sarah Harrison, who arranged with the Russian consulate there his onward travel to Latin America. Latin America? Yeah, he was going to transit Moscow so he wouldn’t have to go the other way, where he could be stopped.

Now, this thing is full of ironies, OK? Today is Columbus Day. I was thinking on the way in, my favorite history on the discovery of America, it started this way. Columbus—America was discovered by a man who was looking for something else, and the next two centuries were spent trying to find a way around or through it. History is like that, full of ironies, very chancy. Well, here’s Edward Snowden. He’s in Hong Kong. He wants to get to Latin America to a secure place. He’s on his way to Moscow, in transit—he was ticketed forward to Latin America. And in the process, the U.S. revokes his passport. He’s stranded. He spends the next month in the transit part of Sheremetyevo airport, and he seeks asylum in Russia. What’s the end result? He ends up in the place which is by far the most secure place on the globe, because no SEAL Team 6 or fancy drone is going to violate Russian sovereignty by taking a shot at Edward Snowden.

 Amy Goodman: I’m going to break, and then we’re going to come back to this discussion, and want to hear from Jesselyn Radack about this trip that the four of you took to Russia, and hear from Coleen Rowley on what are solutions that Edward Snowden is suggesting, what legislation is there right now to allow the people of the United States to debate the issues of spying and surveillance, what serves national security, and what simply criminalizes whistleblowers and the press. Stay with us.

[break]

 Amy Goodman: We’re joined by the four former intelligence officials who went to Russia last week, and we believe they’re the first Americans to meet with Edward Snowden who have come from the United States, and they came to give him an award for integrity in intelligence. Our guests are Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst; Thomas Drake, who worked for the NSA; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent; and Jesselyn Radack, who we’re going to turn to right now.

Jesselyn Radack is national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project. She was an attorney in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office during the Bush administration, during the John Walker Lindh case. You may remember, he was found in Afghanistan. And she raised legal and ethical objections over the questioning of Lindh without his lawyer and revealed misconduct by the Department of Justice. She was eventually forced out.

So, Jesselyn Radack, talk about the actual journey the four of you took. You left from where in the United States? And how did you make your way to Moscow and then to see Edward Snowden?

 Jesselyn Radack: All—well, three of us—Ray and Tom and I—live in the D.C. metropolitan area, so we left from Dulles and took a connecting flight to Moscow. And this was all carefully arranged, as it has to be. It always seems funny to me that people keep asking where he is and who’s protecting him, rather than focusing on the underlying reasons of why it would be necessary to be in hiding from your own country.

But all four of us were greatly honored to be able to be the first Americans to see him since Hong Kong and to get over there and be greeted with open arms by the Russian government—Anatoly Kucherena, in particular—and actually be able to see Ed and Sarah Harrison and just give them a hug and let them know that we had complete solidarity with what they were doing. And I know it probably feels very isolating for them, given all the vitriol you hear coming from the U.S. government.

 Amy Goodman: Where you were in Moscow?

 Jesselyn Radack: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. You know, I couldn’t tell you, even if I did. The security is a huge issue, obviously, especially as we have—you know, there’s a lot of issues with security, especially considering the director of—the former director of NSA and CIA, Michael Hayden, and the House Intelligence Committee chair, Mike Rogers, joke about putting him on the kill list. And there’s been a worldwide manhunt for Mr. Snowden—that’s no secret.

So I think people should really look at the question behind why there would—he would be in any kind of hiding or in an undisclosed location, and why someone who tells the truth and blows the whistle on massive illegality by the U.S. government—why they would have to go to another country to do so and then seek asylum from yet another country in order to gain protection.

 Amy Goodman: Jesselyn Radack, what did Edward Snowden tell you? And what did you tell him as you presented the award?

 Jesselyn Radack: As we presented the award, we each read from various other famous people in history, including Martin Luther King, who—people who were also smeared as being traitors and turncoats and hurting the country, and later history realized they were heroes—other people, like Ben Franklin. We talked about that with him and how he was supported, that despite what the U.S. government is saying about 60 percent of our country is in support of NSA reform.

And I think, despite all that he’s dealing with, he is incredibly focused on whistleblower protection, on surveillance reform and on journalist-source confidentiality. So even though he has all of these other things going on, for him, he is incredibly focused on surveillance reform and that it be meaningful. And while there are a number of bills before Congress right now, most of them focus on the PATRIOT Act Section 215 and very little on FISA Section 702.

So he was very well versed, very centered, very balanced and very engaging, and has a wicked sense of humor, which was very, very fun. So I think, you know, we both felt mutually supported, and he knows that he’s not alone and that he has a lot of people in the United States and around the world who are supporting his endeavors.

 Amy Goodman: You mention Benjamin Franklin, and I wanted to turn to Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent, in Minneapolis, was awarded Time Person of the Year for her work around 9/11. She was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI and police, also testified before Congress about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks. Coleen, what does Ben Franklin have to do with Edward Snowden?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, most people would not have any way of knowing that, significantly, that one of the Founding Fathers of our country was vilified exactly the same and for the same reason as Edward Snowden. In 1773 or ’74, Ben Franklin was postmaster general, and it came to his attention that there were communications between the British and the colonist overseers that American colonists did—would not be accorded the same civil rights as British citizens, and—because they thought they had to keep the American colonists, you know, at bay or whatever, so they were not according American colonists the same rights. And Ben Franklin, to his credit, became a whistleblower in 1773, only to be vilified and called every name in the book by the British and by the American governor at the time. He was actually stripped of his postmaster general status. So we can see how history and time changes everything. And in the case of Ben Franklin, it changed rather quickly.

 Amy Goodman: I want to go to Edward Snowden in his own words, in his interview with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras from June in Hong Kong, when he first revealed who he was. Snowden explained why he made the decision to become a whistleblower.

