In the years following 9/11 there was a NSA (National Security Agency) whistleblower named Thomas Drake. The difference? Thomas Drake blew the whistle within the NSA and available internal government appeals channels. You never heard of Drake? He was buried (figuratively).
Very probably, Edward Snowden was familiar with Drake's experience and decided to go a different route with his whistle.
In this interview (Drake answers written questions) by the Government Accountability Project, the story of Drake's experience is covered. From YouTube:
Thomas Drake is a former senior official of the National Security Agency (NSA) whom the Justice Department prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In June 2011, the case against him collapsed, but he endured four years of investigation and faced 10 felony counts after he used internal mechanisms to disclose serious wrongdoing concerning a data collection program called "Trailblazer." That program was costly, wasteful and ineffective; it threatened Americans' privacy rights, and was wholly undeveloped -- despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that protected Americans' privacy. Ultimately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped all felony counts against him, and the judge excoriated DOJ lawyers for their conduct. Drake is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, regarded in the U.S. as the highest honor that a whistleblower can receive.
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