Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 28th, 2016

No.  Israel cannot be an “only Jewish State”

The Israeli government’s current mantra is that the Palestinians must recognise a “Jewish State”.

the Palestinians have clearly and repeatedly recognised the State of Israel as such in the 1993 Oslo Accords (which were based on an Israeli promise to establish a Palestinian state within five years – a promise now shattered) and many times since.

Recently, however, Israeli leaders have dramatically and unilaterally moved the goal-posts and are now clamouring that Palestinians must recognise Israel as a “Jewish State”.

In 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry concluded that the demand for a “Jewish State” was not part of the obligations of the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate.

Even in the First Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897, when Zionists sought to “establish a home for the Jewish people”, there was no reference of a “Jewish State”.

Sari Nusseibeh
Sari Nusseibeh
Sari Nusseibeh is professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
Why Israel can’t be a ‘Jewish State’
The Israeli demand to be recognised as a “Jewish state” by the Palestinians is an inherently problematic concept
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2011 17:58
1.6bn Muslims and 2.4bn Christians regard Jerusalem as holy, which is about 55 per cent of the world’s population [EPA]

The Zionist Organisation preferred at first to use the description “Jewish homeland” or “Jewish Commonwealth”. Many pioneering Zionist leaders, such as Judah Magnes and Martin Buber also avoided the clear and explicit term “Jewish State” for their project of a homeland for Jews, and preferred instead the concept of a democratic bi-national state.

Today, demands for a “Jewish State” from Israeli politicians are growing without giving thought to what this might mean, and its supporters claim that it would be as natural as calling France a French State.

However, if we consider the subject dispassionately, the idea of a “Jewish State” is logically and morally problematic because of its legal, religious, historical and social implications. The implications of this term therefore need to be spelled out, and we are sure that once they are, most people – and most Israeli citizens, we trust – will not accept these implications.

Many implications

First, let us say that confusion immediately arises here because the term “Jewish” can be applied both to the ancient race of Israelites and their descendants, as well as to those who believe in and practice the religion of Judaism. These generally overlap, but not always.

For example, some ethnic Jews are atheists and there are converts to Judaism (leaving aside the question of whether these are accepted as such by Ultra-Orthodox Jews) who are not ethnic Jews.

Second, let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself – if not inherently self-contradictory – because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution, and because no state in the world is – or can be in practice – ethnically or religiously homogenous.

Third, recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy – something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country’s founding in 1948.

Fourth, at least one in five Israelis – 20 per cent of the population, according to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics – is ethnically Arab (and are mostly either Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai), and recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them, most undemocratically, to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights) – something that no-one, much less a Palestinian leader, has a right to do.

Fifth, recognising a “Jewish State” as such in Israel would mean legally that while Palestinians no longer have citizens’ rights there, any member of world Jewry outside of Israel (up to 10 million people perhaps), should be entitled to full citizens’ rights there, no matter wherever they may be in the world today and regardless of their current nationality.

Indeed, Israel publicly admits that it does not hold the land for the benefit of its citizens but holds it, in trust, on behalf of the Jews of the world for all time. This is something that happens in practice, but that obviously Palestinians in the occupied territories – including Jerusalem – do not see as fair, especially as they are constantly forcibly evicted off their ancestral homeland by Israel to make way for foreign Jewish settlers, and because Palestinians in their diaspora are denied the same right to come and live.

Sixth, it means, before final status negotiations have even started, that Palestinians would have then given up the rights of about 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora to repatriation or compensation; 7 million Palestinians descended from the Palestinians who in 1900 lived in historical Palestine (ie what is now Israel, the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza) and at that time made up 800,000 of its 840,000 inhabitants; and who were driven off their land through war, violent eviction or fear. (Remember that in 1948, UN resolution 198 save the Right of Return of the Palestinians to their homeland)

Seventh, recognising a “Jewish state” in Israel – a state which purports to annex the whole of Jerusalem, East and West, and calls Jerusalem its “eternal, undivided capital” (as if the city, or even the world itself, were eternal; as if it were really undivided, and as if it actually were legally recognised by the international community as Israel’s capital) – means completely ignoring the fact that Jerusalem is as holy to 2.2 billion Christians and 1.6 billion Muslims, as it is to 15-20 million Jews worldwide.

