- Paperback: 180 pages
- Publisher: Whistleblower Press (January 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0983992800
- ISBN-13: 978-0983992806
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #833,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" (Foreword by Glenn Greenwald)
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There's simply no better first-person book about whistleblowing. It illustrates dramatically both the risks of conscientious truth-telling--fully experienced by Jesselyn, a horror story greatly to the discredit of the government--and the compelling need for indomitable whistleblowers like her.
Pentagon Papers Whistleblower
This is a riveting--and chilling--account of how far the Bush Administration's Justice Department went to destroy a critic.
New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist (retired)
This book offers a poignant illustration of the erosion of civil rights and liberties in the "war on terrorism. It questions whether we can respond effectively to the threat of terrorism without jeopardizing the very freedoms that characterize a democratic society.
Former President, American Civil Liberties Union
From the Back Cover
I will mention one truth teller and not many people know about her . . . Jesselyn Radack. Jesselyn was the person on duty when John Walker Lindh was taken in. With all this talk about torture you should know that the first person tortured was an American citizen and he was tortured mercilessly for the first few days of his internment and denied medical care. She raised holy Hell. She was tossed out of the justice Department and blacklisted. That's the kind of guts Jesselyn had. Jesselyn had tremendous guts and now she's written a really terrific book.
CIA Analyst (retired)
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"The Justice Department forced me out of my job" she writes, "placed me under criminal investigation, got me fired from my next job in the private sector, reported me to the state bars in which I'm licensed as an attorney, and put me on the 'no fly list.'"
Her offense? She believed, erroneously as it turned out, that the Department would not want to use illegally obtained evidence in its prosecution of John Walker Lindh, an American convert to Islam. He had been imprisoned by Afghan warlords in November 2001 soon after the U.S.-led NATO invasion of the country after 9/11.
Lindh, then 20, was a California-born convert to Islam. He had travelled to Yemen on a spiritual quest in 2000, and went to Afghanistan in June 2001 to join the Taliban army at a time when the Taliban government, a United States ally in the 1980s, was still receiving United States aid. Lindh survived a harsh POW camp in which more than three quarters of his 400 fellow Taliban POWs died in chaotic conditions along with an American interrogator.
Radack advised against further federal interrogation of Lindh without a lawyer present because his parents had retained counsel. Later, she blew the whistle when she learned that the department destroyed evidence of her advice, and then withheld the evidence from a Virginia federal court, where Lindh faced charges of murder and treason in a high-profile prosecution helping inflame the public in the earliest stages of the war.
Radack's gripping tale describes a culture clash at the Justice Department between due process advocates and conviction-hungry zealots. The story has implications far beyond the Lindh case or indeed any of the terror cases. Readers of the Justice Integrity Project's site (which I edit at [...]) know of documented prosecution misconduct in criminal and civil cases in other cases, including mind-boggling evidence of a federal frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, the state's most prominent Democrat for many years.
I saw Radack lecture at the National Press Club with her client Thomas Drake in early 2012, and invited her to appear Aug. 30 on the "Washington Update" public affairs radio show I co-host on the MTL network, which maintains an archive of past shows.
She is an expert on a fascinating topic: What a law enforcement employee, or indeed what any employee should do, when supervisors pressure for participation in a legal fraud? Naturally it would be for goals -- in this case claims of national security -- ostensibly far more important than truth in court.
Radack's situation was especially dramatic because she needed medical insurance as both a victim of multiple sclerosis and as a young mother. Nonetheless, she resigned from the Justice Department in 2002, only to find the department relentlessly followed her to try to thwart her employment (and health care) elsewhere, thereby making her an example of what happens to employees who do not toe the line on sensitive matters.
Civil liberties advocates have showered her and her book with praise, as indicated elsewhere in these reader reviews. She is currently the director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project.
After Radack's disclosures to a Newsweek reporter in 2002 Lindh pled guilty in 2002 to two relatively minor charges in a plea deal that avoided a potentially embarrassing pre-trial hearing for the government on its conduct. Lindh received a long prison sentence. He is back in the news this week with a lawsuit against prison officials in Indiana protesting restrictions on his ability to participate in group prayers.
The major officials who are exposed as leading a department-wide effort to suppress traditional due process safeguards in the case include Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. Another was Assistant Attorney Gen. Michael Chertoff, co-author of the Patriot Act and later secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Radack's slim (164-page) book is packed with insider information about the administration's first major terrorism case after 9/11, and how the White House made crucial decisions on legal strategies.
