India should not delay enacting a Privacy Act #mustshare


It is time the government stopped twiddling its thumbs and took action
Livemint
First Published: Mon, Jun 10 2013.
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint<br /><br />
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint
By modern standards of civility governments snooping on citizens is considered abhorrent behaviour. The admission by the US government that it has been collecting billions of pieces of information world-wide, especially personal data and emails, has thus been greeted by shock and anger. Indian citizens, too, have been subjected to this sweep, carried out under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or Fisa.
It is time the government of India stopped twiddling its thumbs and took strong measures such as enacting a Privacy Act to protect the rights of citizens.
An 8 June report by The Guardian suggests that 6.3 billion reports were collected from India. The investigation followed reports that the US has been monitoring communications between US and foreign nationals over the Internet for years under a project called “prism”. The Guardian said it has acquired classified documents about a data-mining tool called “boundless informant” that was used by the US National Security Agency that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
Reacting to earlier reports on the same issue, US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, issued a media release on 6 June, stating that The Guardian and The Washington Post articles “contain numerous inaccuracies”, but acknowledged that, “section 702 is a provision of Fisa that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the US…” The US government simultaneously clarified that the usage of such information or metadata (analytics of the humungous amounts of data intercepted) is used only after a due legal process.
Nevertheless, this assurance provides little comfort given that around 40 countries filter the Internet to varying degrees, including democratic and non-democratic governments. YouTube and Gmail (both from Google), BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, WikiLeaks, Skype (now a Microsoft product), Twitter and Facebook have all been censored, at different times, in China, Iran, Egypt and even India.
In April, the Union government began rolling out a central monitoring system, or CMS, which will enable it to monitor all phone and Internet communication in the country. Human Rights Watch in a 7 June media release described CMS as “chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws”.
Cybersecurity experts caution that while US and European Union citizens have recourse to law under their own domestic privacy policies, India has no such safeguard. The obvious agency to take a lead in the design, framing and enactment of such a law is, of course, the Union government. But it is hard to expect the government to take any initiative in the matter as—like any government—it would want to have the capabilities to intercept private communication of citizens. On 25 April 2011, the government in a media release admitted that provisions for authorization of interception are contained in section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, read with Rule 419 (A) of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, as well as in section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, read with the Information Technology (Directions for Interception or Monitoring or Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
The release also pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its order of 18 December 1996, had upheld the constitutional validity of interceptions and monitoring under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, but added that telephone tapping would infringe the Right to Life and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in articles 21 and 19(1)(a), respectively, of the Constitution of India, unless permitted under the procedure established by law.
However, these guidelines are implemented more by way of an exception rather than as a rule.
The trouble here is that while the law is clear, it has multiple exceptions built into it that allow the government to do as it pleases. The safeguards thought of by the judiciary are not sufficient to protect the privacy of citizens. It is too much to hope that the government will adhere to privacy norms on its own. Three things need to happen in case India is ever to have a reasonable chance at a decent privacy law. One, citizen awareness and activism have to assume a much higher level than what prevails now. Two, public representatives—legislators, especially in Parliament—have to realize that privacy is a right that is at par with other rights and should not be trampled at will. Finally, at an appropriate juncture, the higher judiciary should take a look at the issue carefully once again. Continuous judicial scrutiny of the government is, for now, the only viable option to check abuses of privacy.
Does India need a privacy law? Tell us at views@livemint.com

#India- Warning – UID will create a digital caste System #Aadhaar #Aadhar


Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

Biometric scanning of fingerprints during the launch of UID enrolment at the General Post Office in Bangalore

Interview with WikiLeaks activist, BS

Read more on:    UID | WikiLeaks | Jacob Appelbaum | Julian Assange | Digital caste system

Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks spokesperson

He prefers that the audio recorder is not switched on during the interview because “whenever there’s an audio recording, there’s a file to be subpoena-ed”. And, he’s stuck a band-aid over the camera of the laptop he’s been working on. All these precautions are not without reason – Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher, hacker, activist, and a spokesperson for WikiLeaks, who also co-authored Cypherphunks: Freedom and Future of the Internet with WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, talks to Indulekha Aravind about the potential pitfalls of India’s ambitious UID project. Excerpts:

What is your view of India’s UID/Aadhaar programme?
UID will create a digital caste system because going by the way it is now being implemented, if you choose not to be part of the system, you will be the modern-day equivalent of an outcast. In theory, you are supposed to have the freedom to choose but in reality, the choice will only be whether to be left out and left behind.