In other words, this would be to privilege Judaism above the religions of Christianity and Islam, whose adherents together comprise 55 per cent of the world’s population.

Regrettably this is a narrative propagated even by renowned Jewish author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who, on April 15, 2010, took out full page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post and claimed that Jerusalem “is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Qur’an”.

Now we do not propose to speak for native Palestinian Arab Christians – except to say the that Jerusalem is quite obviously the city of Jesus Christ the Messiah – but as Muslims, we believe that Jerusalem is not the “third holiest city of Islam” as is sometimes claimed, but simply one of Islam’s three holy cities. And, of course, despite what Mr Wiesel seems to believe, Jerusalem is indeed clearly referred to in the Holy Qur’an in Surat al-Isra’ (17:1):

“Glorified be He Who transported His servant by night from the Inviolable Place of Worship to the Aqsa Place of Worship whose precincts We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He, is the Hearer, the Seer.”

Moreover, Muslims wanting to take a similar, religiously exclusive narrative, could point out that while Jerusalem is mentioned 600 times in the Bible, it is not mentioned once in the Torah as such – a fact that any Biblical Concordance will easily confirm. Of course we do, however, recognise the importance of the land of Israel in the religion of Judaism – this is even mentioned in the Qur’an, 5:21 – we only ask that the Israeli government reciprocate this courtesy and allow Muslims to speak for themselves in expressing what they consider, and have always considered, as holy to them.

There is another reason, more serious than all of the seven mentioned above, why Palestinian leaders – and indeed no responsible person – can morally recognise Israel as a “Jewish State” as such. It has to do with the very Covenant of God in the Bible with Ancient Israelites of the promise of a homeland for Jews. God says to Abraham in the Bible:

On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying:

“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates – the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis, 15:18-21; NKJ)

The ancient Israelites then go on to possess this land in the time of Moses, upon God’s command, as follows:

“When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. (Deuteronomy, 7:1-2; NKJ)

“Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the descendants of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you heard it said: ‘Who can stand before the descendants of Anak?’ Therefore understand today that the LORD your God is He who goes over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and bring them down before you; so you shall drive them out and destroy them quickly, as the LORD has said to you.” (Deuteronomy, 9:1-4; NKJ)

The fate of many of the original inhabitants is then as follows:

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. (Joshua, 6:21; NKJ)

And this continues even later on in time, as follows:

Samuel also said to Saul: “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'” (1 Samuel, 15:1-3; NKJ)

Now it is very easy to cherry-pick quotes from scripture permitting or enjoining violence. One could cite, out of context, verses such as the “sword verse” in the Holy Qur’an:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and establish prayer and pay the alms, then leave their way free. God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Al-Tawbah, 9:5)

One could even cite verses – again out of context – from Jesus Christ’s own words in the Gospel, as follows:

“But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.'” (Luke, 19:27; NKJ)
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew, 10:34; NKJ)

Democracy or a Jewish State?

Nevertheless, it remains true that, in the Old Testament, God commands the Jewish state in the land of Israel to come into being through warfare and violent dispossession of the original inhabitants.

Moreover, this command has its roots in the very Covenant of God with Abraham (or rather “Abram” at that time) in the Bible and it thus forms one of the core tenets of Judaism as such, at least as we understand it.

No one then can blame Palestinians and descendents of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites (as seen in the Bible itself) for a little trepidation as regards what recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means for them, particularly to certain Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews.

No one then can blame Palestinians for asking if recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means recognising the legitimacy of offensive warfare or violence against them by Israel to take what remains of Palestine from them.

