I’ve faulted Terry Gross for not talking about Edward Snowden on her popular interview show on National Public Radio. Well yesterday she did. Gross introduced an interview by Dave Davies of Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, both of whom worked for the National Security Agency for decades and quit six weeks after 9/11 because their intelligence concerns were not being considered. The two were later targeted in a leak investigation by the FBI, and featured in this PBS documentary, The United States of Secrets.
From Fresh Air yesterday:
DAVIES: I want to ask you when the documents that were leaked by Edward Snowden started emerging in the media, were you upset about this? How did you regard it?
BINNEY: I looked at it as there’s still another whistleblower out there. I mean I looked at it as he saw what happened to us and realized that you couldn’t come out and say these things and have people believe you because they wouldn’t. What they would do, NSA would call you a disgruntled employee or they would call you mentally disturbed or something like that. So I couldn’t blame him for taking some material. I didn’t realize he took so much of it, but I mean certainly enough material to justify or show and prove what he was alleging was true, and that’s certainly is what he’s done, has done a public service for everybody in this country and everybody around the world.
DAVIES: Kirk Wiebe, do you agree? I mean some say, you know, you should try within the system first.
WIEBE: We did. We tried for several years to do it within the system and look what they did to us. Clearly Edward Snowden saw that and said that’s obviously not an option, obviously not an option. And just to be a little more formal, there are no whistleblower protections for any employee of the intelligence – U.S. intelligence community. There are a modicum of protections for other government employees, but not inside the intelligence community.
DAVIES: President Obama came into office talking about transparency and extolling the value of whistleblowers. But his administration has been very tough on investigations of leakers. In fact, there’s still an attempt to get James Risen into court to testify about a source. I mean he could be facing a contempt citation and prison. And I’m wondering, I mean clearly you spent a lot of years – both of you – in an agency where secrets were important to keep and you believed that some secrets have to be kept.
What should a government do if it feels someone is leaking important information?
WIEBE: Well, first of all, I mean if they took whistleblowers who usually go internally to begin with and actually did something about it to try to correct a problem instead of covering it up – which is what they consistently have been doing, if they actually did something positive to try to resolve the issues that are being raised by whistleblowers, they wouldn’t have this problem.