New Website Provides a Safe Harbor for Future Whistleblowers

Posted June 11, 2014

MP3 Interview with J. Kirk Wiebe, retired NSA whistleblower, conducted by Scott Harris. Transcript compiled by Evan Bieder.


It’s been a year since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden disclosed to the world the extent of America’s dragnet surveillance of international and domestic communications. Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, faces serious criminal charges in the U.S. for revealing classified information. But according to a recent poll nearly 25 percent of Americans reject the charge that Snowden is a traitor, believing instead that his disclosures launched an important and necessary debate on previously secret domestic government surveillance operations.

Now a new website, launched this month by the Institute for Public Accuracy, is providing future whistleblowers a safe harbor to reveal information regarding government and corporate wrongdoing, in order they say to foster an informed public debate on critical issues facing citizens in a democracy. The website, lists author Barbara Ehrenreich as a member of a five-person editorial board and a 40+-member board of advisors that includes: Daniel Ellsberg best known for revealing the Nixon-era Pentagon Papers along with other prominent whistleblowers, journalists, activists and civil libertarians.

Among those serving on the new website’s board of advisors is J. Kirk Wiebe, who worked at the NSA 36 years before resigning and blowing the whistle on waste fraud and abuse related to the Agency’s “Trailblazer” communications surveillance program. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Wiebe, who discusses why he’s participating in the launch of the website that will support future whistleblowers intent on revealing government and corporate wrongdoing.

J. KIRK WIEBE: For those employees in the intelligence community, there are literally no avenues for whistle blowing, none, none described anywhere in government. There are such avenues for other employees in government, but not any for those who work in the intelligence community. So, we believe there needed to be a simple front door with some structure. Now, people could say WikiLeaks is an avenue for blowing the whistle. WikiLeaks is really an avenue, it’s really a server on the Internet for posting data that you get your hands on as evidence of something of wrongdoing, and you kind of put it up there and that’s it and then the world reacts to it. Whereas – and there’s nothing the matter with that, that’s one way to do it – however, we thought we needed to have more structure and more help for the whistleblower. So, we wanted enough structure so that we could help point the whistleblower in the right direction, as well as assess the information and how best to handle it. It may be classified information, it may not be, but we wanted to help manage that process a bit, and if the whistleblower wants to know, for example, where they can get legal assistance we can point them into, for example, the Government Accountability Project, which is where Bill Binney and I found help, along with Tom Drake and Ed Loomis. They were a terrific assistance in providing legal help to us if we were to need it. We never did ultimately need it, but they gave us good guidance and it was good to have a place to go.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Mr. Wiebe, maybe you could tell our listeners a bit about your response to the government, who make the statement that whistleblowers who are in a government system have legal avenues to follow, unlike Edward Snowden and maybe like yourselves, who believe that the system is rigged to the point where there really are no legal avenues to pursue what they believe to be the public interest by divulging information that they believe the public needs to find out about.

J. KIRK WIEBE: Yeah, the system is definitely rigged. And what I mean by that, there are no formal channels that have integrity anymore. What I mean by that is, I, Bill Binney, Ed Loomis and Diane Roark, a former congressional staffer who witnessed this corruption as well, all four of us signed an I.G., and Inspector General Complaint in September of 2002, wrote a letter to the Inspector General of the United States Department of Defense. Why the DoD? Because NSA belongs to the Department of Defense. So, we filed an I.G. Complaint in September of 2002. The investigation grew to be 12 full-time agents investigating wrongdoing. There was that much wrongdoing, that much work that required that kind of a large team to accomplish it in two-and-a-half years. When the results were published in about a 100-page document, almost no one saw it because it was extremely devastating for the National Security Agency and to the managers running it. So it was stamped with high, top secret classifications to keep the distribution at an absolute minimum. In other words, keep it from the American people.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Kirk Wiebe, just a final question here: what do you hope this new project,, will produce? What of benefit to the public interest do you hope will come out of it?

J. KIRK WIEBE: We hope that people will look at us and the Ed Snowdens and look for strength in themselves, find the courage to come forward. We are in an unprecedented age of corruption in this nation. If people don’t believe that, they need to take a look at, who has been studying integrity and honesty in the United States for the last three decades. Fully 90 percent of people are willing to cheat if it means they can get ahead in their job. Now, with that kind of willingness, lack of integrity, lack of honesty, with so many people willing to go along to get along, we cannot survive as a nation under the Constitution, which requires truth, otherwise we’ll fall apart, arguing with each other, bickering in little pockets, one political agenda after the other. If we don’t get back on the facts and truths to help the Constitution work, we’re all going to lose our rights and government will react negatively to what’s going on and demand evermore controls over what we do. So, we have the potential to do the right thing. Whistleblowing is one avenue for people to pitch in and make the Constitution work.

Visit the website that will support future whistleblowers intent on revealing government and corporate wrongdoing.

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