What about the benefits it is supposed to offer, such as tackling corruption and protection against terrorism?
I don’t dispute that there will be benefits but I dispute whether UID will end corruption and whether one will be able to opt out of the system with dignity. Criminals will be able to subvert this system easily. In Germany, for example, a group of hackers were able to duplicate the fingerprint of Schauble (Germany’s finance minister, a proponent of collecting biometric data). And, it now costs less than a dollar to get a transferable fingerprint. About the question of containing terrorism, imagine a situation where a terrorist gets access to the central UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) database — he will be able to get all the details of every individual he wishes to target.

Considering that the programme has already been rolled out, what can the government now do to safeguard individual privacy?
First of all, there should be no centralised database. The information should be just on the cards. This can easily be done with smartcards. If you link all the information, that amounts to surveillance. There should also be legislation to prevent discrimination against people who have not registered with UIDAI.

What is your current involvement with WikiLeaks?
I like that to remain ambiguous (smiles). I’ve given talks on behalf of Julian (Assange) when he was unable to. After one particular talk I gave in 2010, my life changed. I was repeatedly harassed by US authorities.

What are the other projects you’re currently involved with?
I do computer security-related research, I work with human rights activists, and work with open software. I’m also involved with the Tor project, which aims at improving users’ privacy and security on the internet. If an Indian businessman goes to China, for example, and does not want his internet usage to be monitored, he can do that with Tor. (The Wall Street Journal termed Tor “an anonymous, and controversial, way to surf the Net”).

You have been dubbed a “hacktivist”…
I started working with open software and hacking before I was 15, after I realised I wanted to live in a world free from state surveillance. I’m a human being who does investigative journalism, research, and even works on international policy – I prefer not to be pigeon-holed.

 

UID will result in loss of freedoms: WikiLeaks backer #Aadhaar


The Hindu, By V. Sridha

Computer security expert , Jacob Appelbaum at a talk in TERI complex in Bangalore on Tuesday. Photo : K . Bhagya Prakash
The establishment of a centralised database of Indian citizens such as the Unique Identification (UID) project will result in the loss of freedoms on a “societal scale,” according to Jacob Appelbaum, a staunch supporter of the WikiLeaks project.

Addressing a small gathering of hacking enthusiasts here late on Tuesday, Mr. Appelbaum, an associate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, said he was “horrified” by the establishment in India of the Central Monitoring System (CMS), which was being used to gather a diverse range of analogue and digital information, including telephone records, text messages and Internet traffic. “We live in the golden age of surveillance,” said Mr. Appelbaum, a U.S. citizen who has been detained by U.S. law-enforcement agencies on at least a dozen occasions.

“The problem with the Unique Identification (UID) system or the CMS is not that it will not be perfect,” but the fact that it would result in people being forced to “behave differently” because they would be under surveillance or have to live in fear of it. “This amounts to a loss of freedom,” he argued. “To watch is to control, and surveillance is a kind of control.”

Warning of the possibilities of data theft, Mr. Appelbaum said that though “fingerprint lifting may appear far-fetched now,” techniques for enabling “transferable fingerprints” were being discussed in the public realm. Iris scans, he told The Hindu, were also “far from being foolproof.”

“These are things that deserve resistance, not protest, because protest happens when you do not go along with something,” he said. “Resistance, on the other hand, happens when you stop others from going along.” “I also think we need to build alternatives to these systems.”

Though he conceded that there might be a need for citizen identification systems in society, he argued that centralising them posed grave dangers to the freedom of citizens. “When we centralise the collection of information, we actually centralise the place that an attacker would like to attack to gain control of society,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

The “intentions” of those in authority do not matter because “general purpose information systems” were difficult to protect. “We can try, but there is a threshold of attack, where someone will probably win.” “If there are valid concerns of national security, espionage or terrorism, does it make sense to make a centralised system with all the records of usage of phones, Internet browsing, emails, fingerprints?” “Doing this may result in losses on a societal scale,” he said.

Mr. Appelbaum, co-author, with Mr. Assange, of Cypherpunks: Freedom and the future of the Internet, said “dragnet surveillance” systems amounted to “a tyranny of sorts.”

Example from Nazi Germany

Arguing against the notion that technology is benign, Mr. Appelbaum recalled the use of punching card technologies deployed by the Nazi regime in Germany to target Jews, Communists and others social groups. The machines enabled the regime to determine how many Jews or Communists lived in a particular residential block, he said. “We can understand from the past what possibilities exist in the future for surveillance,” he said. “In fact, when people suggest that surveillance causes no harm, they are denying history.”

