Media Melvin Goodman Politics

No End to The Washington Post’s War on Whistleblowers

The nation needs more whistleblowers, particularly after the corruption of the Trump presidency.
A man at a laptop with an Edward Snowden mask
(Jinx_HH / CC BY 2.0)

By Melvin Goodman / CounterPunch

In an article assessing Facebook last month, Washington Post writer Molly Roberts attacked whistleblowers for demonstrating a “lack of loyalty” to their institutions and described their actions as “betrayal.”  Roberts argued that it took “gumption” for whistleblowers to decide that they are right and that the leaders above them are wrong.  She wrote that these actions “look like “individualism to some and narcissism to others.”  In fact, the nation needs more whistleblowers, particularly after the corruption of the Trump presidency.

Fortunately, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Inspector General, Carolyn McGiffert Ekedahl, a former whistleblower herself who filed a sworn affidavit thirty years ago against the confirmation of Robert Gates as CIA director, wrote a letter to the Post defending whistleblowing.  Ekedahl, who is my wife, noted that institutions, even religious ones, become loyal to themselves rather than to the missions they proclaim.  Ekedahl asked,  “Are victims of abuse by priests ‘betraying’ the Catholic Church when they become whistleblowers? Are civil servants who disclose corruption in their departments guilty of ‘lack of loyalty’?”

Investigative reporters of The Washington Post often have their exposes because of whistleblowers.  Watergate and Deep Throat is the enduring example.  In his excellent new book, “Midnight in Washington,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) documents the necessity of whistleblowers to the Congress, particularly the congressional intelligence committees.  As Schiff states, without whistleblowers the congress “would be almost completely reliant on the intelligence agencies to self report any problems.”

Nevertheless, whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were maligned in the editorial columns of the Post. David Ignatius, an apologist for the CIA for decades, charged that Snowden looked “more like an intelligence defector…than a whistleblower.”  Then-host of Meet the Press, David Gregory, asked Glenn Greenwald, “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden…why shouldn’t you be charged with a crime.”  Greenwald’s “crime” was to report Snowden’s revelations in the U.K. Guardian.

So-called liberal pundits in the Post piled on. Richard Cohen, who beat the drums for war against Iraq, called Manning a “cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.”  Ruth Marcus, another liberal writer for the Post, referred to Snowden’s “unattractive personality,” and gratuitously maligned all whistleblowers as “difficult ones, the sort who tend to feel freer to speak out precisely because they don’t fit in.”  Marcus argued that Snowden should have “stuck around to test the system the Constitution created,” and dealt with the consequences of his actions.  In other words, whistleblowers should ignore the caprice of U.S. jurisprudence and the reactionary politics of the U.S. Supreme Court.

We would have benefitted from whistleblowers who could have exposed the CIA’s ten-year campaign of sadistic torture and abuse. A letter last week from seven senior military officers officially condemned the torture carried out by CIA officers and contractors. The author of the letter, a Navy captain, called the torture of a terrorist a “stain in the moral fiber of America.”  He noted that his views are typical of senior members of the U.S. military.

The military officers, who had heard the harrowing testimony at Guantanamo Bay of a detainee in the agency’s custody, wrote their letter to urge clemency.  They noted that CIA agents and operatives subjected the detainee to “physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques,” comparable to “torture by the most abusive regimes in modern history.”  The story appeared last week in the New York Times; there was no mention of the letter in The Washington Post.  A great deal of previous testimony from other victims didn’t get reported by the mainstream media.

Last month, The New York Times, but not The Washington Post, published important details of how the United States and the CIA deceived the Polish government on the details of the sadistic interrogation program taking place at the CIA’s black site in Poland.  Poland wanted assurances regarding the handling of prisoners at the site; the CIA refused to sign any documents.  It was particularly outrageous for the CIA to compromise the relatively new independent status of an East European country that had been behind the Soviet iron curtain for decades.

The European Court of Human Rights censured Poland for allowing torture at the black site.  Yet, the CIA treats the issue as a classified matter and refuses to allow former intelligence officers to discuss the issue.  Once again, the CIA is using its tool of censorship to prevent an embarrassment to its reputation and not to protect the national security interests of the United States.

The letter of the senior military officers documents in detail the cruel experiences of a former prisoner at one of CIA’s black sites.  The letter represents an authoritative rebuttal to former directors of the CIA George Tenet and Michael Hayden and deputy directors John McLaughlin and Michael Morell who argued in a book titled “Rebuttal” that the CIA got a “bum rap.”  Their book moved swiftly through the CIA’s Publications Review Board without change, although CIA’s leaders had misrepresented every aspect of the torture program to the Senate intelligence committee.  Meanwhile, critics of CIA’s torture program such as myself faced long delays and heavy-haded censorship in trying to publish criticism of the program.