Edward Snowden: When your in positions of privileged access, like a systems administrator for these sort of the intelligence community agencies, you’re exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee, and because of that, you see things that may be disturbing. But over the course of a normal person’s career, you’d only see one or two of these instances. When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, and you recognize that some of these things are actually abuses. And when you talk to people about them in a place like this, where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and, you know, move on from them. But over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up, and you feel compelled to talk about it. And the more you talk about it, the more you’re ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.

 Amy Goodman: That was Edward Snowden when he first came to Hong Kong, interviewed by journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. I want to turn back to Thomas Drake, who, you, yourself, worked for the National Security Agency for many years. Can you talk about which of Snowden’s disclosures, of the many documents he leaked—which of his disclosures about the NSA were most important?

 Thomas Drake: Well, the first one is, no doubt, that—it was the dash-80 order, compelling Verizon, through, you know, a secret FISA court order, submitted by the FBI, to turn over every phone record that it has each and every day to NSA. That’s the first one, on a—we’re talking about a truly vast scale, well over 100 million phone numbers, without suspicion, without any—any probable cause, not tied to any kind of investigation of any sort, just simply being turned over to add to the haystack.

The second one that comes to mind would be the PRISM disclosures. This goes beyond just the metadata, which in itself is quite extraordinary, but gets to the heart of content of subscribers of U.S.-based Internet service providers hosting servers on which millions and millions of subscribers were determined, in terms of the definition of their foreignness, giving NSA extraordinary and unprecedented access to those accounts on a routine basis through various technical means, either direct access or being afforded access by these same providers.

And I think the third mechanism, actually, is beyond just the vast violations of the sovereignty of U.S. citizens, but also now the surveillance state going well beyond the borders and the boundaries of the United States and violating the sovereignty and integrity of nations, as well as individual citizens in other countries, through various arrangements, through telecommunication providers, as well as the internal secret services of respective host nations. I mean, this is—this is truly unprecedented in history. And what we’re seeing is secrecy and surveillance are completely subverting security and liberty, not just in the United States, but for many, many citizens around the world.

Those are the three that stand out for me, although there are any number of other disclosures that were made that also talk—speak to economic espionage, you know, financial espionage, as well as other forms of misuse and abuse of access for the purpose of the United States gaining upper hand across any number of areas.

 Amy Goodman: Ray McGovern, you said over the weekend, as you visited with Edward Snowden, that he had no top-secret information, as you were questioned about whether the information that Edward Snowden brought with him from the United States was turned over to Russian authorities, where he is now, or Chinese authorities when he was in Hong Kong.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Amy, it had to do with this red herring about the four laptops that he took with him to Hong Kong. You don’t store a lot of information on laptops. You store information on other media. So, in a way, when I was asked that question by Mark Hosenball from Reuters, "What about the laptops?" I probably should have said, "What about the laptops?" Instead, I said, "You don’t store information on laptops." Laptops were, in a sense, a diversion. What he gave to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong was a different matter altogether. The laptops were incidental to that. So, that was the only point that I made on that, and it seemed to be a sort of ancillary point that didn’t make much significance. I noticed it’s in the New York Daily News today.

 Amy Goodman: Yeah. The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a request by the National Security Agency to extend its dragnet collection of U.S. phone records. The Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper disclosed the court’s approval on Friday. Clapper has previously denied before Congress that the NSA collects such data, but the Obama administration has touted a policy of declassifying select information following leaks by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden. I want to turn to that now-famous clip of Clapper in March telling Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon the National Security Agency does not wittingly collect data of millions of Americans.

Sen. Ron Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

James Clapper: No, sir.

Sen. Ron Wyden: It does not?

James Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.

 Amy Goodman: That’s James Clapper. He has now admitted that statement was false and apologized to Congress. In June, Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying he misunderstood the question: quote, "I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time," he said. Clapper wrote, "My response was clearly erroneous—for which I apologize."

I want to go back to Coleen Rowley, former FBI, a special agent from 1981 to 2004, again, named Person of the Year by Time magazine after the 9/11 attacks. Coleen, you recently were at Congress to hear more testimony for officials. This moment where Clapper didn’t tell the truth and now said he’s trying to figure out what was going through his mind to lie to Congress, are these officials sworn in when they testify?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, I don’t know if he was sworn in that other time, but the October 2nd hearing, which was to discuss possible reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, neither Alexander, General Alexander, nor Clapper were sworn in. And this was in contrast to the law professors, who merely gave their opinion on the law, afterwards who were forced to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth. So, you know, when Edward Snowden says it’s not oversight, it’s undersight, I have been saying it’s not oversight, it’s overlook, because, in essence, the directors who are fact witnesses to what has occurred and have dissembled to the American public and not told the truth, and even to Congress—Senator Wyden was absolutely stunned to know that there were secret interpretations of FISA law, and yet have James Clapper tell the American public the opposite.

 Amy Goodman: The New York Post published an article called "Rogues Go to Russia to Celebrate Snowden." In it, journalist S.A. Miller wrote, quote, "A fan club of US traitors went all the way to Russia to give an award to their hero, terror-watch secrets-spiller Edward Snowden." Jesselyn Radack, you worked in the Justice Department. You were an attorney there in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office. Can you respond? "Rogues" to Russia—they’re talking about you.

 Jesselyn Radack: Yes, I understand that, despite the fact that I’m a legal ethicist and have served on the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee. Tom Drake was completely vindicated. There’s nothing traitorist about him. He went through all internal channels that he could have gone through as an NSA whistleblower—to his boss, to the NSA general counsel, to the Department of Defense inspector general, and to two 9/11 congressional committees—and they turned around and prosecuted him for espionage, which is one of the most serious charges you can level against an American. Now, if the New York Post bothered to do its homework, it would have realized that all 10 felony charges against Thomas Drake were dropped, and the case collapsed in spectacular fashion. It would realize that Coleen Rowley was never under any kind of criminal cloud, and instead, Time made her Person of the Year in 2003, the year of the whistleblower. And in my own case, I have been vindicated by the D.C. Bar and by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. So, I suggest that the New York Post quit trying to do the government’s work of turning patriots into traitors and confusing fear with freedom and confusing dissent with disloyalty. I am glad to be in the company of people who went over to see Ed. And Ed is part of that same group. And while history will remember Ed favorably, I am quite sure it is not going to remember New York Post headlines to the effect of the one you read.

