The National-Security State Persecutes Conscientious Objectors

Radack knows what her clients have gone through, for she was persecuted for whistleblowing during the Bush administration in a by-now-familiar series of events:

Radack's home detention of sorts began in November 2002, when she was effectively fired from Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, the Washington law firm where she'd been practicing housing law for just seven months after being forced out of the Justice Department's ethics unit in April 2002. An agent from DOJ's Inspector General's Office had spent the summer poking around her new office, informing Radack's co-workers that she was a "criminal," suspected of leaking to Newsweek emails she'd written while with the government that were critical of the FBI's interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. At first, Hawkins partner Cullen MacDonald was supportive, assuring Radack that it was a "hallmark of a government lawyer to be investigated." But by the fall, he demanded she sign an affidavit saying she didn't leak the emails, or resign. (For legal reasons, Radack still won't say whether she gave the emails to Newsweek, but she did claim protection under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it illegal for a government agency to retaliate against someone who may have gone to the press.)

Things rapidly went from bad to worse. Last January, the Inspector General referred its leak report to the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution. That office wouldn't say what crime she may or may not have committed; though since "leaking" isn't criminal, the charge presumably would be "theft of government property," or some similar offense. The case was finally dropped nine months later, on September 11, 2003, but in early November, the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility informed Radack that it had reported her to the Maryland and D.C. attorney regulatory authorities for violating confidentiality rules. The outcome of those inquiries won't be known for some time—whistleblowers are usually exempt from confidentiality rules—but even if Radack beats this latest rap, the damage to her reputation, to her ability to find work in Washington's close-knit legal and political community, may well be permanent.

This is how the national-security state treats people of conscience who dissent from the status quo, even when they break no laws and do no harm to national security.

And because of this treatment, national-security officials who insist that Snowden would've been treated fairly had he complained through official channels lack credibility. Under the last two presidents, whistleblowers have been treated more harshly than torturers, warrantless wiretappers, and perjurers. History will record these abuses as shameful stains on the legacies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who have been more loyal to the national-security state than law or morality.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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