John Reidy sent a complaint to the CIA’s inspector general in 2010 about a 2007 “incident,” but has yet to see any action taken, he says.
“I cannot talk about the 2007 incident. It is classified. I risk incarceration. I have a family,” Reidy said. But he will express frustration with the channels within the intelligence community for speaking up about abuses. “I have played by the rules … They are broken."
Chelsea Manning spent seven years in jail for releasing thousands of classified files to WikiLeaks. Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, faces prosecution if he were to return to the US from Russia for comparable offenses: releasing information that showed the NSA to have a sophisticated surveillance infrastructure in place for snooping on Americans. Top US officials frequently blast leakers, but if the complaint processes within intelligence agencies aren’t improved, disgruntled employees may eventually speak out, Reidy worries.
Reality Winner is the most recent contractor charged with illegally providing documents to the media, in this case to The Intercept.
“If you are contemplating whistleblowing … you’re going to sit there and say, ‘If I go through that system, it will not end well for me. I’m going to lose my career and I’m going to be financially devastated,’” Reidy explains. And, it seems, if you stay within the system, your efforts will be for naught.
The last time the CIA turned its scrutiny inward happened in 2013 when a few employees were caught stealing candy from vending machines. “They have enough time to look into who is stealing candy from a vending machine but they can’t look into billion-dollar contract fraud?” Reidy wondered. He has since drafted a 90-page document regarding his case and put it in the hands of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Groupthink doesn’t exactly embolden whistleblowing in the intelligence community. “You will likely find yourself a pariah” for verbally questioning practices that might embarrass the CIA, says Bradley Moss, an attorney who has worked on national security lawsuits with whistleblowers. “Nobody likes someone who rocks the boat.”