 Amy Goodman: Let me put that question to Ray McGovern, about calling you rogues or traitors, supporting a traitor. You were a top CIA briefer for President George H.W. Bush. You worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. What is your response to what is loyal, what is being patriotic, and what is breaking the law?

 Ray McGovern: Well, sticks and stones may hurt my bones, and so forth. You know, it’s almost laughable, if it weren’t so serious. I mean, take NBC, for example. Their top foreign correspondent was in Russia, just a few days before we were, interviewing Anna Chapman, the fiery redhead who’s going to start her own TV program, and they wanted to ask her about her wedding proposal to Edward Snowden. Give me a break. That’s all over NBC. No one asked any of us to be on the Sunday TV shows yesterday. Maybe that’s asking too much. But the mainstream media here is laughable in terms of the way they treat this. They’re very much part of the government apparatus, and they follow the government line. So, if they’re going to call me rogue, well, I’ve been called worse things.

 Amy Goodman: ... then come back to some interesting news that The Guardian is reporting on the editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, about what British officials wanted from her. We’re talking with the four former intelligence officials in the United States who went to Russia to bestow upon Edward Snowden an Integrity in Intelligence Award: Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Jesselyn Radack of the State Department—of the Justice Department, rather; Ray McGovern of the CIA; and Thomas Drake of the NSA. Stay with us.

[break]

 Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The Guardian is reporting the editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, has confirmed that senior British officials attempted to persuade her to hand over secret documents leaked by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Abramson said she was approached by the British embassy in Washington after it was announced that The New York Times was collaborating with The Guardian to explore some of the files disclosed by Snowden. Among the files are several relating to the activities of GCHQ, the agency responsible for signals interception in Britain. She said, quote, "They were hopeful [that] we would relinquish any material [that] we might be reporting on, relating to Edward Snowden. Needless to say I considered what they told me, and said no."

Thomas Drake, you worked for the National Security Agency. You were prosecuted by the U.S. government for attempting to leak information about what you were most disturbed by in the National Security Agency. Can you respond to this latest news of the British intelligence trying to get the head of The New York Times to hand over the NSA documents of Edward Snowden?

 Thomas Drake: Well, it reminds me of the very reason why we had the first American Revolution and why there was a First Amendment to our Constitution. This is clearly a brazen attempt to remove from public disclosure and public interest the extraordinary revelations of Edward Snowden in terms of the institutionalized surveillance state and NSA’s direct partnership with GCHQ, not just on a—you know, on an international scale. And so, you know, this just strikes again at the reality that it’s extremely dangerous in today’s world, in the United States as well as within the United Kingdom, to speak truth to or of power, and if you do so, it becomes a criminal act. Yet the very individuals in the United States, through a whole litany of lies before Congress and the public, as has been clearly demonstrated over the last number of years—the fact that we’ve essentially had the equivalent of a constitutional coup d’état since 9/11, we’ve come off the rails in terms of the rule of law, and we’re simply—we’re simply going to get all the data we can, no matter what—where it is and no matter what form it takes, because we just need it in case we need to protect our nation ostensibly under that label and mantle of national security, which I’ve argued has really become the new state religion in the United States and is something you don’t question.

 Amy Goodman: Thomas Drake, if you—

 Thomas Drake: The First Amendment—the—

 Amy Goodman: If you could say what happened to you, and compare it to the case of Edward Snowden?

 Thomas Drake: Well, I was there from the foundations of the secret surveillance state. Within just days of 9/11, I became—it became known to me. I discovered, much to my horror, that Pandora’s box had been opened up, and the United States had set aside the Fourth Amendment and had set aside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I mean, we have to remember, this goes back to the 1970s. And so, it was to my horror that I was eyewitness to the subversion of our own Constitution, the Constitution in which I had taken an oath to support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And so, I knew that if I remained silent, that I would be complicit in the government conduct in violation of the rule of law and the Constitution. And I would not do so.

And so, I began a multi-year set of activities to blow the whistle on the secret surveillance programs that ultimately were the foundation, in those first years after 9/11, that became institutionalized. And then we have the prima facie evidence, the documented evidence, that Edward Snowden has disclosed, with extraordinary conviction of courage, to make it available in the public interest, because you cannot have governance in the United States, you know, without the consent of the governed, and what we have is a secret government who’s governing without consent, and is doing so in secret coercion.

 Amy Goodman: Are Snowden’s disclosures changing the way the NSA works? I want to talk about legislation right now. A Republican congressmember who co-authored the PATRIOT Act is poised to introduce a new bill to curb spying by the National Security Agency. Congressmember Jim Sensenbrenner helped to expand spying powers under U.S. intelligence agencies under George W. Bush, but now says the programs have gone too far. Coleen Rowley, why don’t you take this one, in Minneapolis? Former FBI agent, you know, Time whistleblower of the year, you worked for the agency for decades. What about what is being proposed now as a result of what Edward Snowden has revealed?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, our visit—in our visit, we were—told Edward Snowden that he had begun the debate by disclosing to American citizens what was going on, this massive spying upon American citizens. We were happy to tell him the debate has begun, but he is very concerned—and this is—this is actually the reason he has sacrificed so much, is that he wants to see these laws, these secret interpretations of law, I should say, fixed.

And, of course, the debate has begun. The Senate Judiciary has had hearings. They have heard, unfortunately, from Clapper and Alexander, who have not been truthful. For instance, Alexander has claimed that the NSA’s massive spying has thwarted 54 incidents of terrorism affecting the United States. This was immediately debunked by—mostly by the press, and the FBI then later testified in hearings that, no, it’s really only one example they can come up with, and it’s actually a very flimsy example of a case involving giving a few thousand dollars to Shabab.

