SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
As noted previously, candidate Barack Obama promised to protect whistleblowers who come forward with information disclosing government waste, abuse, and inefficiency. Unfortunately, President Obama has done exactly the opposite. Obama’s real policies are exposed in documents filed in the prosecution of former CIA agent James Stirling.
According to federal prosecutors, Stirling was the source behind reports published by New York Times reporter James Risen (identified as “Author A” in its pleadings) that exposed a horribly botched, indeed hare-brained plot by the CIA designed to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. In particular, one chapter in Risen’s book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration, describes a CIA-authored scheme to use a Russian double agent to deliver to the Iranians a set of technical drawings that had been carefully doctored so as to be worthless. However, the double agent turned on the CIA in the end, disclosing the flaws that had been built into the design. The end result: the CIA operation had actually advanced Iran’s nuclear project. So what was the purpose of the strenuous U.S. government effort to punish Stirling for making it public? Justice contends that the disclosure harmed national security. But the decision to go after Sterling seems to have more to do with his violation of the intelligence community’s code of omertà, under which no agent ever speaks about another’s mistakes.
In a well-crafted discussion of the case, Josh Gerstein at Politico reports:
In a motion filed in federal court in Alexandria, Sterling’s defense lawyers, Ed MacMahon Jr. and Barry Pollack, reveal that the prosecution has turned over “various telephone records showing calls made by the author James Risen. It has provided three credit reports—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian—for Mr. Risen. It has produced Mr. Risen’s credit card and bank records and certain records of his airline travel.”
The revelation alarmed First Amendment advocates, particularly in light of Justice Department rules requiring the attorney general to sign off on subpoenas directed to members of the media and on requests for their phone records. And Risen told POLITICO that the disclosures, while not shocking, made him feel “like a target of spying.” “We’ve argued that I was a victim of harassment by the government. This seems to bolster that,” Risen said. “Maybe I should ask them what my credit score is.” Sterling’s attorneys and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined POLITICO’s request for comment…
Risen was twice subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury to testify about his sources, but the first grand jury dissolved before a judge acted on Risen’s motion to quash the subpoena. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema sided with Risen and quashed the second subpoena, though details of her reasoning haven’t been made public.
Did the Justice Department circumvent the ruling of a federal judge and grab Risen’s records even after its subpoena had been quashed? That’s the way it looks. And that would be entirely consistent with the victory-at-all-costs mindset so prevalent these days at Justice.
What role did Eric Holder play in these escapades? During the 2008 presidential campaign, Holder repeated to audiences, including once in my hearing, that the Justice Department would tread lightly on the First Amendment rights of reporters. Subpoenas issued against reporters would need the attorney general’s approval, he pledged. So did Holder approve the Department’s secret seizure of Risen’s personal records?
The Justice Department is telling us that it has weighed the people’s right to know, embodied in the Constitution, against the right of senior CIA officials not to be embarrassed through the public disclosures of their mistakes, a right which has no legal basis whatsoever. Guess which “right” always comes out on top?
Glenn Greenwald has a good take on the same developments here.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Damages sought, in a defamation suit, by a Chicago landlord from a tenant who complained about mold via Twitter:
The British House of Lords voted to limit the right of parents to spank their children.
The Mall of America hired its first black Santa, a real estate company valued Mr. and Mrs. Claus’s North Pole home at $656,957, and it was reported that the price of the gifts from “Twelve Days of Christmas” went up by more than $200 in 2016, to $34,363.49.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."