Justice Advocate Radack Authors Courageous, Powerful Memoir

Jesselyn Radack Traitor CoverIn 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.

Radack, right, will be a guest Aug. 30 on the MTL Washington Update radio show I co-host at noon (EDT). She discusses her compelling new memoir, Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban."

"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 the late spring that year 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 CIA 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. Lindh faced charges of murder conspiracy and aiding the enemy a high-profile prosecution that helped the Bush administration inflame the public about the dangers of terrorism afer 9/11 in the earliest stages of the Afghan 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 know of documented prosecution misconduct in criminal and civil cases in other cases, including the federal frame-up of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in Alabama.

On Aug. 30, join Radack, me, and my co-host, Scott Draughon, as we explore what a law enforcer or indeed any employee should do when supervisors demand participation in legal fraud for goals -- in this case claims of national security -- ostensibly far more important than truth. Click here to listen to the live interview, available also on archive via the My Technology Lawyer Network. Your comments or questions are welcome: Call (866) 685-7469 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  it relentlessly followed her to try to thwart her employment (and health care) elsewhere.

Civil liberties advocates have showered her and her book with praise. Anthony Lewis, now retired after decades as the lead New York Times columnist on legal affairs, wrote of her book: "This is a riveting -- and chilling -- account of how far the Bush Administration's Justice Department will go to destroy a critic." Author and Salon/Guardian legal affairs columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote her book's foreward, saying:

Her sobering book should be required reading for all first-year law students because it shows poignantly how 'national security' is being use to fundamentally bastardize constitutional law, criminal procedure, human rights, civil liberties, and legal ethics.

Jesselyn RadackRadack is currently the director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project. She was one of the attorneys who represented National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Andrews Drake, with whom she won the 2011 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. Also, both won the 2012 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award.

Her memoir has been well-received by other experts and readers, as indicated here.

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.

Michael ChertoffRadack served on the D.C. Bar Legal Ethics Committee from 2005-2007. From 2006 until 2008, she represented government contractors blowing the whistle on fraud in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Radack was born in Washington DC and attended Brown University. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year and graduated magna cum laude in 1992 as a triple major with honors in all three majors. Since 1983 when Brown began tracking such data, only one other student has received honors in three concentrations. Radack graduated from Yale and joined the Justice Department through the Attorney General Honors Program, where she practiced constitutional tort litigation from 1995–1999 and then worked in the Department's newly created Professional Responsibility Advisory Office from 1999-2002, when she resigned under pressure after receiving an award several months previously.

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 (University of Chicago School of Law) and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales (Harvard Law School). Another was Assistant Attorney Gen. Michael Chertoff (Harvard), right, who later became secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Each is a graduate of an elite law school, as noted in parentheses above. Also, Gonzales and Chertoff have been high-ranking judges. This illustrates how such controversies do not fester because of substandard legal education. Instead, they reflect ideology, zealotry, and power politics at the highest levels of the legal system.

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 how law would be enforced.

"The poetic justice of Radack's appalling experience," writes Greenwald, "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.'"


Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment

Related News Coverage


Thomas A. Drake

Washington Update Radio, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 2, 2012. Thomas Andrews Drake shared his expert insights on privacy, government spending, and national security issues on our show Aug. 2. He is a former senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran, computer software expert, linguist, management and leadership specialist, and whistleblower. For years, he has advised against about threats to taxpayers, privacy and the democratic process raised by wasteful national security spending. Among such venues was a recent forum on privacy issues organized by the free-market Cato Institute in Washington, DC. He is the 2011 recipient of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and co-recipient of the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) award. As further indicated by his Wikipedia profile: In 2010 the government alleged that he 'mishandled' documents, one of the few such Espionage Act cases in U.S. history. His defenders claim that he was instead being persecuted for challenging the Trailblazer Project. On June 9, 2011, all 10 original charges against him were dropped. He rejected several deals because he refused to "plea bargain with the truth." He eventually pleaded to one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer. Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who helped represent him, called it an act of "Civil Disobedience." Prosecutors wanted Drake to plead guilty, but he refused. He believed that he was innocent of the charges against him. The government wanted him to help prosecute the other whistleblowers. He refused this as well.

Justice Integrity Project, Judges Hit DOJ in NSA, CIA Leak Cases, Andrew Kreig, July 31, 2011. A Maryland federal judge denounced Justice Department prosecutors for delays and "tyranny" in their prosecution of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was being sentenced on a reduced charge of unauthorized use of a computer after years of being investigated on felony charges as a suspected leaker.