We need hardly say that this comes against a background where every day the Israeli settler movement is grabbing more land in the West Bank and Jerusalem (there are now 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank alone) – aided, abetted, funded and empowered by the current Israeli government – and throwing or forcing more and more Palestinians out, in so many different ways that it would take volumes to describe.

there are credible reports that despite the almost universal agreement in Rabbinical texts throughout the ages that the divine command to kill the Amalekites was a unique and isolated historical incident that applied only to the race of the Ancient Amalekites, there are now, in certain religious schools in Israel, people who draw parallels between the Palestinians of today and the ancient Amalekites and their like (this was apparently the opinion of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief Rabbi of Israel; see also, for example: Shulamit Aloni’s article ‘Murder Under the Cover of Righteousness‘, CounterPunch, March, 8-9, 2003).

In short, recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” in Israel is not the same as, say, recognition of Greece today as a “Christian State”.

It entails, in the Old Testament itself, a Covenant between God and a Chosen People regarding a Promised Land that should be taken by force at the expense of the other inhabitants of the land and of non-Jews. This idea is not present as such in other religions that we know of.

Even secular and progressive voices in Israel, such as former president of the Supreme Court of Israel, Aharon Barak, understand the concept of a “Jewish State” as follows:

“[The] Jewish State is the state of the Jewish people … it is a state in which every Jew has the right to return … a Jewish state derives its values from its religious heritage, the Bible is the basic of its books and Israel’s prophets are the basis of its morality … a Jewish state is a state in which the values of Israel, Torah, Jewish heritage and the values of the Jewish halacha [religious law] are the bases of its values.” (‘A State in Emergency’, Ha’aretz, 19 June, 2005.)

So, rather than demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a “Jewish State” as such – adding “beyond chutzpah” to insult and injury – we offer the suggestion that Israeli leaders ask instead that Palestinians recognise Israel (proper) as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish.

Many states (including Israel’s neighbours Jordan and Egypt, and countries such as Greece) have their official religion as Christianity or Islam (but grant equal civil rights to all citizens) and there is no reason why Israeli Jews should not want the religion of their state to be officially Jewish.

This is a reasonable demand, and it may allay the fears of Jewish Israelis about becoming a minority in Israel, and at the same time not arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine. Demanding the recognition of Israel’s official religion as Judaism, rather than the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State”, would also mean Israel continuing to be a democracy.

Sari Nusseibeh is a professor of philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 

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19 iPhone Tricks And Tips Apple Doesn’t Want You To Know. #7 Just Made My Life

Posted Aug 11, by Beej Rudd

1. There is an undo function that allows you to go back if you make a mistake writing a text message, email, or editing a photo. Simply shake your phone and this option will pop up.

2. Double-tapping the spacebar will automatically end the sentence with a period and start a new one for you.

3. As long as the camera app is open, you can use the volume buttons to take a photos.

Woah, this just stepped up my selfie game!

4. You can teach Siri how to properly pronounce words by saying, “That’s not how you pronounce______ ” and she will then give alternatives for you to choose the correct one.

       

 

Astronomer Vera Rubin—The Doyenne of Dark Matter

Saturday, June 01, 2002

When Vera Rubin was 14, she fashioned a home-made telescope out of a cardboard tube and began scanning the night sky. Her early enthusiasm paid off in 1950 when, as a 22-year-old mother of a month-old baby, she hit the headlines of the Washington Post with a provocative theory that the universe is rotating.

Her later observations of orbiting stars on the outskirts of galaxies helped spark a remarkable realization: the vast majority of matter in the universe is invisible, or ‘dark’.

Now 73, she continues her cosmic exploration at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. She shared some recent insights with associate editor Josie Glausiusz.

How did you first realize the universe is filled with invisible matter?
In a spiral galaxy like our own, a couple hundred billion stars orbit around the center. Spirals appear to thin out toward the edges, so the gravitational pull on the outer stars should be weaker out there.

