Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) applauds the recent announcement of the 2012 Joe A. Callaway Awards for Civic Courage winners by the Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest. This year’s awards recognize CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, and NSA whistleblowers William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe. All three recipients are GAP clients: national security whistleblowers who stood up for constitutional rights and American values, at great risk to their personal and professional lives.
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack said of the awardees: “The Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage is a tremendous honor, and hard won for whistleblowers Kiriakou, Binney and Wiebe considering all three were targets of a federal criminal investigation for telling the truth. They courageously spoke out against two of the biggest scandals of the George W. Bush administration: torture and warrantless domestic surveillance.”
Binney reacted to winning the award in stating “I am honored to receive this award and grateful to the Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest. I view as my duty as a citizen to stand up and expose and oppose corrupt and criminal government activity.”
Wiebe stated: “I am at once humbled and honored to receive the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage. As you might imagine, the act of whistleblowing – telling the truth to uphold national precepts under the law – can be a lonely matter. Too many look the other way, fearing for their own positions or livelihoods. This award helps make it all worthwhile by reinforcing the notion that people still care – that the right thing should be done.”
Kiriakou, whose criminal case is still pending, said, “I am grateful for this award, which comes at a very difficult time for me and my family.”
The Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest administers the Callaways Awards, which were established by Mr. Callaway in 1990. These honors seek to recognize courageous individuals who act on their integrity despite personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice, and challenge prevailing conditions to pursue the public interest and common good. More about the Callaway Awards can be found at www.CallawayAwards.org.
Following each award, the recipients will speak briefly about their work. Previous winners have included Vioxx whistleblower David Graham, defense contracting whistleblower Bunnatine (Bunny) Greenhouse, and Amy Goodman.
The event will be held on Tuesday, October 30, from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at the Carnegie Institution Building, 1530 P. St. NW in Washington, DC. Journalists are welcome to attend.
About the 2012 Honorees
NSA Whistleblowers William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe
William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, former National Security Agency (NSA) officials, joined whistleblower Thomas Drake in blowing the whistle on fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the agency. Together, they disclosed that the NSA dismissed Thin Thread – a data collection program that could efficiently and cost-effectively analyze massive amounts of information while protecting Americans’ privacy – in favor of Trailblazer, a vastly more expensive, intrusive and, in the end, inoperable program. Binney and Wiebe used appropriate channels to share their concerns with Congress and the Department of Defense Inspector General, but despite their efforts, NSA held no one accountable for one of the worst intelligence failures in US history.
Recently, Wiebe and Binney made key contributions to the ongoing public debate about America's growing surveillance state. They are the whistleblowers who first revealed the NSA’s massive domestic spying program, Stellar Wind, which intercepts domestic communications without protections for US citizens. Binney revealed that NSA sought and received access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records. He told the public that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted between 15 and 20 trillion communications. Binney also disclosed that the NSA concealed Stellar Wind under the patriotic-sounding “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” in order to give cover to the warrantless surveillance program’s violations of Americans’ constitutional rights.
Wiebe and Binney have appeared in numerous media outlets (such as Wired Magazine) and in public (Binney recently spoke at the DefCon Conference) discussing these Orwellian surveillance programs. Both men revealed the truth and sought accountability for violations of civil liberties, and are often asked to speak publicly on the dangers associated with the increasing power of the national security state.
CIA-Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer who publicly acknowledged that waterboarding constituted torture. For this and other whistleblowing activities, Kiriakou became the sixth whistleblower to be indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – more than all previous presidential administrations combined.
Kiriakou worked at the CIA for almost 15 years in a variety of roles, including as an analyst specializing on Iraq and as a counterterrorism operative. Following the 9/11 attacks, Kiriakou was named Chief of Counterterrorism Operations in Pakistan, where he led a series of raids on al Qaeda safe houses that resulted in the capture of dozens of suspected al Qaeda fighters – including Abu Zubaydah, then thought to be al Qaeda’s third-ranking official.
In December 2007, Kiriakou gave an interview to ABC News, during which he described his participation in the capture of Zubaydah. In the interview, Kiriakou publicly acknowledged that waterboarding constituted torture, and that torture was a policy rather than the actions of a few rogue agents. He also said that the U.S. should not engage in the practice.
Since his 2007 interview, Kiriakou has been an outspoken critic of the George W. Bush administration’s torture polices in the media and in his 2009 book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.
When President Obama took office in 2009, he promised that he would not prosecute any government officials who engaged in torture if they were following Justice Department guidance. Three years later, the Obama Justice Department indicted Kiriakou, who not only helped to expose the torture policy of the Bush administration but refused to engage in it. The Justice Department used the heavy-handed Espionage Act of 1917, a law meant to target spies, not whistleblowers, to target Kiriakou. Ironically, after indicting Kiriakou for his disclosure, Attorney General Eric Holder closed the investigation of government officials suspected of engaging in torture that resulted in the deaths of at least two detainees. Kiriakou's trial is scheduled for late November 2012.