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National News

Former National Security Officials from Multiple Administrations Defend Whistleblower

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Former National Security Officials from Multiple Administrations  Defend Whistleblower

2019-10-08 18:50:021 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: John Brennan (Image source: Screenshot)

 

While much of the Trump administration is sticking by the president through the impeachment inquiry, at least publicly, a large group of former national security officials, some of them from the current administration, are defending the whistleblower, contending he did nothing wrong.

 

This group signed an open letter praising the first whistleblower for coming forward in the Ukraine scandal and demanding his protection. 

Trump is chief among those blasting the whistleblower, demanding to know who he is, and saying he deserves to meet with him face to face.

 

This is after the whistleblower, a U.S. intelligence official, filed a complaint calling out Trump for a July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. 

Ninety former national security officials, including former CIA director John Brennan and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper of the Obama and Bush administrations signed a letter that read, "While the identity of the whistleblower is not publicly known, we do know that he or she is an employee of the U.S. government."

 

"As such," it continued, "he or she has by law the right — and indeed the responsibility — to make known, through appropriate channels, indications of serious wrongdoing." 

"That is precisely what this whistleblower did, and we applaud the whistleblower not only for living up to that responsibility but also for using precisely the channels made available by federal law for raising such concerns," continued the letter.

 

The group also praised the efforts of the whistleblower, by stating that "a responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers." 

"Being a responsible whistleblower means that, by law, one is protected from certain egregious forms of retaliation," the group explained, possibly so Trump would back down and not continue to demand he learn the whistleblower's identity.

 

They contend that "all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity." 

This is a group that includes top national security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations. Along with Brennan and Clapper, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Senior Director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council Javed Ali signed the letter, as well as several other former officials from the Defense and State departments and former CIA officials.

 

Roberta Jacobson signed the letter as well. She worked in the Trump administration as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico until she resigned in May 2018. She'd also worked as an intelligence analyst in the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the late 1980s. 

In an interview with Newsweek, Jacobson said she left the Trump administration after finding it difficult to continue to defend the government's policies.

 

"It was a combination of ... the inability to continue to defend policy," she explained, "because, one, I fundamentally disagreed with it, but number two, because I was not being given the tools nor included in a way that an ambassador should be to help make and carry out that policy." 

She feels it's vital to protect whistleblowers. "One of the things that we in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and my colleagues across the intelligence community believed in strongly was our independence from public policy," she said.

 

"You had to be able to be free to write intelligence as you saw, free from pressures in the policy world." 

She added that she feels "very strongly about those people, career public servants, being protected when they do their job by making those reports."

 

Jacobson admitted that before Trump took office, she would have been surprised to see a U.S. president act the way Trump has to the whistleblower's complaint. However, "currently, under this president, unfortunately, I'm not particularly surprised." 

She spoke of fears that Trump's attacks aimed at the whistleblower could discourage whistleblowers from coming forward in the future. This made it encouraging to see a second whistleblower consider coming forward as well in the impeachment inquiry.

 

"On the one hand, I think it could very well have a severe chilling effect, and that's incredibly dangerous, if people no longer feel they can come forward with complaints because they won't be protected, because they'll be identified, because their lives will be made hellish by them just doing their jobs," Jacobson explained. 

"On the other hand, I will say that these cases can also have an opposite effect. They can, even with the pressures that the administration may bring to bear on the whistleblower or others, embolden other whistleblowers, who finally feel that they're not alone," she said with an air of hope.

 

"That may be the case here with the reports that there's now more than one whistleblower on this issue." 

She believes that people who are siding with Trump need to realize that while they may disagree with this whistleblower or not have much connection, "tomorrow it could well be someone who reveals something of huge importance to them."

 

"You can't cherry-pick the issues," Jacobson pointed out, nothing that "tomorrow it could be something that directly affects your livelihood or the health and safety of your family." 

Other former officials from the Trump administration that signed the letter include Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia until she resigned in July 2018, and James Nalon, assistant secretary for international engagement at the Department of Homeland Security until he resigned in February 2018.

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