He recalled the “Athens Incident” of 2004, when the telephone switches leading to the Prime Minister and a number of Greek parliamentarians were subjected to wiretapping with “interception systems.” He pointed out that telephone-switching standards established in the U.S. were mimicked all over the world. “There is a trickledown effect in all this. So, Greece gets them [interception systems] just the same way as Iran gets them, and just about the way the U.S. has them,” Mr. Appelbaum said.

“The theory goes that the FBI [the Federal Bureau of Investigation], which is legitimate, goes to a court and never abuses its authority, and so everything is fine.” But the “backdoors” built into these switches made them vulnerable to anyone who might have access to the switch through a computer network.

Internet freedom

“In theory, the Internet allows us to be free, but the fact that almost by default, the Internet is not secure implies a breakdown of this freedom,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “This results in a strange situation: people have the freedom to communicate and say what they want, but does the surveillance actually allow them to be free?”

An expert hacker, Mr. Appelbaum said: “Technology is quite boring, when compared with the richness of societies.” Urging the audience to read his book, he said: “You have my blessings to download it from Pirate Bay.”

 

Maharashtra’s role exposed during Emergency in India #Vaw


April 9, 2013, TNN

Documents released by WikiLeaks have also revealed that Maharashtra had proposed a “compulsory sterilization legislation’’ during Emergency.

Wikileaks has a document dated September 10, 1976 classified as “Limited Official Use’’ and marked to: Department of Health Education and Welfare; Chennai; Kolkata; Mumbai.

It was the “first proposed legislation in the world dealing with compulsory sterilization’’ and it had proposed a “six month to two years jail term for persons not adhering to the child limit.’’ TNN

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange loses extradition battle


By , Wednesday, May 30

LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court on Wednesday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Swedento face questions about allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful coercion.At a short hearing in central London, the president of the Supreme Court, Nicholas Phillips, said the court dismissed the defense team’s argument that the warrant that led to Assange’s arrest was flawed.

Speaking to a packed courtroom, Phillips said the case had “not been simple to resolve,” and was decided by a vote of 5 to 2.In a surprise intervention, Assange’s legal team asked — and was granted — two weeks to consider lodging an application to reopen the case. The lawyers said that the judges decided the case based on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, but that this point had not been discussed in court.

Assange — who shot to international fame when his anti-secrecy Web site spilled official state secrets in the form of Afghanistan and Iraq military reports and a mammoth cache of diplomatic cables — did not appear in court on Wednesday. His lawyers told reporters he was stuck in traffic.

Swedish authorities want to question Assange — no charges have been laid — about separate encounters he had with two WikiLeaks volunteers. The volunteers say they had consensual sex with Assange, but at some stage, it became non-consensual. One of the women, described in the courts here as “Miss B,” accused Assange of having unwanted sex with her while she was asleep.

Although Assange insists the sex was consensual, his case before the Supreme Court hinged on a single technicality: Was the Swedish prosecutor who issued the European arrest warrant that led to his arrest in December 2010 a valid judicial authority?

Only a “competent judicial authority” can issue a European arrest warrant, a system ushered in to speed up extradition between European nations.

In a 161-page judgment, the Supreme Court haggles over what, exactly, is meant by the words “judicial authority,” ultimately rejecting Assange’s arguments that a public prosecutor cannot fall into the category.

Although the Supreme Court is Britain’s highest appellate court for civil cases, Assange has not yet exhausted all of his legal options.

Assange can still appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, which would decide within two weeks whether or not to take the case. If that court declined to take the case, Assange would be extradited to Sweden “as soon as arrangements can be made,” according to a statement by the Crown Prosecution Service. If the European court accepts the case, analysts say, the long-running legal battle could drag on for more weeks or months.

In February 2011, a lower court in Britain granted Sweden’s extradition request. Assange appealed the ruling and lost, but he won permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case before seven judges — two more than normal — because, the court said, of the “great public importance of the issue raised, which is whether a prosecutor is a judicial authority.”

Assange’s attorneys have argued that the allegations lodged against him are politically motivated and said they fear Swedish authorities might hand him over to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act for leaking State Department diplomatic cables.

Over the next two weeks, Assange will remain in Britain under his current bail terms, which include wearing an electronic tag around his ankle and checking in daily with local police.

Such is the worldwide interest in the case that the Supreme Court issued a statement last week encouraging visitors who were not attending the Assange judgment to “choose another day to visit the building.”


