Edward Snowden urged authorities Sunday to conduct a complete overhaul of U.S. whistleblower protections after information from another Pentagon source came to light. In an interview with the Guardian, Snowden responded to former senior Pentagon investigator John Crane's revelation on how the National Security Agency (NSA) turned against the source when sensitive information about the agency's surveillance program leaked to the media.
“We need iron-clad, enforceable protections for whistleblowers, and we need a public record of success stories," Snowden told the Guardian. "Protect the people who go to members of Congress with oversight roles, and if their efforts lead to a positive change in policy — recognize them for their efforts. There are no incentives for people to stand up against an agency on the wrong side of the law today, and that’s got to change.”
“The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance," Snowden added.
Snowden's comments were in response to Crane's account of how the Pentagon mistreated Thomas Drake and breached the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Crane's account, which was published in the book “Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden” by Mark Hertsgaard, appears to undermine President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's argument that Snowden could have taken another way rather than leaking NSA secrets to the media.
Crane reportedly accused Pentagon of retaliating against Drake in an episode that helps explain Snowden’s 2013 NSA disclosures. Crane told the Guardian that Pentagon officials named Drake to criminal investigators and also destroyed documents that could help in his defense. In 2002, Drake and his colleagues contacted the Pentagon to blow the whistle on Trailblazer, an expensive and poorly performing tool for mass-data analysis.
“If we have situations where we have whistleblowers investigated because they’re whistleblowers to the inspector general’s office that will simply shut down the whole whistleblower system,” Crane told the Guardian.
Commenting on the story, Snowden cited Drake’s case as a reason for his distrust in the government’s official whistleblower channels.
“When I was at NSA, everybody knew that for anything more serious than workplace harassment, going through the official process was a career-ender at best. It’s part of the culture,” Snowden told the Guardian. “If your boss in the mailroom lies on his timesheets, the IG might look into it. But if you’re Thomas Drake, and you find out the president of the United States ordered the warrantless wiretapping of everyone in the country, what’s the IG going to do? They’re going to flush it, and you with it.”