U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that theAP leak put U.S. lives at risk and demanded “very aggressive” method of investigation, reported the BBC.
Revelations this week of a secret Justice Department seizure of two months’ worth of phone records from The Associated Press are the latest flare up in tense relationship between the U.S. government and the media when it comes to whistleblowers.
The Obama administration’s legacy with access to information and whistleblowers has been contentious. While the administration claims it’s the “most transparent” in history, many critics accused the president of doublespeak on the issue, lauding whistleblowers with the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement act of November 2012 while aggressively prosecuting leaks at the same time.
According to a statement from the White House, the president’s office was not involved in the Justice Department’s request of the AP’s phone records, reported The Huffington Post.
According to The New York Times, the Obama administration has waged the most aggressive campaign against whistleblowers in U.S. history, responsible for six of the nine total indictments ever brought under the 1917 Espionage Act. See a brief timeline of the prosecutions assembled by the newspaper here, including the famous 1973 Pentagon Papers case.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the act as a “grave violation” of press freedom and argued that the Justice Department’s overstep signals the need for a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources from government interference.
The Obama administration has six current and former government officials indicted on leak-related charges so far, reported The New York Times this morning. Here’s a list of them:
1. Shamai K. Leibowitz, 2009
Leibowitz, a former-FBI Hebrew translator, pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to Richard Silverstein who blogs at Tikun Olam, reported AlterNet. The translator passed 200 pages of transcribed conversations recorded by FBI wiretaps of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C. Leibowitz was sentenced to up to 20 months in prison, according to The Washington Post.
2. Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, 2010
Kim was a nuclear proliferation expert working on a contract basis for the U.S. State Department when he was accused of leaking information about North Korea to Fox News.
The Justice Department claimed that Kim was the source behind Fox News journalist James Rosen’s 2009 report suggesting that the North would likely test another nuclear bomb in reaction to a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its tests, reported AlterNet.
Kim pleaded not guilty to the charges. A Federal Grand Jury indicted him but the case has not gone to trial, according to The New York Times.
3. Thomas Drake, 2010
Drake worked as a senior executive at the National Security Agency when he was charged with “willful retention” of classified documents under the Espionage Act. He leaked information about government waste on digital data gathering technology to The Baltimore Sun, according to AlterNet.
At one point Drake faced up to 35 years in prison for several charges. Eventually, most of the charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for “exceeding authorized use of a computer.” He was sentenced to one-year probation and community service.
4. Pfc. Bradley Manning, 2010
Probably the best known of the six under indictment, Manning was the source behind the WikiLeaks and CableGate information dumps. Critics accuse the government of dragging its feet and aggressively redacting requests for public information about the trial. One journalist opined that the Guantanamo military tribunals were more transparent.
Manning faces a court martial and a harsher sentence that could include life in prison without parole, reported The New York Times. AlterNet pointed out, however, that prosecutors would have to prove Manning released the documents with the intention of harming the U.S. to win those harsher charges, something Manning denies. His trial is set for next month, June 3.
5. Jeffery Sterling, 2010
Sterling, a former-CIA official, pleaded not guilty to leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen regarding a failed U.S. attempt to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. The information in question was published in Risen’s book “State of War.”
Risen successfully fought several subpoenas from the federal government to reveal his sources during Sterling’s trial, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The Justice Department announced in the summer of 2012 that it has “effectively terminated” the case, according to the Times.
6. John C. Kiriakou, 2012
One of the few prosecuted under the Espionage act to serve jail time, Kiriakou was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Jan. 25, 2013, for leaking classified information to the media. Kiriakou pleaded not guilty to releasing the name of an undercover CIA agent to a reporter and information about the intelligence agency’s use of waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique.
Kiriakou is the first person successfully prosecuted under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 27 years, according to the Times. The reporter the ex-CIA official spoke to did not publish the undercover agent’s name, although the Times pointed out that the agent’s identity appeared in a sealed legal filing and on an “obscure” website.
Corporations have been given the power to own seeds. And they are eliminating competing varieties and crowning their own patented seeds as the only choice in the marketplace.
Seeds. They seem like such a small thing when compared to the big, complex problems the world is facing — climate change, poverty, war, famine, peak oil and an exploding population. They’re so small, in fact, that most will fit easily under your thumb.
But stop and think again. Without those tiny grains, what would be left on Earth?
Seeds are the bedrock of our food chain, the basic element of our sustenance. If they were to disappear tomorrow, we would follow them into oblivion with lightning speed. And, the most pressing issue people are often unaware of is that they are currently under grave and direct threats.
Sounds ominous, huh? Wondering why? Well, the answer is two-fold. First, we have witnessed a staggering loss of genetic diversity. In the past century, world agriculture has lost 75% of its genetic diversity to globalization, standardization and monoculture farming; 95% of the tomato varieties that existed in 1909 have become extinct; 91% of corn – gone. In addition, 95% of the cabbage varieties your great-great grandma grew have been consigned to oblivion. And though this may not seem on the surface to be a big deal, in reality it could mean the difference between full bellies and famine.
Genetic diversity in the food plants we grow is more than just the number of tomatoes listed in your favorite seed catalog. Diversity ensures that there are sufficient, genetically diverse and well-adapted varieties of any given plant to respond to any given situation. When a crisis arises, such as a new fungal disease or a severe drought, diverse genetics ensure that some varieties will naturally have genes that enable them to resist the threat and grow on, passing their genetic strengths on to the next generation. Without that diversity, with a significantly narrower gene pool to draw upon, crops and plants become susceptible to complete annihilation when these new threats arise. Such a disaster is not unprecedented.
The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s had such a devastating effect on Ireland’s population not only because they depended so heavily upon that one crop, but because they relied on only one variety. When the fungus hit, the one variety in wide cultivation was extremely susceptible and the mainstay of the Irish diet was destroyed within two seasons. Even as recently as the United States corn blight of the 1970’s, when 80% of American corn was of a similar genetic heritage and some 10 million acres of the crop were lost in a single season, we have seen the perils of lack of diversity.
The second threat to our seeds comes from industrial agriculture’s relative recent access to patents, as well as genetically modified organisms and seed company acquisitions, resulting in significant industry consolidation. Understanding this requires just a little micro-course in plant patent history (For a more complete history, check out the three-part series at Cooking Up A Story). In 1930, the Plant Patent Act was passed, which allowed plant breeders, a relatively new profession, to patent a single, specific plant that they had bred themselves. Patents were limited to only that specific plant and any asexual propagations of said plant. Seeds, as the result of sexual reproduction, were specifically barred from patent. Fast-forward to 1970 and the passage of the Plant Variety Protection Act. This legislation gave plant breeders the right to patent an entire variety of genetically similar plants, as well as their seeds and all subsequent generations. Fast-forward again, this time to 1980. The United States Supreme Court decision of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, a 5-4 split decision, gave individuals, and corporations acting as individuals, the right to a utility patent for laboratory engineered organisms, including seeds, under the 1952 Patent Act. Yes, that’s a bunch of gobblety-gook.