So, here’s the problem. Senator Feinstein and others are able to, kind of in a very misleading way, revise history and claim that if NSA had been collecting the massive data before 9/11, these attacks would not have occurred. They can do this because many people have forgotten that the 9/11 Commission and the various inquiries concluded just the opposite of what Dianne Feinstein is saying. Back then, the rationale was that the dots were not connected, and the dots were not connected because there was too much intelligence flowing in. Officials claim that intelligence is like a firehose, and we can’t get a sip from a firehose. That was the excuse for why they had all this information, specific clues including—including hijackers or terrorist suspects who came into California, and CIA Director Tenet never told the FBI; of course, the case in Minnesota, where the FBI did not itself act upon intelligence; and the amount of intelligence that was not even read, let alone appreciated, assessed and then acted upon. So this whole history is being revised and turned on its head now—

 Amy Goodman: So, this collection of data—

 Coleen Rowley: —to try to thwart reform.

 Amy Goodman: So this collection of data is actually hindering, hurting national security, because there is too much information pouring in, and it’s hard for them to sift through this. I wanted to go to Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst. Earlier this month, during a cybersecurity panel hosted by The Washington Post, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden joked about putting Edward Snowden on a kill list after learning of his nomination for a European human rights award. Hayden said, quote, "I must admit, in my darker moments over the past several months, I’d also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list." Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Chair Mike Rogers, responded, "I can help you with that." Ray McGovern, can you comment on this? And how is—how is Edward Snowden getting by in Russia?

 Ray McGovern: Well, I asked Ed whether he was aware of these suggestions, shall we say, that he be put on the kill list for assassination. He kind of winced and shook his head, as if to say, "My god, you know, what has our country become?" It’s unconscionable that these people would joke about things like that, but it shows the poverty of thought and the determination to make this—I call him a patriot, not a hero. Heroes can be dismissed. Edward Snowden is a patriot, OK? And it’s easier to dismiss this fellow if you frontally attack him personally, the way these folks have done.

I want to say one more thing. Tom Drake, when he was acquitted, the judge upbraided the Justice Department, saying, "You had no business persecuting this person for four years." Guess what? Tom had an experience in Moscow when he met Ed Snowden, and I’m sure Tom was thinking, "Wow! I guess some good can come out of this," because it was Ed Snowden who freely said, right upfront, that it was Tom’s example, what happened to him by going through channels, that persuaded Ed Snowden to seek a more circuitous route, and now he is in total safety, at least for this year.

 Amy Goodman: Your thoughts, very quickly, on that, Tom Drake? We just have 10 seconds.

 Thomas Drake: Well, I feel extraordinary kinship with Edward Snowden. I mean, he’s held up the mirror to the government. He wants the Constitution restored. He wants the rule of law restored. He wants the surveillance state disbanded. I mean, that’s the reality. It’s gone far beyond its mandate to deal with terrorism and other threats, threats to the nation.

 Amy Goodman: And finally, Sarah Harrison could be also very seriously endangered by all that she has done, targeted by the British and U.S. governments. Was there concern about this, Tom?

 Thomas Drake: Yes. Well, I mean, she sacrificed herself and essentially is, in her own way, under her own—her own asylum, by virtue of not being—

 Amy Goodman: We’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you for being with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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"Edward Snowden Is a Patriot": Ex-NSA CIA, FBI and Justice Whistleblowers Meet Leaker in Moscow

Tuesday, 15 October 2013 11:04 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

Media

In a Democracy Now! special, we spend the hour with four former U.S. intelligence officials — all whistleblowers themselves — who have just returned from visiting National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia. They are former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake, and former U.S. Justice Department ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack, now of the Government Accountability Project. On Wednesday, the group presented Snowden with an award from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. "In our visit, we told Edward Snowden that he had begun the debate by disclosing to American citizens what was going on — this massive spying upon American citizens," Rowley says. "We were happy to tell him the debate has begun, but he is very concerned, and this is actually the reason he has sacrificed so much: He wants to see these laws, these secret interpretations of the law, I should say, fixed."

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

 Amy Goodman: For more, we’re joined by four former U.S. intelligence officials who met with Snowden to give him an award for integrity in intelligence. In Minneapolis, we’re joined by Coleen Rowley. She was a special agent for the FBI from 1981 to 2004. She was a division legal counsel for 13 years, taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police. Rowley also testified before Congress about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks. She was awarded Time Person of the Year.

In Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Ray McGovern, the former senior CIA analyst whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He did that intelligence brief for former President George H.W. Bush.

We’re also joined by Thomas Drake, National Security Agency whistleblower. In 2010, the Obama administration charged Drake with violating the Espionage Act after he was accused of leaking classified information to the press about waste and mismanagement at the agency. The charges were later dropped.

We’re also joined by Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice.

We welcome you all back from Russia. I want to start with Thomas Drake, you yourself having worked for the National Security Agency. Tell us about this trip that you took to Russia to give Edward Snowden an award.

 Thomas Drake: Well, the Integrity in Intelligence Award is given to the recipient, and we make every effort to actually deliver it and present it in person. And given that he was in Russia, we made arrangements to go to Russia and present him with the Sam Adams Integrity in Intelligence Award.

 Amy Goodman: Who was Sam Adams?

 Thomas Drake: I’ll let Ray McGovern share the history of that, because Ray really has the background, as well as the personal knowledge, of what Sam Adams did during the Vietnam War era.