Everyone therefore assumed that objects near the edges orbit more slowly. But that is not what I found: Even stars at the periphery are orbiting at high velocities. There has to be a lot of mass to make the stars orbit so rapidly, but we can’t see it. We call this invisible mass dark matter.

Do you know what dark matter consists of?
No. We absolutely do not. I said in 1980 that we’d know what dark matter was in ten years, that the particle physicists would tell us. And although at the present time we think that most of the matter in the universe is dark, there is a lot of it only because the universe is so enormously large.

Particle physicists have to do in their laboratories what the universe is doing on a very large scale, so they are continually building more powerful and larger detectors. However, there would be so few of these particles in the distances and energies they’re involved with, that they’re looking for something that’s much rarer than a needle in a haystack.

Could a flaw in our ideas about gravity explain your findings?
There is one alternative to dark matter, and that is the assumption that Newton’s laws don’t hold over distances as great as galaxies. But we know that Newton’s laws hold over a very large domain.

And virtually one hundred percent of the physics and astronomy community believes that there is matter in the universe that does not radiate. Having said that, we really don’t understand what gravity is or why it’s such a weak force. You can pick up a paper clip, and you’re overcoming the gravitational force of the Earth. Well, that’s astounding!

How could the study of dark matter help us to understand the size, shape and ultimate fate of the universe?
If there is enough dark matter in the Universe then it is possible that the Universe would ultimately stop expanding and collapse. We think at the present time that there is not enough dark matter plus light to halt the expansion. And it looks as if there is a cosmological constant, a hidden energy whose effect is to make the expansion actually speed up.

What is the current focus of your work?
Still galaxies, but slightly more peculiar ones. About ten years ago, I discovered a disk galaxy in the Virgo cluster in which half the stars go clockwise and half the stars go counterclockwise—intermingled in the same disk. That’s possible because stars are so far apart. But we also started studying polar ring galaxies, that have rings of stars and gas over their poles. I’ve gotten interested in these kinds of objects partly because it’s very difficult to understand how they form.

What lies in wait for our own galaxy, the Milky Way?
We and Andromeda, the closest large galaxy, are actually approaching each other. In about two billion years we will pass by or through each other. Or it could be a dead-on hit. But the gravitational attraction should be enough that we’ll start orbiting closer and closer and closer, and probably by five billion years we will have merged.

Do you think there could be life elsewhere in the universe?
I think it would be impossible for there not to be. We know that the laws of physics are virtually the same all over the universe. That was essentially learned by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin in her 1925 thesis, which no one would believe. She discovered that stars were mostly hydrogen, and that they were all pretty much the same.

There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy and there are billions of galaxies, so there’s been plenty of chance for planets. And even though improbable things happen, I find it impossible to believe that our solar system is unique.

What do you think of Steven Weinberg’s contention that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”?
I don’t really know what he means by “pointless.” For those of us living in the universe, it’s a very interesting experience, one I’m glad I have. Certainly, the universe was not designed for us. But I don’t know. It’s spring today, and there are lots of beautiful flowers in Washington, and I love walking to work and seeing them all. I don’t know that that’s all pointless. It may not have a universal aim, but it is very nice to be here.

What is the biggest challenge that you faced as a woman scientist?
Child care. I have four children, and my husband and I were devoted to them all, and it was always a problem. I worked for almost all of my early career as a part-time person so that I could be home at 3 o’clock, and that was after they were all in school. It was almost overwhelming. I did a lot of my work at home. When I was home, the kids didn’t really care what I was doing, and so I sat at the dining room table and worked.

What advice would you now give women pursuing careers in science?
I guess I would say that if they really want to do it, to just go ahead, try not to let anything discourage them, try not to quit, but to recognize that academia is still not kind to women. In the United States industry has been hiring women. But the numbers of women in academia is still pathetic. I think academia is still really quite a male society, and it’s easier for people to hire people who are like themselves, and have the same outlook on everything, and do things essentially the same way.