FireDogLake, Hundreds of Quantico Emails Handed Over to Bradley Manning’s Defense, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 28, 2012. The government handed the defense for Pfc. Bradley Manning around six hundred emails between commanding officers at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, where Manning was held in pretrial confinement for nine months. The emails make up just less than half of a cache of emails in the government’s possession, 84 of which were already turned over to the defense.

Justice Integrity Project, Manning Inquiry Begins With Challenge To Tribunal's Fairness, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 16, 2011. The Article 32 hearing for Private Bradley E. Manning began Dec. 16 at Fort Meade in Maryland with a challenge by the defense team to the fairness of the military proceedings. Manning was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq for suspicion of passing restricted material to WikiLeaks. Counsel for the defense argued that the hearing officer lacks sufficient independence In March 2011, Manning was accused of "aiding the enemy," among other charges. Manning, who turns 24 on Dec. 17, is appearing for the first time to face 22 charges of distributing government secrets. The hearing will determine whether he must stand trial on charges that could imprison him for life. About a hundred news organizations have requested credentials to cover the proceedings, expected to last about a week. A compilation of on-the-scene coverage is excerpted below.

Peter Van BurenJustice Integrity Project, State Department Official Describes U.S. Debacle in Iraq, Andrew Kreig, Jan. 26, 2012. A U.S. State Department employee who presided over vast waste of taxpayer dollars in Iraq raises a powerful question: Why can’t some of that money spent on worthwhile purposes in the United States? The answer, says author Peter Van Buren, right, is that our political system freely provides spending with scant accountability for military-oriented and "democracy-building" foreign affairs projects but not for parallel domestic purposes. Van Buren is a 23-year-veteran of the State Department who spent a year implementing aid programs in Iraq from 2009 to 2010 before publishing last fall a memoir, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

Associated Press / Washington Post, American Taliban Lindh says Ind. prison’s ban on daily group prayer violates religious freedom, AP staff report, August 26, 2012. An American-born Taliban fighter imprisoned in Indiana will try to convince a federal judge that his religious freedom trumps security concerns in a closely watched trial that will examine how far prisons can go to ensure security in the age of terrorism. John Walker Lindh was expected to testify Monday in Indianapolis during the first day of the trial over prayer policies in a tightly restricted prison unit where he and other high-risk inmates have severely limited contact with the outside world. Lindh, 31, a Muslim convert who was charged with supporting terrorists after he was captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and later pleaded guilty to lesser charges, claims his religious rights are being violated because the federal prison in Terre Haute deprives him of daily group prayer.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Racel CorrieTelegraph (London), Rachel Corrie death: Israel rejects all blame, Adrian Blomfield, Aug. 28, 2012. The US activist Rachel Corrie, whose death beneath an Israeli military bulldozer made her an international symbol of Palestinian resistance, bore sole responsibility for the incident that killed her, a court in Israel ruled. The parents of Corrie fought back tears as a judge fully absolved the Israeli army for the death of their daughter as she tried to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian house in Gaza in 2003. Rejecting the Corrie family’s civil suit against the state, Oded Gershon accepted the army’s argument that the driver of the bulldozer had not seen the 23-year-old activist. The death of Corrie, right, badly damaged Israel’s international reputation and strained relations with the US, its superpower patron. Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, told the Corrie family last week that Washington remained dissatisfied with the way Israel had handled the incident. Fellow activists from International Solidarity Movement, the group for which Corrie campaigned, have long rejected the official Israeli explanation. Tom Dale, a British former activist who was just 30 feet away when Corrie was crushed, said that it was impossible for the driver of the bulldozer not to have seen her, pointing out that she wore a fluorescent vest and was standing on raised ground.

Pixiq (The Photo World in Focus), Austin Man Facing 10 Years in Prison After Photographing Cops Making Arrest, Carlos Miller, June 24, 2012 (Video). It was just after midnight on New Year’s Day when Antonio Buehler spotted a pair of Austin cops manhandling a woman at a gas station during a DUI investigation. So, he pulled out his cell phone and began taking photos. That, of course, prompted one of the cops to storm up to him and accuse him of interfering with the investigation. Austin police officer Pat Oborski shoved Buehler against his truck before handcuffing him. He later claimed in his arrest report that Buehler had spit in his face. Buehler was charged with resisting arrest and felony harassment on a public servant, the latter punishable by up to 10 years in prison. After spending 16 hours in jail, Buehler began seeking witnesses to the incident.