 Amy Goodman: Well, Ray, you’re sitting right next to Thomas Drake in the studios in Washington, D.C., just back from Russia. Tell us about this award.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Amy, Sam Adams was a colleague of mine. He entered the agency under President Kennedy the same day I did. He was given the account to count up how many communist forces were under arms in South Vietnam, and discovered in 1967 that there were twice as many as our generals in Saigon would admit to. They said there could be no more than 299,000 enemy under arms. The precision of that number, sound like 1,429 people gassed to death in Damascus? The specificity of the thing gives it away. In any case, he fought the good fight, but his uppers, the superiors, director helms, caved and would not tell the president the real story. And Sam went to his death with profound regret that he didn’t go outside of channels. He stayed inside channels, where he got diddled and diddled and diddled by the inspector general of the Pentagon, of the CIA. And had he spoken out in 1967, halfway through that war, those of you who know what the Vietnam Memorial looks like, the whole left part of that memorial wouldn’t be there, because there’d be no names to chisel into that granite. And Sam went to his early death with profound regret that he hadn’t spoken out.

And so it is incredibly appropriate that this award for integrity in intelligence, given mostly to whistleblowers, but occasionally to people who do the job honestly in place—and that is Tom Fingar, for example, the last awardee last January, who shepherded the estimate in 2007 which said Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003—my arithmetic is right, that’s 10 years ago—and has not resumed work on a nuclear weapon. That judgment has been reiterated, revalidated every year since. And in [2007, '08], it played a huge role in preventing Bush and Cheney from starting a war with Iran. And if you don't believe me, just read Bush’s memoirs.

 Amy Goodman: And explain why you compare Edward Snowden to Sam Adams.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Edward Snowden came by very sensitive information, which he recognized that he had a choice. He could sit around and say, "Well, you know, isn’t that funny?" and draw his $100,000 salary, be very, very comfortable in Honolulu, but he decided, "Well, you know, I took a—I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I see—look what Tom Drake has done. I see what happened to Bradley Manning, where Julian Assange is. If I want to get this information into the mainstream, I got to get out of Dodge, OK?" And very cleverly, he got in touch with Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitrus, met them in Hong Kong, gave them all the information that he wanted to get out, and then found himself kind of stranded there. To the rescue? WikiLeaks, in the person of Sarah Harrison, who arranged with the Russian consulate there his onward travel to Latin America. Latin America? Yeah, he was going to transit Moscow so he wouldn’t have to go the other way, where he could be stopped.

Now, this thing is full of ironies, OK? Today is Columbus Day. I was thinking on the way in, my favorite history on the discovery of America, it started this way. Columbus—America was discovered by a man who was looking for something else, and the next two centuries were spent trying to find a way around or through it. History is like that, full of ironies, very chancy. Well, here’s Edward Snowden. He’s in Hong Kong. He wants to get to Latin America to a secure place. He’s on his way to Moscow, in transit—he was ticketed forward to Latin America. And in the process, the U.S. revokes his passport. He’s stranded. He spends the next month in the transit part of Sheremetyevo airport, and he seeks asylum in Russia. What’s the end result? He ends up in the place which is by far the most secure place on the globe, because no SEAL Team 6 or fancy drone is going to violate Russian sovereignty by taking a shot at Edward Snowden.

 Amy Goodman: I’m going to break, and then we’re going to come back to this discussion, and want to hear from Jesselyn Radack about this trip that the four of you took to Russia, and hear from Coleen Rowley on what are solutions that Edward Snowden is suggesting, what legislation is there right now to allow the people of the United States to debate the issues of spying and surveillance, what serves national security, and what simply criminalizes whistleblowers and the press. Stay with us.

[break]

 Amy Goodman: We’re joined by the four former intelligence officials who went to Russia last week, and we believe they’re the first Americans to meet with Edward Snowden who have come from the United States, and they came to give him an award for integrity in intelligence. Our guests are Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst; Thomas Drake, who worked for the NSA; Coleen Rowley, former FBI agent; and Jesselyn Radack, who we’re going to turn to right now.

Jesselyn Radack is national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project. She was an attorney in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office during the Bush administration, during the John Walker Lindh case. You may remember, he was found in Afghanistan. And she raised legal and ethical objections over the questioning of Lindh without his lawyer and revealed misconduct by the Department of Justice. She was eventually forced out.

So, Jesselyn Radack, talk about the actual journey the four of you took. You left from where in the United States? And how did you make your way to Moscow and then to see Edward Snowden?

 Jesselyn Radack: All—well, three of us—Ray and Tom and I—live in the D.C. metropolitan area, so we left from Dulles and took a connecting flight to Moscow. And this was all carefully arranged, as it has to be. It always seems funny to me that people keep asking where he is and who’s protecting him, rather than focusing on the underlying reasons of why it would be necessary to be in hiding from your own country.

But all four of us were greatly honored to be able to be the first Americans to see him since Hong Kong and to get over there and be greeted with open arms by the Russian government—Anatoly Kucherena, in particular—and actually be able to see Ed and Sarah Harrison and just give them a hug and let them know that we had complete solidarity with what they were doing. And I know it probably feels very isolating for them, given all the vitriol you hear coming from the U.S. government.

 Amy Goodman: Where you were in Moscow?

 Jesselyn Radack: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that. You know, I couldn’t tell you, even if I did. The security is a huge issue, obviously, especially as we have—you know, there’s a lot of issues with security, especially considering the director of—the former director of NSA and CIA, Michael Hayden, and the House Intelligence Committee chair, Mike Rogers, joke about putting him on the kill list. And there’s been a worldwide manhunt for Mr. Snowden—that’s no secret.

So I think people should really look at the question behind why there would—he would be in any kind of hiding or in an undisclosed location, and why someone who tells the truth and blows the whistle on massive illegality by the U.S. government—why they would have to go to another country to do so and then seek asylum from yet another country in order to gain protection.

 Amy Goodman: Jesselyn Radack, what did Edward Snowden tell you? And what did you tell him as you presented the award?

 Jesselyn Radack: As we presented the award, we each read from various other famous people in history, including Martin Luther King, who—people who were also smeared as being traitors and turncoats and hurting the country, and later history realized they were heroes—other people, like Ben Franklin. We talked about that with him and how he was supported, that despite what the U.S. government is saying about 60 percent of our country is in support of NSA reform.