All four of your children have doctorates in the sciences. To what do you attribute their love of science?
They saw their parents having so much fun that they thought that would be a good thing to do. In fact our fourth was quite a talented musician, and we tried telling him that we enjoyed having a musician in the family, that we didn’t want him to think he had to be a scientist because all his siblings were. And he said, no, music is too hard! He could be a scientist and still do music, but he couldn’t be a musician and do science.

If you could visit another galaxy, which would you choose, and why?
That’s easy. I would choose to go to Andromeda, so I could look back at our galaxy and see what it looked like. I expect I would see a beautiful spiral with a central bright bulge, and dust lanes outlining the spiral arms. Actually the trip there would be lots of fun, too, because you’d move through our galaxy to get there, so you’d see things close up.

I’d make the person taking me go closer to the center, but maybe not the exact center, because then we may get swept into a black hole. But nearby to see what dense cores of galaxies are like. Maybe we’d discover other bits of galaxies. And if we could tell where the dark matter was, maybe we could tell how far it went, and whether it actually went as far as Andromeda.

How the Pentagon punished NSA whistleblowers

Not a secret. Just how doing it

Sunday 22 May 2016

Long before Edward Snowden went public, John Crane was a top Pentagon official fighting to protect NSA whistle-blowers.

By now, almost everyone knows what Edward Snowden did. He leaked top-secret documents revealing that the National Security Agency was spying on hundreds of millions of people across the world, collecting the phone calls and emails of virtually everyone on Earth who used a mobile phone or the internet.

When this newspaper began publishing the NSA documents in June 2013, it ignited a fierce political debate that continues to this day – about government surveillance, but also about the morality, legality and civic value of whistleblowing.

But if you want to know why Snowden did it, and the way he did it, you have to know the stories of two other men.

The first is Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed US whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed.

Drake was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally. The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today. Adding insult to injury, his warnings about the dangers of the NSA’s surveillance programme were largely ignored.

The government spent many years trying to break me, and the more I resisted, the nastier they got,” Drake told me.

Drake’s story has since been told – and in fact, it had a profound impact on Snowden, who told an interviewer in 2015 that: “It’s fair to say that if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there wouldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”

But there is another man whose story has never been told before, who is speaking out publicly for the first time here. His name is John Crane, and he was a senior official in the Department of Defense who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake – until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well.

His testimony reveals a crucial new chapter in the Snowden story – and Crane’s failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations.

During dozens of hours of interviews, Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute Drake.

First, he alleged, they revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.

The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself.

Snowden was unaware of the hidden machinations inside the Pentagon that undid Drake, but the outcome of those machinations – Drake’s arrest, indictment and persecution – sent an unmistakable message: raising concerns within the system promised doom.

“Name one whistleblower from the intelligence community whose disclosures led to real change – overturning laws, ending policies – who didn’t face retaliation as a result. The protections just aren’t there,” Snowden told the Guardian this week. “The sad reality of today’s policies is that going to the inspector general with evidence of truly serious wrongdoing is often a mistake. Going to the press involves serious risks, but at least you’ve got a chance.”

Snowden saw what had happened to Drake and other whistleblowers like him. The key to Snowden’s effectiveness, according to Thomas Devine, the legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), was that he practised “civil disobedience” rather than “lawful” whistleblowing. (GAP, a non-profit group in Washington, DC, that defends whistleblowers, has represented Snowden, Drake and Crane.)

“None of the lawful whistleblowers who tried to expose the government’s warrantless surveillance – and Drake was far from the only one who tried – had any success,” Devine told me. “They came forward and made their charges, but the government just said, ‘They’re lying, they’re paranoid, we’re not doing those things.’ And the whistleblowers couldn’t prove their case because the government had classified all the evidence. Whereas Snowden took the evidence with him, so when the government issued its usual denials, he could produce document after document showing that they were lying. That is civil disobedience whistleblowing.”