Meanwhile, the CIA’s Inspector General report on torture and abuse as well as the Senate intelligence committee’s report remain classified and hidden in various governmental vaults.  As a result, the CIA has been given carte blanche in its efforts to deceive the American public on the torture program.  In June 2003, President George W. Bush recorded that the United States “was committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.”  In fact, the CIA’s Inspector General brought examples of abuses to the attention of the Department of Justice, but Attorney General John Ashcroft had no problem with CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”  Not even the waterboarding of one detainee 119 times bothered Ashcroft.

President Barack Obama unfortunately contributed to the miscarriage of justice.  The Convention against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994 bans torture without exception and requires that torturers be prosecuted.  Obama stopped torture but totally failed to carry out the second requirement.

As Ms. Ekedahl stated in her letter to the Post, “By shedding light on their actions, whistleblowers remain loyal to the supposed mission of those institutions—and loyal to our broader civil society.”  With a masthead that states “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” the Post should be defending whistleblowers and ending its campaign of vilification.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

10 comments

  1. Outside of the amerocentric USA, I am sure most people would have a distaste of anything to do with the mention of the CIA. Your article covers many things yet you omit the obvious case of Assange held in the Belmarsh UK prison awaiting UK and USA judgment for releasing many painful and embarrassing actions of the UK and US governments, indeed crimes against humanity . The CIA even hatched plans to assainate Assange. Odd that you do not mention this.

    1. Ellsberg,Manning,Snowden and Assange are patriots of the highest order and should be getting medals instead of censure and imprisonment.Anybody that exposes to public knowledge the violations and crimes committed by our elected or appointed is performing a much needed service. These actions such as bombings,torture.illegal prisons must be aired or we dont have a democracy.

  2. First, they came for the whistleblowers. We never found out what happened, after that? After David Brock’s “Correct The Record” K Street troll hordes silenced all journalism, dissent or journalism on lefty blogs. And Hillary magically switched to RussiaRussiaRUSSIA as Bezos’ Atlantic Council, CAP, Bellingcat, Canary Mission senile McCarthyite spooks went after nascent TRUTH still on the net: BAR, NC, CounterPunch, ProPublica, DeSmogBlog, ShadowProof, GrayZone and a handful of honest journalists who’d quit oligarch’s blogs like Intercept, Guardian or already ditched by media for speaking the truth. With no place remaining to even blow a whistle, to masses brainwashed beyond Orwell’s worst nightmares. We’ve NO idea what even constitutes honest reporting?

  3. What a strange mixture of sensible truths and “acceptable “interpretations eg Poland in this post.
    ‘In his excellent new book, “Midnight in Washington,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)’

    Is this the same Adam Schiff we constantly hear about with his extreme views especially about Russia?

    Whistleblowing, to be the right thing to do, as Goodman clearly explains, must be done in good faith, with real faults in the system exposed, and surely always leading to serious consequences for the person blowing the whistle. Julian Assange is a key example, and the PTB in the USA have no intention of allowing truth, democracy, freedom etc which they pretend they support, to overcome his destruction.

  4. I assume you all understand that I am communicating with you, not with your audience… I DO know that it is YOUR audience… I would not expect you to allow a ‘pirate writer’ to use your platform to access YOUR audience, that you worked so long and hard to assemble, to advance her or his priorities.

    I sure wouldn’t…

    But the difference between genuine ‘moderation’, and outright totalitarian ‘censorship’, (as is currently practiced by Chris Scheer, and I still have your bozo-letter, mr. Scheer), is objectivity.

    Moderation must always be the application of objective standards. On SP, one’s privileges to speak or not depends on who you are, and/or on the Scheer Family’s opinion of your opinion. It’s about as raw and rankly subjective as any ‘standard’ could possibly get.

    As always, “Irony abounds”… (J Rohr..)

    Scheer Post is using totalitarian means to ‘advance freedom and democracy’. And the truly ‘funny’ aspect of this particular irony is you feel morally superior as you do this. This EXACTLY mirrors both the mindset, AND the behavior, of your OWN declared Enemy. (Spreading freedom and democracy through high explosives).

    Get it?

    Your Enemy uses your weakness to control you… Only STRONG citizens can build a democracy. The Enemy wants WEAK citizens, who don’t understand democracy, and sure the heck don’t know how to ‘do’ democracy, just EXACTLY like you Scheer boys…. You are EXACTLY the ‘opposition’ that your OWN Enemy wants you to be… (Such good eager panting little puppy dogs)…

    That’s how so many good folks end up dancing on the ends of their own enemies’ strings…. Like you Scheer boys do… (All herky jerky… looking like damn fools… noses so high, oozing your supposition of moral superiority, like thick toxic molasses, from every pore, and pouring it copiously from every orfice…

    Just can’t help but wonder how many checks have some billionaire oligarch’s name on the front, and Bob Scheer’s autograph on the back, signed over into his grocery account…. Eh?…

    You boys sure get awful tight-lipped when THAT subject comes up, dontcha? You’re gone so ‘soft’ that you’ve come to believe that “the revolution WILL be on TV”, brought to your by your kind and generous sponsor, Corporate America….

