No Comment — August 31, 2010, 1:33 pm

Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

As a young lawyer, Obama represented a whistleblower; as a presidential candidate, he pledged to “strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.” But as president, Obama has unleashed the most aggressive assault on whistleblowers Washington has ever seen—surpassing even George W. Bush. The latest example comes in a remarkable prosecution of Steven Kim, a well-known scholar of North Korea’s nuclear program.

Like most area experts at the top of the game, Kim does consulting for the State Department. He works for Lawrence Livermore Labs and was on secondment to the State Department at the time of the events in question. Now, however, Kim finds himself under indictment by the Justice Department. His crime? He spoke to Fox News about how the North Koreans were likely to react to proposed sanction measures. Former prosecutor and Johns Hopkins professor Ruth Wedgwood says that the Fox News report “contains completely unremarkable observations about what a country would do if it was sanctioned for its poor behavior. These kinds of observations were well known to anyone paying attention to public sources and ought not be the basis for making someone a federal felon.” I couldn’t agree more.

Assistant Attorney General David Kris brought the charges. The Kim prosecution is portrayed by him as a “warning to anyone who is entrusted with sensitive national security information and would consider compromising it.” To prohibit discussing such “sensitive” information is effectively to censor public debate about vital facts relating to international affairs and possibly to war. As Kris and his friends would have it, we’re supposed to be kept ignorant while the national-security state cares for us all. It’s also noteworthy that the Obama Justice Department gets worked up when the “leaks” benefit media with a critical attitude towards the administration, Fox News.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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