Crane, a solidly built Virginia resident with flecks of grey in a neatly trimmed chinstrap beard, understood Snowden’s decision to break the rules – but lamented it. “Someone like Snowden should not have felt the need to harm himself just to do the right thing,” he told me.

Crane’s testimony is not simply a clue to Snowden’s motivations and methods: if his allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

But Crane’s account has even larger ramifications: it repudiates the position on Snowden taken by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – who both maintain that Snowden should have raised his concerns through official channels because US whistleblower law would have protected him.

By the time Snowden went public in 2013, Crane had spent years fighting a losing battle inside the Pentagon to provide whistleblowers the legal protections to which they were entitled. He took his responsibilities so seriously, and clashed with his superiors so often, that he carried copies of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the US constitution in his breast pocket and pulled them out during office conflicts.

Crane’s attorneys at GAP – who were used to working with all types of government and corporate whistleblowers – were baffled by him: in their experience, most senior government officials cared little for whistleblowers’ rights. So what motivated Crane to keep fighting for the rights of whistleblowers inside the Pentagon, even as his superiors grew increasingly hostile and eventually forced him to resign?

To hear Crane tell it, the courage to stand up and fight runs in his family. He never forgot the story he heard as a child, about his own grandfather, a German army officer who once faced down Adolf Hitler at gunpoint – on the night the future Fuhrer first tried to take over Germany.

A former press aide to Republican members of Congress, John Crane was hired by the Inspector General’s office of the Department of Defense in 1988. Within US government agencies, an inspector general serves as a kind of judge and police chief. The IG, as the inspector general is known, is charged with making sure a given agency is operating according to the law – obeying rules and regulations, spending money as authorised by Congress. “In the IG’s office, we were the guys with the white hats,” Crane said.

By 2004 Crane had been promoted to assistant inspector general. At the age of 48, his responsibilities included supervising the whistleblower unit at the Department of Defense, as well as handling all whistleblower allegations arising from the department’s two million employees (by far the largest workforce in the US government), in some cases including allegations originating in the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

Drake, a father of five, had worked for the NSA for 12 years as a private-sector contractor. Now, as a staff member proper, he reported directly to the NSA’s third highest ranking official, Maureen Baginski; she headed the NSA’s largest division, the Signals Intelligence Directorate, which was responsible for the interception of phone calls and other communications.

Tall, sombre, intense, Drake was a championship chess player in high school whose gift for mathematics, computers and languages made him a natural for foreign eavesdropping and the cryptographic and linguistic skills it required. During the cold war, he worked for air force intelligence, monitoring the communications of East Germany’s infamous secret police, the Stasi.

Within weeks of the September 11 attacks, Drake was assigned to prepare the NSA’s postmortem on the disaster. Congress, the news media and the public were demanding answers: what had gone wrong at the NSA and other federal agencies to allow Osama bin Laden’s operatives to conduct such a devastating attack?

As Drake interviewed NSA colleagues and scoured the agency’s records, he came across information that horrified him. It appeared that the NSA – even before September 11 – had secretly revised its scope of operations to expand its powers.

Since its inception, the NSA had been strictly forbidden from eavesdropping on domestic communications. Drake’s investigation persuaded him that the NSA was now violating this restriction by collecting information on communications within as well as outside of the United States. And it was doing so without obtaining legally required court orders.

A straight arrow since high school – he once gave the police the names of classmates he suspected of selling pot – Drake told me he felt compelled to act. “I took an oath to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” he explained.

To Drake, the President’s Surveillance Program, as it was known inside the George W Bush administration, recalled the mindset of the Stasi. “You don’t spend year after year listening to a police state without being affected, you just don’t,” he told me. “I remember saying to myself, ‘Wow, I don’t want this to happen in our country!’ How could you live in a society where you always have to be looking over your shoulders, not knowing who you could trust, even in your own family?”

