The Whistleblower and the “American Taliban” (Foreword by Glenn Greenwald)
About the Author
Jesselyn Radack is currently the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Previously, she served on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee and worked at the Justice Department for seven years, first as a trial attorney and later as a legal ethics advisor. Her writing has appeared in the L.A. Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Legal Times, National Law Journal, The Nation, and numerous law journals. A graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School, she lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and three children.
- Paperback: 180 pages
- Publisher: Whistleblower Press (January 30, 2012)
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)
Justice Advocate Radack Authors Courageous, Powerful Memoir
In 1995, a brilliant, newly minted Yale Law School graduate named Jesselyn Radack began work at the U.S. Justice Department to fulfill her dream of public service. Six years after becoming an ethics adviser in the headquarters of the 100,000-employee department, she found herself a pariah after suggesting that government attorneys should not provide false information to the courts in a federal terrorism prosecution.
“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.'”