And I think, despite all that he’s dealing with, he is incredibly focused on whistleblower protection, on surveillance reform and on journalist-source confidentiality. So even though he has all of these other things going on, for him, he is incredibly focused on surveillance reform and that it be meaningful. And while there are a number of bills before Congress right now, most of them focus on the PATRIOT Act Section 215 and very little on FISA Section 702.

So he was very well versed, very centered, very balanced and very engaging, and has a wicked sense of humor, which was very, very fun. So I think, you know, we both felt mutually supported, and he knows that he’s not alone and that he has a lot of people in the United States and around the world who are supporting his endeavors.

 Amy Goodman: You mention Benjamin Franklin, and I wanted to turn to Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent, in Minneapolis, was awarded Time Person of the Year for her work around 9/11. She was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI and police, also testified before Congress about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks. Coleen, what does Ben Franklin have to do with Edward Snowden?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, most people would not have any way of knowing that, significantly, that one of the Founding Fathers of our country was vilified exactly the same and for the same reason as Edward Snowden. In 1773 or ’74, Ben Franklin was postmaster general, and it came to his attention that there were communications between the British and the colonist overseers that American colonists did—would not be accorded the same civil rights as British citizens, and—because they thought they had to keep the American colonists, you know, at bay or whatever, so they were not according American colonists the same rights. And Ben Franklin, to his credit, became a whistleblower in 1773, only to be vilified and called every name in the book by the British and by the American governor at the time. He was actually stripped of his postmaster general status. So we can see how history and time changes everything. And in the case of Ben Franklin, it changed rather quickly.

 Amy Goodman: I want to go to Edward Snowden in his own words, in his interview with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras from June in Hong Kong, when he first revealed who he was. Snowden explained why he made the decision to become a whistleblower.

Edward Snowden: When your in positions of privileged access, like a systems administrator for these sort of the intelligence community agencies, you’re exposed to a lot more information on a broader scale than the average employee, and because of that, you see things that may be disturbing. But over the course of a normal person’s career, you’d only see one or two of these instances. When you see everything, you see them on a more frequent basis, and you recognize that some of these things are actually abuses. And when you talk to people about them in a place like this, where this is the normal state of business, people tend not to take them very seriously and, you know, move on from them. But over time that awareness of wrongdoing sort of builds up, and you feel compelled to talk about it. And the more you talk about it, the more you’re ignored, the more you’re told it’s not a problem, until eventually you realize that these things need to be determined by the public, not by somebody who was simply hired by the government.

 Amy Goodman: That was Edward Snowden when he first came to Hong Kong, interviewed by journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. I want to turn back to Thomas Drake, who, you, yourself, worked for the National Security Agency for many years. Can you talk about which of Snowden’s disclosures, of the many documents he leaked—which of his disclosures about the NSA were most important?

 Thomas Drake: Well, the first one is, no doubt, that—it was the dash-80 order, compelling Verizon, through, you know, a secret FISA court order, submitted by the FBI, to turn over every phone record that it has each and every day to NSA. That’s the first one, on a—we’re talking about a truly vast scale, well over 100 million phone numbers, without suspicion, without any—any probable cause, not tied to any kind of investigation of any sort, just simply being turned over to add to the haystack.

The second one that comes to mind would be the PRISM disclosures. This goes beyond just the metadata, which in itself is quite extraordinary, but gets to the heart of content of subscribers of U.S.-based Internet service providers hosting servers on which millions and millions of subscribers were determined, in terms of the definition of their foreignness, giving NSA extraordinary and unprecedented access to those accounts on a routine basis through various technical means, either direct access or being afforded access by these same providers.

And I think the third mechanism, actually, is beyond just the vast violations of the sovereignty of U.S. citizens, but also now the surveillance state going well beyond the borders and the boundaries of the United States and violating the sovereignty and integrity of nations, as well as individual citizens in other countries, through various arrangements, through telecommunication providers, as well as the internal secret services of respective host nations. I mean, this is—this is truly unprecedented in history. And what we’re seeing is secrecy and surveillance are completely subverting security and liberty, not just in the United States, but for many, many citizens around the world.

Those are the three that stand out for me, although there are any number of other disclosures that were made that also talk—speak to economic espionage, you know, financial espionage, as well as other forms of misuse and abuse of access for the purpose of the United States gaining upper hand across any number of areas.

 Amy Goodman: Ray McGovern, you said over the weekend, as you visited with Edward Snowden, that he had no top-secret information, as you were questioned about whether the information that Edward Snowden brought with him from the United States was turned over to Russian authorities, where he is now, or Chinese authorities when he was in Hong Kong.

 Ray McGovern: Well, Amy, it had to do with this red herring about the four laptops that he took with him to Hong Kong. You don’t store a lot of information on laptops. You store information on other media. So, in a way, when I was asked that question by Mark Hosenball from Reuters, "What about the laptops?" I probably should have said, "What about the laptops?" Instead, I said, "You don’t store information on laptops." Laptops were, in a sense, a diversion. What he gave to Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong was a different matter altogether. The laptops were incidental to that. So, that was the only point that I made on that, and it seemed to be a sort of ancillary point that didn’t make much significance. I noticed it’s in the New York Daily News today.

 Amy Goodman: Yeah. The secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved a request by the National Security Agency to extend its dragnet collection of U.S. phone records. The Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper disclosed the court’s approval on Friday. Clapper has previously denied before Congress that the NSA collects such data, but the Obama administration has touted a policy of declassifying select information following leaks by NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden. I want to turn to that now-famous clip of Clapper in March telling Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon the National Security Agency does not wittingly collect data of millions of Americans.

Sen. Ron Wyden: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?

James Clapper: No, sir.

Sen. Ron Wyden: It does not?