    I was just thinking about Mel Goodman yesterday, in relation to Phil Giraldi… And here ole Bob sends me a message from him… Wondering if they ‘know’ each other…

    I had a conversation, by correspondence, with Mel Goodman a few years back, not long after the coup in Ukraine, one of the many times the EVIL people who have captured our nation under their control ‘spread democracy’ by violently overthrowing a democratically elected government… (which, in this case happened to take place in the land of some of me own ‘paisan’…)

    I suppose I could just ask them if they know each other, (Mr. Giraldi and I have corresponded on occasion over these past years as well), but I try to restrain my curiosity… None of my business, really, (well………uhhhh)……

    You know how it is… In some people’s imagination all African Americans somehow know each other, and surely all ex-CIA operatives who are now trying to expose the shocking, revolting extent of the CIA’s moral depravity, Ray and Phil and Mel and the boys, all hang out down the pub, (in dark corners, wearing hoods pulled low), plotting their next moves together… LOL…

    Anyway… Mr. Goodman and I had a short correspondence about an academic at Harvard who insisted on vomiting forth his twisted thinking, generously spiced with Big Lies, (from the Land of Veritas), regularly, in the Boston Globe.

    The details don’t matter here… Caliban is just acting like a damn fool here… dropping names… LOL… ‘boasting’ about who I know… We humans are a crack-up, aren’t we? We can’t help it. This is just the way God or Nature, (take your pick), made us. We’re hilarious creatures. I spend about half my time laughing at myself… I am perfectly capable, in fact I am VERY good at it, of being a complete fucking idiot, aka: a “poor dumb human”.. (“Yer just a human, a victim of the insane”. J Lennon). I’ll have you know that I am a complete idiot quitev frequently… This I keep myself entertained. (Self-awareness can be a FASCINATING exercise.. Eh?)

    Mel, (he signed himself to me warmly, as “Mel”, in our correspondence), was on his way to the airport, “headed out for the Black Sea”… LOL… His actual words…… (Ah… the lucky duck, sez me, me roots stuck into the soil now… How I wish I was “headed out for the Black Sea”…. LOL.. (Cue the green envy spreading from the gills)…

    This is actually a funny story about Mel… He won’t mind… He kinda said it ‘like that’, ya know? Like “Ha-ha, I’m a mysterious ex-spook headed out for the Black Sea, and you’re NOT..” (Kind of a Chevy Chase sorta thing, a reference I’m sure OldBob will ‘get’).

    LOL… Always cracks me up… what strange creatures we are… Every one of us, (save a sprinkle of Zen here and there), burdened with a desperate ego. And our desperation is actually hard wired into our effing DNA…

    We just can’t help ourselves… We just can’t help being poor dumb humans….

    I told the story once, but it was a while back, (old men have special privileges.. we get to re-cycle our stories, long as we wait a decent interval.. LOL…), about the time I sat at dinner, in a posh Manhattan Hotel restaurant, and ate a dry mealy $100 steak while chit-chatting with the Secretary of the Army sitting directly across from me.

    On me right elbow, a three star general enjoyed his meat with great relish. (He actually kinda growled softly, in pure animal pleasure, as he chewed). On me left a colonel was nervous to make sure all the generals were all relatively content, moment to moment…. catty-corner across, sitting next to Mr Secretary, was another three star.

    Larry Vogt, who once commanded a fleet of nuclear powered, and nuclear armed, submarines, sat at the head of the table. (Larry was a good guy… still is, I assume.. His wife, Rusty, was a lovely gentle person. She’s sadly passed. His son died too… Real nice guy, his son was… Helped me get MS Word set up on that computer in the basement that time… A real generous ‘giving’ person… One ‘a those he just fell over dead one day… suddenly, unexpectedly… of ‘natural causes’… Larry Vogt… who once commanded the power to annihilate Humankind, was, (when I knew him, and presumably he still is), a genuinely Good Man.

    Well… Maybe I hadn’t oughta tell that sorry just now… Too long… (although interesting)… I wanted to chide Mel Goodman for his silly ego, by exposing my even sillier one… Oh… and also, I wanted to scold ole Mel for burying his lead… (‘lede’? I’m seeing it spelled these days)..

