NSA Whistleblower Warns National Press Club: U.S. Government Engaged in a ‘Direct Assault’ on Free Speech

(Photo: National Press Club

A former executive of the National Security Agency (NSA) is continuing his crusade against creeping encroachments on American liberty, speaking out at the National Press Club on Friday.

Thomas Drake had been with the NSA for 32 years and was the senior technical director when he decided he could no longer support the agency’s actions.  For the past several years, he has been raising awareness as a whistle-blower about domestic spying, waste, and fraud, and was even prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly leaking classified information (the charges have been dropped).

Featured prominently on TheBlaze’s premiere of “For the Record,” Drake asked the audience at the National Press Club to consider a cause dear to their own hearts: press freedom and the First Amendment.

The National Press Club wrote of the event (all subsequent emphasis added)

In a passionate plea for the sanctity of the First Amendment, Drake warned that journalists are being increasingly frozen out of government sources.

“How else will the press report the real news when their sources dry up and the government becomes a primary purveyor of its own news?” he asked in one of many disturbing scenarios posed to the audience. He quoted George Orwell and John F. Kennedy to the same effect: It is a slippery slope from government secrecy to tyranny.

Club President Angela Greiling Keane has made press freedom a priority for her presidency this year. Had Drake been convicted, “it would have had a chilling effect on whistleblowers and journalists, who often receive and keep defense documents,” she said in introducing Drake.

Speaking more generally, Drake spoke of national security as a “new state religion”:

“I like to think that we have reached a critical event horizon [on] whether national security as a new state religion will further suck the dwindling light of the First Amendment into the black hole of classification and secrecy hidden from public view.  It seems that secrecy is actually strengthening the national security state in order to hide from accountability and oversight at the expense of informed public interest, where it matters the most.”

“What is the price of keeping the public in the dark, and having the government increasingly operating in the dark through secret law, or interpretations in secret of existing law?” he asked ominously.

“…In our post-9/11 world, the government is increasingly in the ‘First Un-amendment’ business, engaged in a direct assault on free speech and the very foundation of our democracy.”

The National Press Club posted video of Drake’s entire speech: