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25 March, 2018

Why the media failed to report on largest breach of US government data in history

Upon Harold Martin’s arrest in 2016, an Obama administration official said his case was being kept under wraps “to keep this guy from becoming another NSA martyr.” The tactic seems to be have paid dividends.

by Whitney Webb

Part 4 - Drawing the curtains

Given the complexity of this case as well as the fact that it is said to have been the largest breach of U.S. government data in history, it is shocking that Martin has received so little public attention.

A likely explanation for the lack of media coverage is that the government wants it that way. Indeed, after news of Martin’s arrest broke, an Obama administration official told the press that Martin’s arrest and the case against him was being kept under wraps to prevent him from becoming “another NSA martyr.” Not only that, but many in the corporate press have been openly hostile to alleged whistleblowers of late, particularly to Reality Winner.

However, another reason for the lack of publicity surrounding Martin’s case is the fact that his legal defense hasn’t reached out to the press. Kiriakou noted: “[Martin] hasn’t sought the publicity and his attorneys haven’t sought the publicity. When Thomas Drake’s case was going on, his attorneys reached out to 60 Minutes and The New Yorker magazine and CNN to get the word out. They haven’t done this in this case.

Given the dangerous climate for whistleblowers in the United States, it is likely that we will never know Martin’s true intent – even if more conclusive evidence existed to suggest that he sought to bring information to the public eye to stop government crimes – as any expression of an intent to whistleblow would likely only worsen his legal situation.

The situation for whistleblowers is so toxic that Kiriakou hypothesized that – were his own whistleblower case taking place today – he believes his legal defense would likely attempt to find another way to defend his actions aside from the whistleblower defense. Kiriakou stated: “[This is] because the precedent they [my attorneys] would be looking at would be the case of Reality Winner […] who is alleged to have passed document to the Intercept, […] and has been held without bond since June of last year. I would say that the courts right now are even tougher on whistleblowers or would-be whistleblowers than they were five years ago.

Regardless of whether Martin is a whistleblower or a hoarder, his case deserves much more attention from the press than it has received. As Kiriakou mentioned, if Martin pilfered the documents as a result of a mental condition, he “needs treatment, not prison” and, thus, should be supported by mental health advocates and others who support the more compassionate treatment of those who commit crimes owing to an existing mental condition.

On the other hand, if there is even the possibility that Martin could have been trying to get information on government wrongdoing out to the wider public, this also deserves widespread attention, especially considering the fact that the Shadow Brokers have released information that has exposed dangerous and unconstitutional government practices.

Yet, above all, Martin’s case is a troubling indication of how the U.S. government treats its own, particularly those who risk making government information public – regardless of intent.


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