Drake’s descent into a nightmare of persecution at the hands of his own government began innocently. Having uncovered evidence of apparently illegal behaviour, he did what his military training and US whistleblower law instructed: he reported the information up the chain of command. Beginning in early 2002, he shared his concerns first with a small number of high-ranking NSA officials, then with the appropriate members of Congress and staff at the oversight committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Drake spent countless hours in these sessions but eventually came to the conclusion that no one in a position of authority wanted to hear what he was saying. When he told his boss, Baginski, that the NSA’s expanded surveillance following 9/11 seemed legally dubious, she reportedly told him to drop the issue: the White House had ruled otherwise.


John Crane first heard about Thomas Drake when Crane and his colleagues at the Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General received a whistleblower complaint in September 2002.

The complaint alleged that the NSA was backing an approach to electronic surveillance that was both financially and constitutionally irresponsible. The complaint was signed by three former NSA officials, William Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis, and a former senior Congressional staffer, Diane Roark.

Drake also endorsed the complaint – but because he, unlike the other four, had not yet retired from government service, he asked that his name be kept anonymous, even in a document that was supposed to be treated confidentially within the government.

Binney, Wiebe, Loomis and Roark shared Drake’s concerns about the constitutional implications of warrantless mass surveillance, but their complaint focused on two other issues.

Drake had discovered a shocking example while researching his postmortem report on the September 11 attacks. Months beforehand, the NSA had come into possession of a telephone number in San Diego that was used by two of the hijackers who later crashed planes into the World Trade Center. But the NSA did not act on this finding.

As Drake later told the NSA expert James Bamford, the NSA intercepted seven phone calls between this San Diego phone number and an al-Qaida “safe house” in Yemen. Drake found a record of the seven calls buried in an NSA database.

US officials had long known that the Yemen safe house was the operational hub through which Bin Laden, from a cave in Afghanistan, ordered attacks. Seven phone calls to such a hub from the same phone number was obviously suspicious. Yet the NSA took no action – the information had apparently been overlooked.

The NSA whistleblowers first sent their complaint to the inspector general of the NSA, who ruled against them. So they went up the bureaucratic ladder, filing the complaint with the Department of Defense inspector general. There, Crane and his staff “substantially affirmed” the complaint – in other words, their own investigation concluded that the NSA whistleblowers’ charges were probably on target.

In the course of their investigation, Crane and his colleagues in the inspector general’s office also affirmed the whistleblowers’ allegation that the Bush administration’s surveillance programme violated the fourth amendment of the US constitution by collecting Americans’ phone and internet communications without a warrant. “We were concerned about these constitutional issues even before we investigated their complaint,” Crane told me. “We had received other whistleblower filings that flagged the issue.”

In line with standard procedure, these investigative findings were relayed to the House and Senate committees overseeing the NSA – and this helped nudge Congress to end funding for the Trailblazer programme. But for the NSA whistleblowers, this apparent victory was the beginning of a dark saga that would change their lives for ever.

Crane could not believe his ears. “I told Henry that destruction of documents under such circumstances was, as he knew, a very serious matter and could lead to the inspector general being accused of obstructing a criminal investigation.” Shelley replied, according to Crane, that it didn’t have to be a problem if everyone was a good team player.

On 15 February, 2011, Shelley and Halbrooks sent the judge in the Drake case a letter that repeated the excuse given to Crane: the requested documents had been destroyed, by mistake, during a routine purge. This routine purge, the letter assured Judge Richard D Bennett, took place before Drake was indicted.

“Lynne and Henry had frozen me out by then, so I had no input into their letter to Judge Bennett,” Crane said. “So they ended up lying to a judge in a criminal case, which of course is a crime.”

With Drake adamantly resisting prosecutors’ pressure to make a plea deal – “I won’t bargain with the truth,” he declared – the government eventually withdrew most of its charges against him. Afterwards, the judge blasted the government’s conduct. It was “extraordinary”, he said, that the government barged into Drake’s home, indicted him, but then dropped the case on the eve of trial as if it wasn’t a big deal after all.