"The poetic justice of Radack's appalling experience," writes columnist Glenn Greenwald in an apt book foreword, "is that she is using her hard-learned lessons to advocate and represent some of the nation's today's biggest whistleblowers: Thomas Drake, Bradley Manning, Peter Van Buren, and John Doe in Doe v. Rumsfeld. As Drake put it: 'Jesselyn truly became my public voice and conscience -- speaking out and writing fearless and courageously -- bringing truth to power with all her simply superb outreach and advocacy.'"
In 'Traitor,' Jesselyn Radack paints a vivid portrait of her experience as a Justice Department whistleblower exposing grievous violations of due process and legal ethics in the witchhunt for terrorists.
Radack's career as a government attorney was filled with incredible promise--she was one of two Yale Law graduates accepted to the prestigious Department of Justice Honors Program, her work was influential in legal journals, she was awarded bonuses for her quality work, and she was noticed and respected by future Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. Developing at the same time was the case of John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban." Radack chronicles the gruesome violations of Lindh's well-being, rights, and personal dignity. When Lindh was detained, FBI and DOJ agents wished to interrogate him (illegal and unethical if that person is represented by an attorney). Lindh's father had retained counsel for him, which Radack communicated to her superiors and they acknowledged.
Nevertheless, the FBI questioned Lindh without a lawyer present, basing his grand jury investigation on the results of that interview. Attorney General John Ashcroft said publicly that Lindh, "to our knowledge, has not chosen a lawyer at this time." Radack also writes that Ashcroft exposed Lindh to prejudicial pre-trial publicity (violating DOJ guidelines).
Radack brought this to the attention of her superiors, who told her to "drop the matter." She discovered that the e-mails she had written on the issue had disappeared from a case file that was provided to the defense on the case. Rather than acknowledge that the FBI circumvented Lindh's rights to an attorney, she was being told to hush amidst an elaborate cover-up. The defense in Lindh's case sought her e-mails, and the DOJ was not handing them over, compromising Lindh's legal rights and tainting the basis of the grand jury investigation. After going nowhere by communicating with her superiors, Radack tendered her resignation.
With nowhere else to go, she decided to blow the whistle. And all hell broke loose. The rest of the book chronicles the bone-chilling reaction of the executive branch. Radack was put on a "No-Fly" list, reported to state bars where she is licensed to practice law, forced out of a job and fired from another, and personally harassed by threats of legal prosecution and smears of her professional image. The Justice Department, in sum, tried to destroy her livelihood. Media outlets, such as The New Yorker, picked up Radack's story and defended her. Senator Edward Kennedy pressed Radack's allegations in nomination hearings for the judgeship of Michael Chertoff, assistant AG for DOJ's Criminal Division (and later head of the Department of Homeland Security). Radack reveals the complete and continued disingenuity of the responses of the executive branch.
I had the privilege, but in some sense horror, of reading 'Traitor' after the jaw-dropping revelations of unbounded domestic spying by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The actions of the executive branch against Snowden mirror its behavior toward Radack in both ruthlessness and character. Both Snowden and Radack were branded traitors. Both had very promising careers and connections turned upside down by scorched-earth smear campaigns. Radack quotes John Ashcroft that "The law is not about forgiveness . . . It is oftentimes about vengeance, oftentimes about revenge."
Glenn Greenwald (who broke the revelations of Snowden) provides a chilling introduction that juxtaposes the Obama Justice Department's policy of "Look Forward, Not Backward" regarding prosecuting government war crimes, torture, and spying with the reality of ruthless prosecution against whistleblowers.
"Now I was a caged bird," writes Radack. Her story is rife with a shivering degree of emotion and humanity, contrasted against the inhuman callousness of the forces she rattled. She writes that the ordeal "wreaked havoc on my family, my health, my finances, and my career." Individuals like Radack, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, and Snowden have made uninmaginable sacrifices--just to expose the necessary information to help us clutch onto our remaining civil liberties.
Read her story--it continues to be relevant, perhaps even more relevant with every day that passes. This book could easily have been a rant. Instead, it is a clear, collected, and heartfelt read. Radack is conservative and honest in the connections she draws. Her claims are substantiated, and she dutifully connects her dots.
Most importantly, recent months have revealed that this book reveals much more than a history. Radack is investigating a disease--a deep, systematic problem and a war on accountability and whistleblowers in this country.
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