    In fact… Mel’s leads was so deeply buried that I don’t think he was even aware of it. Too busy with some family promotion… methinks.. (Cue the elbow to Mel’s ribs… Where’s that “surly bartender”… get me man Mel another… a Jameson, neat, but pre-shaken slightly, to aerate properly, but especially to show how cool all them JimmyBond ‘spooks’ are. Hey… I’m just ‘a teasin’ ya, Mel…)

    But seriously… First of all… He might have at least mentioned, in an article about WaPo supporting CIA priorities, that Bezos is business partners with the CIA…. He actually bought WaPo, for $250 mil, within a few DAYS of signing a $600 mil contract with the CIA, (to manage their cloud data storage), a contract that should be worth BILLIONs over time…

    Seems the days of Operation Mockingbird have evolved somewhat, eh??….

    But where Mel really misses the mark so badly is in failing to draw the most obvious ‘picture’.

    Democracy DEPENDS on oversight. Bonds of personal loyalty, whether to other people, or to an organization, are EXACTLY what makes democracy so ridiculously easy to corrupt.

    Don Corleone wasn’t worried about the local police brass.. nor about the local judges…. They felt bound to him by personal loyalty…

    Democracy only happens in the sunshine… Caesar would only trust his troops in ‘night action’ if he was VERY confident in their spirit, very sure of the strength of their morale and discipline at that moment… He wrote about this at length. In the light of day, with all their comrades to witness each other’s actions, people are much more inclined to ‘discipline’, than in the dark of night, when some men might think that even the gods have lost track of them.. in all the screams and blood and gore of battle…

    Democracy is advanced citizenship… It is highly disciplined citizenship… Citizens as debilitated as ours are are not even capable of ‘doing’ democracy…. Not by a LONG shot. We have a LONG ways to go, and a LOT to talk over, before we will even be capable of ‘democracy,’ in this insane, delusional, fucked up “land o’ the free”.

    Our entire political system, the entire edifice of our nation’s governing structure, has ‘gone corrupt’… We have long ago seen the death of Public Honor. Our elected leaders lie to us to get elected, then lie to us more once in office.

    We know they’re ALL lying. They ALL know we know. But they lie anyway…

    That’s what Public Honor’s death looks like in real time… Not just lies, that they think they can get away with, but brazen lies, that they know everybody already knows are lies. They lie anyway… With honor long dead, there is no shame to trouble them…

    This is the end result when people’s personal bonds of loyalty supersede their responsibilities to the nation. People start making ‘side-deals’, to benefit them, and they do NOT even CARE if the benefit to them comes at great cost to the nation.

    A truly democratic nation would celebrate and lionize whistleblowers. People who will hold their responsibilities to their nation above their own selfish gain, are citizens who are capable of ‘doing’ democracy.

    People who will cut side deals, along lines of personal loyalties, who will hold their personal loyalties above their love and loyalty to their nation, are NOT even capable of ‘doing’ democracy at ALL.

    Well…. Mel Goodman’s a good man… But Mel… You promoted yer wife real nice, and you promoted your self, but in the process, you buried your lead.

    All that promotional palaver, (ego, I go, you go, ergo all go), but your ‘lead’ reduced to one sentence, thrown in at the end?

    It’s kinda like that Harry Potter girl when she grew up. She had a whole ‘spread’ in a prestigious national magazine. In-depth interview, just to show what a keenly and deeply intelligent young woman she had grown to be. Then, once she was sure everybody knew how smart she was, she just HAD to show off her boobies… (‘Member Julie Andrews, playing the dignified aging DivaStar, whose agent has talked her into doing a nude scene to revive her career.

    When an old friend shows up on set, right before the ‘big scene’, she’s a little tipsy from the ‘courage’ in the wine, and she says, (in her most dignified West End British), “Oh, high Bob… Comes to see my boobies, have you?”

  5. Stupidity is having trust in government to do the right thing. We are not in a position to suggest that we must trust Government or the Military to keep our best interests at heart. This is a joke. Whistle blowers are indeed hero’s and should be classified as saints in my book because Institutions do what they do best, institutionalize people and in a bad way. This kind of Fascist thinking against whistle blowers must go the way of the dinosaur as it is of old negative energy run amok by evil people who put themselves first and not others.

  6. I disagree with the statement: “The nation needs more whistle-blowers, particularly after the corruption of the Trump presidency.”
    We certainly do need more whistle-blowers, given that the outstanding corruption of the Biden presidency, which trumps anything that Trump did. (And no, I’m not a Trump supporter.)

    Yours is yet another example of TDS. Shame on you.

  7. Molly Robert’s has one hell of a double standard. What about the “lack of loyalty” and “betrayal” these institutions display towards the people on a regular basis? These institutions betray the principles of what our country claims to represent.

    Her article is pure gaslighting propaganda. Anyone who could read this bunk and not come to the conclusion that the Washington Post is 100% compromised and a propaganda tool of big business is too stupid and too far gone to try and reason with. What amazes me is the sheer number of people, like Molly Robert’s, willing to sell out their principles and souls to be a willing tool for these bastards.

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