“I find that unconscionable,” Bennett added. “Unconscionable. It is at the very root of what this country was founded on … It was one of the most fundamental things in the bill of rights, that this country was not to be exposed to people knocking on the door with government authority and coming into their homes.”

When John Crane put his career on the line by standing up for legal treatment of Pentagon whistleblowers, he was following a moral code laid down 80 years before by his German grandfather. Crane grew up in suburban Virginia, but he spent nearly every summer in Germany with his mother’s extended family.

During these summer sojourns, Crane heard countless times about the moment when his grandfather confronted Hitler. His mother and his grandmother both told the story, and the moral never changed. “One must always try to do the right thing, even when there are risks,” Crane recalled being instructed. “And should someone do the right thing, there can of course be consequences.”

Crane’s grandfather was days shy of turning 40 on the night of Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch”, 8 November, 1923. Plotting to overthrow the Weimar Republic, Hitler and 600 armed members of his fledgling Nazi party surrounded a beer hall in Munich where the governor of Bavaria, Gustav von Kahr, was addressing a large crowd. The rebels burst into the hall, hoping to kidnap Von Kahr and march on Berlin.

After his men unveiled a machine gun hidden in the upstairs gallery, Hitler fired his pistol into the air and shouted, “The national revolution has begun!”

Crane’s grandfather, Günther Rüdel, was in the hall as part of his military duties, Rüdel recalled in an eight-page, single-spaced, typewritten affidavit that provides a minute-by-minute eyewitness account of the putsch. (Rüdel was later a government witness in the trial that sentenced Hitler to five years in prison, though he was not called to testify.)

The son of a prominent German general, Rüdel had served with distinction in the first world war, earning two Iron Crosses. By 1923, he was serving as chief political aide to General Otto von Lossow, the German army’s highest official in Bavaria. As such, Rüdel was the chief liaison between Von Lossow and Von Kahr and privy to the two men’s many dealings with Hitler.

Suspecting that Hitler and his followers were planning a coup, Lossow and Rüdel had forced their way into the beer hall to monitor developments. The head of Bavaria’s state police, Hans Ritter von Seisser, was also there, accompanied by a bodyguard. Rüdel was standing with Lossow and Von Seisser when armed men burst into the hall, with Hitler in the lead.

“Hitler, with pistol held high, escorted on right and left by armed men, his tunic stained with beer, stormed through the hall towards the podium,” Rüdel wrote in his affidavit. “When he was directly in front of us, police chief Von Seisser’s adjutant gripped [but did not unsheath] his sword. Hitler immediately aimed his pistol at the man’s chest. I shouted, ‘Mr Hitler, in this way you will never liberate Germany.’ Hitler hesitated, lowered his pistol and pushed his way between us to the podium.”

In the surrounding chaos, Hitler’s men tried to force Von Kahr, Lossow and Von Seisser to join the coup, but their uprising soon fizzled. A few days later, Hitler was arrested and charged with treason. He served a year in jail, where he wrote his autobiography, Mein Kampf.

Incredible as it may sound, Crane aims to get his old job back. His attorney, Devine, thinks that is a fantasy. In Devine’s view, the problems facing whistleblowers are systemic – and the system does not forgive, especially someone who has exposed the system’s corruption as devastatingly as Crane has done.

To Crane, however, it is a simple matter of right and wrong. It was not he who broke the law; it was his superiors. Therefore it is not he who should pay the price but they.

“I just want to see the system work properly,” he says. “I know the system can fail – world war two, Nazi Germany – but I also know that you need to do what is right. Because the government is so powerful, you need to have it run efficiently and honestly and according to the law.”

“What are the odds the system will work properly in your case?” I asked Crane.

“I’m not giving you odds,” he replies with a chuckle. “This is just something that I have to do.”

This article is adapted from Mark Hertsgaard’s new book, Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden (Hot Books/Skyhorse)

Illustration by Nathalie Lees

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