James Clapper: Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly.

 Amy Goodman: That’s James Clapper. He has now admitted that statement was false and apologized to Congress. In June, Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying he misunderstood the question: quote, "I have thought long and hard to re-create what went through my mind at the time," he said. Clapper wrote, "My response was clearly erroneous—for which I apologize."

I want to go back to Coleen Rowley, former FBI, a special agent from 1981 to 2004, again, named Person of the Year by Time magazine after the 9/11 attacks. Coleen, you recently were at Congress to hear more testimony for officials. This moment where Clapper didn’t tell the truth and now said he’s trying to figure out what was going through his mind to lie to Congress, are these officials sworn in when they testify?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, I don’t know if he was sworn in that other time, but the October 2nd hearing, which was to discuss possible reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, neither Alexander, General Alexander, nor Clapper were sworn in. And this was in contrast to the law professors, who merely gave their opinion on the law, afterwards who were forced to raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth. So, you know, when Edward Snowden says it’s not oversight, it’s undersight, I have been saying it’s not oversight, it’s overlook, because, in essence, the directors who are fact witnesses to what has occurred and have dissembled to the American public and not told the truth, and even to Congress—Senator Wyden was absolutely stunned to know that there were secret interpretations of FISA law, and yet have James Clapper tell the American public the opposite.

 Amy Goodman: The New York Post published an article called "Rogues Go to Russia to Celebrate Snowden." In it, journalist S.A. Miller wrote, quote, "A fan club of US traitors went all the way to Russia to give an award to their hero, terror-watch secrets-spiller Edward Snowden." Jesselyn Radack, you worked in the Justice Department. You were an attorney there in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office. Can you respond? "Rogues" to Russia—they’re talking about you.

 Jesselyn Radack: Yes, I understand that, despite the fact that I’m a legal ethicist and have served on the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee. Tom Drake was completely vindicated. There’s nothing traitorist about him. He went through all internal channels that he could have gone through as an NSA whistleblower—to his boss, to the NSA general counsel, to the Department of Defense inspector general, and to two 9/11 congressional committees—and they turned around and prosecuted him for espionage, which is one of the most serious charges you can level against an American. Now, if the New York Post bothered to do its homework, it would have realized that all 10 felony charges against Thomas Drake were dropped, and the case collapsed in spectacular fashion. It would realize that Coleen Rowley was never under any kind of criminal cloud, and instead, Time made her Person of the Year in 2003, the year of the whistleblower. And in my own case, I have been vindicated by the D.C. Bar and by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. So, I suggest that the New York Post quit trying to do the government’s work of turning patriots into traitors and confusing fear with freedom and confusing dissent with disloyalty. I am glad to be in the company of people who went over to see Ed. And Ed is part of that same group. And while history will remember Ed favorably, I am quite sure it is not going to remember New York Post headlines to the effect of the one you read.

 Amy Goodman: Let me put that question to Ray McGovern, about calling you rogues or traitors, supporting a traitor. You were a top CIA briefer for President George H.W. Bush. You worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. What is your response to what is loyal, what is being patriotic, and what is breaking the law?

 Ray McGovern: Well, sticks and stones may hurt my bones, and so forth. You know, it’s almost laughable, if it weren’t so serious. I mean, take NBC, for example. Their top foreign correspondent was in Russia, just a few days before we were, interviewing Anna Chapman, the fiery redhead who’s going to start her own TV program, and they wanted to ask her about her wedding proposal to Edward Snowden. Give me a break. That’s all over NBC. No one asked any of us to be on the Sunday TV shows yesterday. Maybe that’s asking too much. But the mainstream media here is laughable in terms of the way they treat this. They’re very much part of the government apparatus, and they follow the government line. So, if they’re going to call me rogue, well, I’ve been called worse things.

 Amy Goodman: ... then come back to some interesting news that The Guardian is reporting on the editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, about what British officials wanted from her. We’re talking with the four former intelligence officials in the United States who went to Russia to bestow upon Edward Snowden an Integrity in Intelligence Award: Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Jesselyn Radack of the State Department—of the Justice Department, rather; Ray McGovern of the CIA; and Thomas Drake of the NSA. Stay with us.

[break]

 Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The Guardian is reporting the editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, has confirmed that senior British officials attempted to persuade her to hand over secret documents leaked by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Abramson said she was approached by the British embassy in Washington after it was announced that The New York Times was collaborating with The Guardian to explore some of the files disclosed by Snowden. Among the files are several relating to the activities of GCHQ, the agency responsible for signals interception in Britain. She said, quote, "They were hopeful [that] we would relinquish any material [that] we might be reporting on, relating to Edward Snowden. Needless to say I considered what they told me, and said no."

Thomas Drake, you worked for the National Security Agency. You were prosecuted by the U.S. government for attempting to leak information about what you were most disturbed by in the National Security Agency. Can you respond to this latest news of the British intelligence trying to get the head of The New York Times to hand over the NSA documents of Edward Snowden?

 Thomas Drake: Well, it reminds me of the very reason why we had the first American Revolution and why there was a First Amendment to our Constitution. This is clearly a brazen attempt to remove from public disclosure and public interest the extraordinary revelations of Edward Snowden in terms of the institutionalized surveillance state and NSA’s direct partnership with GCHQ, not just on a—you know, on an international scale. And so, you know, this just strikes again at the reality that it’s extremely dangerous in today’s world, in the United States as well as within the United Kingdom, to speak truth to or of power, and if you do so, it becomes a criminal act. Yet the very individuals in the United States, through a whole litany of lies before Congress and the public, as has been clearly demonstrated over the last number of years—the fact that we’ve essentially had the equivalent of a constitutional coup d’état since 9/11, we’ve come off the rails in terms of the rule of law, and we’re simply—we’re simply going to get all the data we can, no matter what—where it is and no matter what form it takes, because we just need it in case we need to protect our nation ostensibly under that label and mantle of national security, which I’ve argued has really become the new state religion in the United States and is something you don’t question.

