Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Obama signed both the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, expanding whistleblower protections, in November 2012, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) furthering these protections in January 2013. His NDAA signing statement, however, undermines these protections, stating that protections “could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.”

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama Administration is targeting government whistleblowers, invoking the otherwise dormant Espionage Act of 1917 six times. The Obama Justice Department has also used the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to obtain a conviction against CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou for exposing the waterboarding of prisoners, ironically making him the first CIA official to be sentenced to prison in connection with the torture program. The Justice Department charged former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake with espionage for exposing hundreds of millions of dollars of waste.

The high visibility prosecution of Bradley Manning has become what some may argue to be the most effective deterrent for government whistleblowers. Manning admitted to leaking troves of classified documents to Wikileaks, but pleaded not guilty on counts of espionage.


Glen Greenwald, “Kiriakou and Stuxnet: the danger of the still-escalating Obama whistleblower war,” The Guardian, January 27, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/27/obama-war-on-whistleblowers-purpose?INTCMP=SRCH

Ed Pilkington. “Bradley Manning prosecution to call full witness list despite guilty plea.” The Guardian, March 1, 2013.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/01/bradley-manning-prosecution-guilty-plea

Dana Liebelson, “Why is Obama Bashing a Whistleblower Law He Already Signed?” Mother Jones, January 10, 2013.  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/obama-whistleblower-protections-signing-statement

Paul Harris, “Barack Obama’s ‘extreme’ anti-terror tactics face liberal backlash,” The Guardian (UK), February 9, 2013.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/09/barack-obama-extreme-anti-terror-tactics-liberal-backlash?INTCMP=SRCH

Student Researchers: Shannon Polvino, William Scannapieco, Kathyrn La Juett and Justin Lewis; SUNY Buffalo State

Faculty Evaluator: Dr. Michael I. Niman, SUNY Buffalo State