Marching Orders


Marching Orders

Shobhan Saxena, TNN | Mar 4, 2012,

When a backpacker is woken up by the police in the middle of the night, forced to reveal the password of his laptop, and put on a flight toGermany because he is suspected of “financing” an agitation in the area, it looks both silly and paranoid.”In India, I lived on $10 per day. There was no budget for financing organizations or people. I never made any money transfer on behalf of other people or organizations. I am unemployed,” says Rainer Sonnntag Hermann, the German tourist who was deported from Chennai on Wednesday. “I participated in some anti-nuclear demonstrations. As far as I know, this was no illegal activity,” he adds from his home in Essen, Germany.

This week, as the Centre began looking into the funding of some NGOs for their “role” in the agitation against the Kudankulam nuclear plant, a WikiLeaks report revealed that a private US intelligence firm, Stratfor, has been spying on NGOs and activists in Bhopal on behalf of Dow Chemicals, the company they have been fighting with for compensation and justive to victims of the gas tragedy in 1984.

With the government breathing down their neck and private spooks on their tail, activists see a devious design – an attempt to silence protests . “There has been a concerted effort to criminalize the whole Bhopal movement. After 27 years of the tragedy , the people and firms responsible for the death of thousands of people remain unpunished, but there are a number of cases against the activists. If convicted , we could spend up to 15 years in jail,” says Satyu Saranagi, an activist who has been tracked by Stratfor, the Texas-based firm.

Is space for genuine protests shrinking in India? Is the government so fearful of the so-called foreign hand? The government denies there is a witchunt in this case. “Accounts of NGOs are generally being scrutinised by various agencies. It is incorrect to say that 77 NGOs are being investigated. We are looking into the accounts of 12-13 Indian NGOs with regard to allegation of funds diversion,” Union home secretary R K Singh said on Friday.

But activists say bigger issues are stake. “There is a sharp contradiction here. The multinational corporations can come to India, do business and also influence government policies but foreign NGOs and activists have to face all kinds of problems,” says Sarangi.

In the inter-connected world, say activists, this paranoia makes little sense and governments must learn to live with global activists. “I was shocked when people were killed in police firing at Jaitapur, Maharashtra . Indian police killing their own people for the interest of a French nuclear company is unacceptable to us. I have a right to protest in my country as well as in India,” says a French activist who doesn’t want to be named as she fears revocation of her visa.

Visa is one of the sticks the government uses to beat the “trouble-making” foreign activists and NGOs with. The Foreign Currency Regulation Act (FCRA) and Income-Tax laws are other methods to “discipline” people. In states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa, there has been so much harassment by government agencies that NGOs receiving foreign aid have almost stopped organizing protest rallies. “Local intelligence units and the police regularly check our accounts and and scare us with FCRA and I-T laws,” says Indu Netam, a well-known activist who runs Adivasi Samta Manch in Kanker, Chhattisgarh . “By changing the definition of ‘political activity’ in FCRA, the government has made it impossible for us to organize rallies and the entire culture of protests has been silenced.”

What’s a democracy without disagreements and protests? Should a government try to control civil society groups and movements by using laws against them? The government should, say experts , regulate and not control NGOs. “Regulate the sector as you regulate foreign investment or companies . For years, NGOs have been demanding that they should be under FEMA and not FCRA as it’s that act which applies to companies using foreign exchange in India. All foreign companies operating in India may not be good for the country, but the government doesn’t try to control them. The same principle should apply to NGOs,” says Maja Daruwala of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. “I can’t understand this paranoia, this belief of the government that certain sector requires their suspicion, and others not.”

With NGOs and foreign activists under the scanner , there is a big question mark over the future of protests in the world’s biggest democrac

Tweet, Tweet Justice: Company’s Censorship Policy Probed


twitter logo map 09

twitter logo map 09 (Photo credit: The Next Web)

By Meg Roggensack
Senior Advisor, Business and Human Rights, Human Rights First

In her 2010 landmark speech on internet freedom, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton laid out her vision for one internet where access to information isn’t defined by geographic boundaries or political regimes. Today, that vision is even more remote, as evidenced by Twitter’s recent announcement that it would comply with host governments that wish to censor messages.

Twitter made clear that it will censor only after legal review, be transparent about its decisions unless precluded by local law, and ensure that messages censored in one country are available in others. These are important steps and align with commitments made by the tech companies that belong to the Global Network Initiative (GNI). This also puts Twitter on the same side as other companies trying to address the human rights impacts of their global ICT operations – as opposed to those who are not even in the conversation.

