Above photo: George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis, Aug. 17, 2020. Fibonacci Blue, Flickr,CC BY 2.0.
Darnella Frazier deserves national commendation.
The same goes for Joshua Schulte, Daniel Hale and Darin Jones, all of whom are in dire straits right now.
Darnella Frazier is a whistleblower. She’s an important one. Few Americans will know her name, but we should all be thanking her.
Darnella is the 17-year-old who took the video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. That video has become the de facto official record of Floyd’s death. Where would we be without it?
The Minneapolis Police Department’s initial account was entitled, “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” It said that police had been called to a Chicago Avenue South address for a “forgery in progress,” that Floyd “appeared to be under the influence,” and that he was “detained without the use of any weapons.” Almost every word in that statement was a lie, of course. The weapon used was Derek Chauvin’s knee. And thanks to Darnella Frazier, we know the truth.
Think about this verdict by asking yourself would this moment of accountability have been possible if it weren’t for the courage of a 17-year-old girl to record and share what was happening to George Floyd. #GeorgeFloyd #DerekChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/p4b4czzN65
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) April 20, 2021
There’s a legal definition of whistleblowing, which many of you may be tired of seeing me write, but which nonetheless bears repeating. That definition is “bringing to light any evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or public safety.” That’s exactly what Darnella Frazier did, and because of that, we are now — finally — debating national police reform in Congress.
In the hours after the jury’s conviction of Derek Chauvin, President Joe Biden telephoned the Floyd family to offer his support. He had said earlier in the day that he was hoping for the “right verdict.” Isn’t that nice? And it’s all because of Darnella Frazier’s whistleblowing.
Biden, though, isn’t so responsive to the revelations of other whistleblowers, many of whom are in dire straits right now. Biden can set himself apart from his recent predecessors by supporting the work of whistleblowers, especially national security whistleblowers. He could start with the following people. But he likely won’t.
Joshua Schulte & ‘Vault 7’
Former CIA technical officer Joshua Schulte, who is alleged to have released to WikiLeak sinformation known as “Vault 7,” which showed that the CIA was able to hijack the computers in our cars to cause us to drive into trees or off cliffs, and was able to take over our smart TVs to turn them into eavesdropping devices.
Schulte was tried on nearly a dozen espionage charges in federal court in New York last year. He was found guilty of two more minor counts and his jury hung on all other charges. Instead of releasing him pending retrial, though, the judge ordered that Schulte be held at the notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where FBI agents from the Biden Justice Department recently raided his cell to search for additional evidence to strengthen their case against him. He was denied access to a laptop computer to assist with his own defense, and his complaints of a fully-lighted cell 24 hours a day and lack of heat were rejected.
Schulte complained further that he was being denied access to, and visitation from, his family. The judge forced the Justice Department to reverse that policy. Schulte still faces the prospect of spending the rest of his natural life in prison. And Biden’s Justice Department is pulling out the stops to make sure that happens.
Daniel Hale & Killer Drones
Drone whistleblower Daniel Hale finds himself in a similar position. Hale last month decided to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act for telling an Intercept journalist that the U.S. was using drones to kill civilians, including women, children, and elderly people, in violation of both U.S. and international law.
The Trump administration went after Hale hard, and many of us thought that the Biden Justice Department would back off his prosecution. But that has not been the case. Hale will be sentenced on July 13. He faces up to 10 years in prison. And he still has additional charges to contend with.
Darin Jones & FBI Contracts
FBI whistleblower and former supervisory contract specialist Darin Jones is yet another example. He told his superiors that Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) had been awarded a $40 million contract improperly because a former FBI official with responsibility for granting the contract then was hired as a consultant at CSC.
Jones maintained that this was a violation of the Procurement Integrity Act. He made seven other disclosures alleging financial improprieties at the FBI, and he was promptly fired for his whistleblowing. Sen. Chuck Grassley, has gone to bat repeatedly for Jones and has demanded that the FBI reinstate him and pay him all back pay owed to him since his firing. The FBI has ignored him.
That’s where we come back to Biden. He certainly knows these cases. He was a senator for 36 years. He was chairman of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was vice president for eight years. He understands what is involved in malfeasance in the intelligence community and the foreign policy apparatus.
He can fix it.
Just don’t hold your breath that he will, nice comments to the Floyd family and about Darnella Frazier notwithstanding.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.