Whistleblowers, secret surveillance focus on first day of NH Liberty Forum in NashuaBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 21. 2014 10:09PM
NASHUA — A legal adviser for Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor under fire for leaking global surveillance documents to the media, took the podium at the 2014 New Hampshire Liberty Forum on Friday to discuss her legal work with government whistleblowers.
Jesselyn Radack, a human rights attorney with the Government Accountability Project, is passionate about her work and ready to share her experiences with Free Staters from throughout New Hampshire and the rest of the nation.
“There is no such crime as leaking,” said Radack. “We do have something called the First Amendment.”
Radack argues that the Espionage Act of 1917 was not intended to prosecute whistleblowers like Snowden or Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive who became a material witness and whistleblower for two 9/11 congressional investigations.
“Thomas Drake was the most vanilla guy,” she told the crowd, maintaining Drake had no classified information, but was still the first man under President Barack Obama’s administration to be charged under the Espionage Act. He served no prison time.
Radack said Drake’s case was the first of now eight Espionage Act prosecutions of whistleblowers for non-spy activity.
She, along with Drake, addressed a crowd of Liberty Forum participants on Friday, focusing their comments on “restoring freedom and liberty in the face of fear and tyranny.”
According to Drake, the U.S. government did everything it could to take away his freedom. After a five-year ordeal, Drake is now taking his message to others who will listen.
“The Constitution, if you haven’t heard, expired on 9/11,” said Drake. He blew the whistle on what he says were intelligence failures that lie at the heart of the 9/11 tragedy, maintaining the NSA had critical information it could have shared to prevent the terrorist attacks.
He said that the government “utterly failed its fundamental responsibilities” by not keeping American citizens out of harm’s way.
Drake says the national government has secret surveillance on a massive scale that has not been fully revealed today, which he believes violates the fourth amendment.
“If you erode first and fourth amendments, I will argue you do not have an America, you do not,” he told the audience. “And that is what is disappearing.”
To ensure the constitutional liberties on which America was founded are not taken away, Radack and Drake say there are strategies and solutions to defend rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The most important step, according to Drake, is that the constitutional republic must be restored.
“Those who are best governed are least governed,” he maintained, adding there is nothing to defend if liberty is starved for the sake of security.
In addition, Drake said the nation must elect into office a new generation of leaders while continuing to expose what he says is a government misuse of power.
“The last thing we need is some kind of fence around us,” he added.
Carla Gericke, one of the leaders of the Free State Project who moved from New York to New Hampshire in 2008, said about 600 people are expected to attend Liberty Forum, a three-day conference being held this weekend at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.
The Free State Project has now surpassed 75 percent of its goal of attracting 20,000 liberty activists to make a pledge to move into New Hampshire.
More Free Staters
According to its website, the Free State Project has 1,573 participants already living in New Hampshire, with more than 15,354 committed to eventually relocating here. Once the 20,000 goal is met, the group plans to officially trigger its move, with participants agreeing to “exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty and property,” according to the site.
“We are hoping to trigger the move in 2015,” Gericke said on Friday. “We need to accelerate the signup, but this conference will help with that.”
As of noon on Friday, she said about five or six more people made the pledge to relocate to the Granite State.
Despite the attention the Free State Project is receiving during this weekend’s forum, there are still opponents of the controversial movement. Some elected officials in New Hampshire are critical of their efforts, previously voicing suspicion about how Free Staters will actually go about launching political change.
Walk-in tickets are available for $80 today, and $30 for any event after 5 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door, and a full schedule of events is available at nhlibertyforum.com.