But is Twitter’ s policy adequate? Does it propel Secretary Clinton’s vision forward? We at Human Rights First think Twitter is on the right path, but can do better – by making clear the principles for evaluating the legitimacy of requests, and by mounting tough challenges to requests that conflict with national and international guarantees of free expression.

As Secretary Clinton observed in her speech, “The internet will be what we make of it…we need to [take affirmative steps to] synchronize our technological progress with our values.” This can only happen if Twitter and other companies in the ICT sector work harder to realize this vision of a single, unified internet. We’re concerned that Twitter’s new policy is likely to encourage more censorship, not less.

How will Twitter’s new policy affect the overall integrity of its global service? Will there be any jurisdiction where the entirety of Twitter’s messages will be available to users, as Secretary Clinton envisioned, or will Twitter’s service be a Swiss cheese of big and small holes, reflecting censorship preferences around the globe?

Twitter has proven in the past that there’s a better way to handle these requests. It successfully challenged a U.S. federal court’s gag order associated with Wikileaks and then informed the targets of the subpoena so that they could challenge the order. In conveying its new policy, Twitter should make clear that it will aggressively challenge these restrictions, based on available national and international rights guarantees. Many authoritarian governments have broad constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and/or have signed on to international treaties. Twitter should use these guarantees to elaborate and publish its criteria for screening such requests, and should mount constitutional challenges when pressed. This would leave no doubt about Twitter’s commitment to internet freedom.

Twitter was instrumental to the Arab Spring as one of the few platforms that activists could use to organize and disseminate their views. One year later, Twitter’s role in bringing about political reform is even greater. As Human Rights First heard from a prominent Egyptian pro-democracy leader two weeks ago, Twitter has become the platform for activists. It is easy to use, quick, and searchable.

Without the ability to freely view and post tweets, Twitter’s users, including pro-democracy and human rights activists, can’t communicate, organize, and advocate in real time. Even if the rest of us are able to read tweets that repressive governments censor, tweets that are not accessible to the original posters and their networks are deprived of their utility and transformative power.

Twitter should build on the important safeguards it has announced. And Twitter’s dilemma should spark all ICT companies to think carefully about how the choices they make today will affect the internet we use tomorrow.

Silent State: The Campaign Against Whistleblowers in Washington


February 11, 2012

On January 23rd, the Obama administration charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists about the waterboarding of al-Qaeda suspects. His is just the latest prosecution in an unprecedented assault on government whistleblowers and leakers of every sort.

Kiriakou’s plight will clearly be but one more battle in a broader war to ensure that government actions and sunshine policies don’t go together. By now, there can be little doubt that government retaliation against whistleblowers is not an isolated event, nor even an agency-by-agency practice. The number of cases in play suggests an organized strategy to deprive Americans of knowledge of the more disreputable things that their government does. How it plays out in court and elsewhere will significantly affect our democracy.

Punish the Whistleblowers

The Obama administration has already charged more people — six — under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined. (Prior to Obama, there were only three such cases in American history.)

Kiriakou, in particular, is accused of giving information about the CIA’s torture programs to reporters two years ago. Like the other five whistleblowers, he has been charged under the draconian World War I-era Espionage Act.

That Act has a sordid history, having once been used against the government’s political opponents. Targets included labor leaders and radicals like Eugene V. Debs, Bill Haywood, Philip Randolph, Victor Berger, John Reed, Max Eastman, and Emma Goldman. Debs, a union leader and socialist candidate for the presidency, was, in fact, sentenced to 10 years in jail for a speech attacking the Espionage Act itself. The Nixon administration infamously (and unsuccessfully) invoked the Act to bar the New York Times from continuing to publish the classified Pentagon Papers.

Yet, extreme as use of the Espionage Act against government insiders and whistleblowers may be, it’s only one part of the Obama administration’s attempt to sideline, if not always put away, those it wants to silence. Increasingly, federal agencies or departments intent on punishing a whistleblower are also resorting to extra-legal means. They are, for instance, manipulating personnel rules that cannot be easily challenged and do not require the production of evidence. And sometimes, they are moving beyond traditional notions of “punishment” and simply seeking to destroy the lives of those who dissent.

The well-reported case of Thomas Drake is an example. As an employee, Drake revealed to the press that the National Security Agency (NSA) spent $1.2 billion on a contract for a data collection program called Trailblazer when the work could have been done in-house for $3 million. The NSA’s response? Drake’s home was raided at gunpoint and the agency forced him out of his job.