Institute for Political Economy, Putin Is Demonized While Democracy Fails In Amerika, Paul Craig Roberts, Aug. 30, 2012. The latest “rights group” to jump on Russia’s President Putin about Pussy Riot is RootsAction. Following the propaganda line that Washington has established, RootsAction’s appeal for money and petition signers states that the three Russian women were sentenced to two years in prison “for the ‘crime’ of performing a song against Russia’s president Vladimir Putin in a Moscow church.” This statement is a propagandistic misrepresentation of the offense for which the women were tried and convicted. I have expressed my sympathies for the convicted women, and as a member of Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, I support human rights. But I do not support the use of human rights organizations in behalf of Washington’s propaganda. Do-good organizations hurt for money, because compassion for others is not in abundant supply. Pussy Riot is a fundraising opportunity. You can bet your last dollar that Washington, which dismisses as “collateral damage” the hundreds of thousands of women, children, and village elders murdered in Washington’s wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria, is not concerned with the three Pussy Riot women’s 2-year prison sentence. Washington has kept the American hero, Bradley Manning in prison for two years without a trial. Washington claims the power, strictly prohibited by the US Constitution, that “scrap of paper,” to hold US citizens indefinitely in prison without due process of law and to murder them on suspicion alone without due process of law. Does any sentient person really believe that such a government gives a hoot about a two-year prison sentence for three Russian women?

Legal Schnauzer, An Overpowering Stench of Corruption Emanates From U.S. Eleventh Circuit On Siegelman Appeal, Roger Shuler, Aug. 28, 2012. Reports on corruption in the handling of the Don Siegelman case have tended to focus on the trial court, especially Judge Mark Fuller and prosecutors in the Middle District of Alabama. But our review of one critical issue in the Siegelman case shows that the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta botched its ruling in such an outrageous fashion that it almost had to be intentional. The Eleventh Circuit includes 17 judges (seven on senior status) and covers three states -- Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The circuit's decision to uphold bribery convictions against Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy -- contrary to well-settled law -- hints at the kind of dark conspiracy that probably meets the definition of organized crime.

How serious is this? The Siegelman case, by law, could not go to a jury -- much less result in convictions. And yet, Scrushy already has served a six-year federal prison sentence, and Siegelman is due back in federal custody by September 11.  What is the one issue that should have doomed the prosecution's case before it ever reached a jury? It was the statute of limitations, and the facts and the law, show the case against Siegelman and Scrushy was brought almost one full year too late. So regardless of what one thinks about the testimony of key government witness Nick Bailey, the shaky jury instructions, the questionable juror behavior, the weak evidence on a quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement, and the myriad conflicts involving the judge and U.S. attorney . . . none of that should have been a factor. [Editor's Note: Siegelman supporters have launched a petition here at Change.org for a presidential pardon or commutation.]


Pam MilesDon SiegelmanOpEd News / Pam's Listserve (Alabama), This is Pure Meanness, Pam Miles, Aug. 28, 2012. On August 3, our Governor Don Siegelman [right] was resentenced to serve the balance of a 78-month term. Don’s reporting date is September 11th. At the sentencing in 2007 Judge Fuller had the Governor hand-cuffed and shackled with chains around his legs and waist -- and taken from the court room and put into solitary confinement in the basement of a maximum security prison in Atlanta at 1 AM. On August 3rd at resentencing, Judge Fuller granted a motion for Don to self-report and said that he would request that the BOP place Don at a facility “as near Alabama as he can be designated.”

While Talladega is only 49 miles away and Maxwell Air Force base only 97 miles, Judge Fuller must have thought that Don’s enthusiastic supporters like me would be viewed as way too much of a distraction if Don were in Alabama. Pensacola, however, is only 251 miles away, about a 4 and ½ hour drive for Don’s wife, Lori. But oh no, apparently even Pensacola is too near Alabama for the Judge, because Don  just received notice that he iPam Miles Free Dons assigned to Oakdale, Louisiana, a 17-18 hour, 900+ mile round trip. As you may remember Lori, Don’s wife, lost an eye in a horrific automobile accident with a drunk driver in 1984. She would have difficulty driving the 17-18 hour, 900+ mile round trip to Oakdale and back. It would be very dangerous and nearly impossible for her to drive it alone. This is nothing but punitive. It is outrageous that the Judge is sending Don to prison at all for something that wasn’t a crime. It’s never been a crime to appoint a contributor to something. Where do Ambassadors come from? From people who raise money for whomever is elected president! If it was not for Richard Scrushy being the contributor and for the government pressuring Nick Bailey, who was facing 40 to 100 years in prison, to lie there would not have been a conviction.