 Amy Goodman: Thomas Drake, if you—

 Thomas Drake: The First Amendment—the—

 Amy Goodman: If you could say what happened to you, and compare it to the case of Edward Snowden?

 Thomas Drake: Well, I was there from the foundations of the secret surveillance state. Within just days of 9/11, I became—it became known to me. I discovered, much to my horror, that Pandora’s box had been opened up, and the United States had set aside the Fourth Amendment and had set aside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I mean, we have to remember, this goes back to the 1970s. And so, it was to my horror that I was eyewitness to the subversion of our own Constitution, the Constitution in which I had taken an oath to support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And so, I knew that if I remained silent, that I would be complicit in the government conduct in violation of the rule of law and the Constitution. And I would not do so.

And so, I began a multi-year set of activities to blow the whistle on the secret surveillance programs that ultimately were the foundation, in those first years after 9/11, that became institutionalized. And then we have the prima facie evidence, the documented evidence, that Edward Snowden has disclosed, with extraordinary conviction of courage, to make it available in the public interest, because you cannot have governance in the United States, you know, without the consent of the governed, and what we have is a secret government who’s governing without consent, and is doing so in secret coercion.

 Amy Goodman: Are Snowden’s disclosures changing the way the NSA works? I want to talk about legislation right now. A Republican congressmember who co-authored the PATRIOT Act is poised to introduce a new bill to curb spying by the National Security Agency. Congressmember Jim Sensenbrenner helped to expand spying powers under U.S. intelligence agencies under George W. Bush, but now says the programs have gone too far. Coleen Rowley, why don’t you take this one, in Minneapolis? Former FBI agent, you know, Time whistleblower of the year, you worked for the agency for decades. What about what is being proposed now as a result of what Edward Snowden has revealed?

 Coleen Rowley: Well, our visit—in our visit, we were—told Edward Snowden that he had begun the debate by disclosing to American citizens what was going on, this massive spying upon American citizens. We were happy to tell him the debate has begun, but he is very concerned—and this is—this is actually the reason he has sacrificed so much, is that he wants to see these laws, these secret interpretations of law, I should say, fixed.

And, of course, the debate has begun. The Senate Judiciary has had hearings. They have heard, unfortunately, from Clapper and Alexander, who have not been truthful. For instance, Alexander has claimed that the NSA’s massive spying has thwarted 54 incidents of terrorism affecting the United States. This was immediately debunked by—mostly by the press, and the FBI then later testified in hearings that, no, it’s really only one example they can come up with, and it’s actually a very flimsy example of a case involving giving a few thousand dollars to Shabab.

So, here’s the problem. Senator Feinstein and others are able to, kind of in a very misleading way, revise history and claim that if NSA had been collecting the massive data before 9/11, these attacks would not have occurred. They can do this because many people have forgotten that the 9/11 Commission and the various inquiries concluded just the opposite of what Dianne Feinstein is saying. Back then, the rationale was that the dots were not connected, and the dots were not connected because there was too much intelligence flowing in. Officials claim that intelligence is like a firehose, and we can’t get a sip from a firehose. That was the excuse for why they had all this information, specific clues including—including hijackers or terrorist suspects who came into California, and CIA Director Tenet never told the FBI; of course, the case in Minnesota, where the FBI did not itself act upon intelligence; and the amount of intelligence that was not even read, let alone appreciated, assessed and then acted upon. So this whole history is being revised and turned on its head now—

 Amy Goodman: So, this collection of data—

 Coleen Rowley: —to try to thwart reform.

 Amy Goodman: So this collection of data is actually hindering, hurting national security, because there is too much information pouring in, and it’s hard for them to sift through this. I wanted to go to Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst. Earlier this month, during a cybersecurity panel hosted by The Washington Post, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden joked about putting Edward Snowden on a kill list after learning of his nomination for a European human rights award. Hayden said, quote, "I must admit, in my darker moments over the past several months, I’d also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list." Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Chair Mike Rogers, responded, "I can help you with that." Ray McGovern, can you comment on this? And how is—how is Edward Snowden getting by in Russia?

 Ray McGovern: Well, I asked Ed whether he was aware of these suggestions, shall we say, that he be put on the kill list for assassination. He kind of winced and shook his head, as if to say, "My god, you know, what has our country become?" It’s unconscionable that these people would joke about things like that, but it shows the poverty of thought and the determination to make this—I call him a patriot, not a hero. Heroes can be dismissed. Edward Snowden is a patriot, OK? And it’s easier to dismiss this fellow if you frontally attack him personally, the way these folks have done.

I want to say one more thing. Tom Drake, when he was acquitted, the judge upbraided the Justice Department, saying, "You had no business persecuting this person for four years." Guess what? Tom had an experience in Moscow when he met Ed Snowden, and I’m sure Tom was thinking, "Wow! I guess some good can come out of this," because it was Ed Snowden who freely said, right upfront, that it was Tom’s example, what happened to him by going through channels, that persuaded Ed Snowden to seek a more circuitous route, and now he is in total safety, at least for this year.

 Amy Goodman: Your thoughts, very quickly, on that, Tom Drake? We just have 10 seconds.

 Thomas Drake: Well, I feel extraordinary kinship with Edward Snowden. I mean, he’s held up the mirror to the government. He wants the Constitution restored. He wants the rule of law restored. He wants the surveillance state disbanded. I mean, that’s the reality. It’s gone far beyond its mandate to deal with terrorism and other threats, threats to the nation.

 Amy Goodman: And finally, Sarah Harrison could be also very seriously endangered by all that she has done, targeted by the British and U.S. governments. Was there concern about this, Tom?

 Thomas Drake: Yes. Well, I mean, she sacrificed herself and essentially is, in her own way, under her own—her own asylum, by virtue of not being—

 Amy Goodman: We’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you for being with us.

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