“The government convinced themselves I was a bad guy, an enemy of the state, and went after me with everything they had seeking to destroy my life, my livelihood, and my person — the politics of personal destruction, while also engaging in abject, cutthroat character assassination, and complete fabrication and frame up,” Drake told Antiwar.com. “Marriages are strained, and spouses’ professional lives suffer as much as their personal lives. Too often, whistleblowers end up broken, blacklisted, and bankrupted,” said the attorney who represents Drake.

In Kiriakou’s case, the CIA found an excuse to fire his wife, also employed by the Agency, while she was on maternity leave. Whistleblower Bradley Manning, accused of leaking Army and State Department documents to the website WikiLeaks, spent more than a year in the worst of punitive conditions in a U.S. Marine prison and was denied the chance even to appear in court to defend himself until almost two years after his arrest. Former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Morris Davis lost his career as a researcher at the Library of Congress for writing a critical op-ed for the Wall Street Journal and a letter to the editor at the Washington Post on double standards at the infamous prison, as did Robert MacClean for blowing the whistle on the Transportation Security Administration.

Four employees of the Air Force Mortuary in Dover, Delaware, attempted to address shortcomings at the facility, which handles the remains of all American service members who die overseas. Retaliation against them included firings, the placing of employees on indefinite administrative leave, and the imposition of five-day suspensions. The story repeats itself in the context of whistleblowers now suing the Food and Drug Administration for electronically spying on them when they tried to alert Congress about misconduct at the agency. We are waiting to see the Army’s reaction to whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis, who documented publicly this week that senior leaders of the Department of Defense intentionally and consistently misled the American people and Congress on the conduct and progress of the Afghan War.

And this remains the most partial of lists, when it comes to recent examples of non-judicial government retaliation against whistleblowers.

Government bureaucrats know that this sort of slow-drip intimidation keeps people in line. It may, in the end, be less about disciplining a troublemaker than offering visible warning to other employees. They are meant to see what’s happening and say, “Not me, not my mortgage, not my family!” — and remain silent. Of course, creative, thoughtful people also see this and simply avoid government service.

In this way, such a system can become a self-fulfilling mechanism in which ever more of the “right kind” of people chose government service, while future “troublemakers” self-select out — a system in which the punishment of leakers becomes the pre-censorship of potential leakers. At the moment, in fact, the Obama administration might as well translate the famed aphorism “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent” into Latin and carve it into the stone walls of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, or NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, or the main office of the State Department at Foggy Bottom where I still fight to keep my job.

Silent State

I am told that, in its 223 years of existence, I am the only Foreign Service Officer ever to have written a critical book about the State Department while still employed there. We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People exposed what State did not want people to know: that they had wasted enormous amounts of money in Iraq, mostly due to ignorance and a desire for short-term successes that could be trumpeted back home. For the crime of writing this book and maintaining a blog that occasionally embarrasses, State Department officials destroyed my career, even as they confirm my thesis, and their own failure, by reducing the Baghdad Embassy to half its size in the face of Iraq’s unraveling.

“The State Department was aware of Mr. Van Buren’s book long prior to its release,” explains attorney Jesslyn Radack, who now represents me. “Yet instead of addressing the ample evidence of fraud, waste, and abuse in the book, State targeted the whistleblower. The State Department’s retaliatory actions are a transparent attempt to intimidate and silence an employee whose critique of fraudulent, wasteful, and mismanaged U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq embarrassed the agency.”

Without allowing any rebuttal or defense, State suspended my security clearance, claiming my blogging was an example of “poor judgment,” transferred me from a substantive job into a meaningless telework position, threatened felony conviction over alleged disclosure of classified information, illegally banned me from entering the building where I supposedly work, and continues to try to harass and intimidate me.

My travel vouchers from as far back as the law allows have come under “routine” re-examination. My Internet activity is the subject of daily reports. My credit reports have been examined for who knows what. Department friends who email me on topical issues have been questioned by agents of Diplomatic Security, the State Department’s internal police. My Freedom of Information Act request for documents to help defend myself and force State to explain its actions has been buried.

Without a security clearance, and with my Diplomatic Passport impounded, I will never serve overseas again, the lifeblood of being a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). A career that typically would extend another 10 years will be cut short in retaliation for my attempt to tell the truth about how taxpayer money was squandered in Iraq.

All of this has taken place in such a way that I cannot challenge it (except by writing and speaking about it in public — at additional risk). The State Department has standard disciplinary procedures that it could have invoked against me, but those leave room for public challenges and, in some cases, would allow me to force documents into the open that State would rather not share with you.

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