End Espionage Act Prosecutions of Whistleblowers

We the undersigned organizations and individuals call for an end to the use of the constitutionally dubious Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who give information to the media on matters of public concern.

It is entirely inappropriate to use a law supposedly aimed at actual spies and saboteurs, against individuals who act in good faith to bring government misconduct to the attention of the public. Yet, we have seen this statute used with greater frequency against whistleblowers.

New US Espionage Act prosecution has troubling implications for press freedom

The Committee to Protect Journalists today said it is concerned by the U.S. Department of Justice’s use of the Espionage Act to charge an FBI agent for allegedly leaking information to a reporter.

“Over the past decade, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the use of an antiquated World War I-era law to go after journalistic sources. The result has been a chilling effect,” said Alexandra Ellerbeck, North America program coordinator at CPJ. “Rather than rolling back the use of this law, which is all but guaranteed to ensnare journalists, the Trump Administration has boasted about pursuing leakers even as it has ushered in a new era of overt hostility to the press.”

Ahead of Trial, Government Vilifies NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner

As whistleblower Reality Winner nears trial, prosecutors for the United States government have focused on framing Winner as “anti-American,” denying her bail and due process, and depriving her defense attorneys of adequate access to resources.

Winner, an Air Force veteran working for an intelligence contractor in Augusta, Georgia, printed out and mailed a classified NSA document to The Intercept in May 2017. The document reported that Russian hackers conducted cyberattacks against a United States voting software supplier and sent phishing emails to more than 100 election officials leading up to the November 2016 election, though the data used to develop this analysis was not included in the report.

Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Reporters Without Borders: constitutional complaint lodged against the BND law

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), together with five civil society organisations, has lodged a constitutional complaint against the Federal Intelligence Service Act, also known as the BND law.

In the complaint, international journalists seek to defend themselves against the powers granted to the German foreign intelligence agency, the BND, in the area of surveillance. The complainants are for the most part investigative journalists. Among these journalists is the winner of the Right Livelihood Award, Khadija Ismayilova from Azerbaijan, and the Mexican investigative journalist Raúl Olmos, who was a member of the international team of reporters that evaluated the Paradise Papers. The international organisation Reporters Without Borders, which is based in Paris, is also one of the complainants asserting before the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe that the right to freedom of the press and freedom of communication are being violated.

U.S. Intelligence Shuts Down Damning Report on Whistleblower Retaliation

The nation’s top intelligence watchdog put the brakes on a report last year that uncovered whistleblower reprisal issues within America’s spy agencies, The Daily Beast has learned. The move concealed a finding that the agencies—including the CIA and the NSA—were failing to protect intelligence workers who report waste, fraud, abuse, or criminality up the chain of command.

The investigators looked into 190 cases of alleged reprisal in six agencies, and uncovered a shocking pattern. In only one case out of the 190 did the agencies find in favor of the whistleblower—and that case took 742 days to complete. Other cases remained open longer. One complaint from 2010 was still waiting for a ruling. But the framework was remarkably consistent: Over and over and over again, intelligence inspectors ruled that the agency was in the right, and the whistleblowers were almost always wrong.

Coalition to Congress: Uphold Section 504 of the National Security Act. In other words, don’t let intelligence agencies move money around behind Congress’ back.

A dozen civil liberties, open government, and accountability organizations joined Defending Rights & Dissent to protest a provision included in the Continuing Resolution Congress passed to end the government shutdown on January 22. The provision allowed intelligence agencies to shift expenditures “notwithstanding Section 504 of the National Security Act.” That’s the law, passed in 1947, that is designed to prevent intelligence agencies from running amok (or at least from going too rogue) by preventing them from spending money on activities that Congress didn’t appropriate money for. And requiring them to inform Congress after the fact if they do switch money around.

Courage statement on Lauri Love’s extradition ruling

Courage’s Case Director Naomi Colvin responded to today’s Lauri Love extradition ruling:

This is the result Lauri and his family have spent four years waiting for. This ruling is a massive victory for free expression online, for the fair treatment of neurodiverse people and for those of us who have drawn attention to the dire treatment of hackers and information activists in the United States. This ruling will be taken as a comment on the growing international isolation of the US under the Trump administration, and rightly so.

Demand Progress Applauds Sen. Hirono’s ‘Korematsu Day’ Resolution

Today, Senator Hirono (HI) introduced Senate Resolution 387, which recognizes January 30, 2018 as the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Co-sponsors include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Chris Coons (DE), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). The parallels between Sen. Hirono’s measure, which honors Americans of Japanese ancestry who were wrongly detained en mass during World War II as part of an irredeemably racist policy, and statements by President Trump aimed at immigrants and Muslims, are unmistakable.

Institutional Lack of Candor – FISA Violations

At multiple junctures, the FISA Court (FISC) has identified serious compliance problems with Section 702 of FISA, often based on the government’s repeated inability to follow basic rules that are supposed to protect Americans. Even when the government and its lawyers have promised to fix these problems, a wide variety of violations have persisted, including unauthorized collection of Americans’ communications, prohibited queries using Americans’ identifiers, and unlawful sharing of this highly sensitive information.