The Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers has been well-documented by Kevin Gozstola and others. Now, McClatchy has the tale of a similar muzzling of whistleblowers at the National Reconnaissance Office, which handles the nation’s spy satellites:
A senior officer with the nation’s spy satellite agency is being investigated over criminal allegations related to contracting even as the agency’s No. 2 official is accused of trying to illegally shield the subordinate from scrutiny, McClatchy has learned.
The inspector general of the National Reconnaissance Office opened the criminal inquiry after meeting secretly in May with four top officers of the agency, who told her about “a series of allegations of malfeasant actions” by a colleague, according to agency documents obtained by McClatchy.
The agency’s deputy director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko, then heard about the investigation and made what the inspector general described as an illegal threat of retaliation against the whistleblowers.
“Four directors went to the IG,” the inspector general quoted Mashiko as saying to a senior officer. “I would like to find them and fire them.”
When the officer reacted with surprise, Mashiko backed off, saying she would have preferred if the directors had come to her first, the inspector general said in a memo. However, the inspector general, Lanie D’Alessandro, wrote that she’d learned of a “history of intimidation” by Mashiko and the senior official who’s being investigated.
Mashiko is a career bureaucrat in the Air Force with over 30 years of service, so I don’t want to go too far in attributing this to the Administration. Rather, I think what we see here is an unfortunately standard practice as it relates to whistleblowers in federal agencies. They are seen not as people to be defended but as people to be rooted out and subjected to intimidation and harassment. The chilling effect this creates is pretty obvious.
Of course this violates federal statutes. But the culture at this agency will be forever tarnished by this incident. People will learn that they should not speak up if they cherish their job. And there’s not really anybody in the whole of government to look to as a model in the opposite direction. Congress is seeking to pass legislation to prevent leaks. The White House has been the most litigious Administration against whistleblowers in history, with an unprecedented number of criminal prosecutions. As long as the leaks don’t present the White House or Congress in a flattering light – those leaks are encouraged – they are criminalized.
The fish does rot from the head down, to an extent here. But sadly, I suspect this is always the culture we’ve had at these agencies, especially in the intelligence community.
The inspector general, Lanie D’Alessandro, did good work here in getting the information out. But it’s probably the last bit of decent information she’ll ever get.