Jesselyn Radack is a former ethics adviser to the United States Department of Justice who came to prominence as a whistleblower after she disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) committed an ethics violation in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh (the “American Taliban” captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan) without an attorney present, and that the Department of Justice attempted to suppress that information. The Lindh case was the first major terrorism prosecution after 9/11. Her experience is chronicled in her memoir, TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the “American Taliban”. She attended the Friday afternoon performance of BOGED (TRAITOR): AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, accompanied by her client, Thomas Drake, who we’ll hear from next.
This afternoon I saw BOGED (TRAITOR): AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE. I was profoundly moved by this play because it’s eerily prophetic about what’s currently going on in the United States. As a whistleblower, I was deemed a “triator” by my country in the New York Times
In 2001, I was the legal ethics advisor for the Justice Department. On Dec. 7, I fielded a call from a Criminal Division attorney. He wanted to know about the ethical propriety of interrogating “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh without a lawyer being present. I was told unambiguously that Lindh’s father had retained counsel for his son.
I advised him that Lindh should not be questioned without his lawyer. That was on a Friday. Over the weekend, the FBI interviewed him anyway. My colleague called back on Monday asking what to do now.
I advised that the interview might have to be sealed and used only for intelligence-gathering or national security purposes, not criminal prosecution. Again, my advice was ignored.
Three weeks later, on Jan. 15, 2002, then-Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft announced that a criminal complaint was being filed against Lindh. “The subject here is entitled to choose his own lawyer,” he said, “and to our knowledge, has not chosen a lawyer at this time.” I knew that wasn’t true.
Three weeks later, Ashcroft announced Lindh’s indictment, saying his rights “have been carefully, scrupulously honored.” Again, I knew that wasn’t true.
On March 7, I inadvertently learned that the judge presiding over the Lindh case had ordered that all Justice Department correspondence related to Lindh’s interrogation be submitted to the court. Such orders routinely go to everyone with a connection with the case in question, but I heard about it only because the Lindh prosecutor contacted me directly.
There was more. The prosecutor said he had only two of my e-mails. I knew I had written more than a dozen. When I went to check the hard copy file, the e-mails containing my assessment that the FBI had committed an ethical violation in Lindh’s interrogation were gone.
With the help of technical support, I recovered the missing e-mails from my computer archives. I documented and included them in a memo to my boss and took home a copy for safekeeping in case they “disappeared” again. Then I resigned.
Months later, as the Justice Department continued to claim that it never believed that at the time of his interrogation Lindh had a lawyer, I disclosed the e-mails to Newsweek in accordance with the Whistleblower Protection Act. The Lindh prosecution collapsed, but my nightmare had only just begun. My actions unleashed the full force of the entire Executive branch. I was put under criminal investigation, referred to the state bars in which I’m licensed as an attorney, and put on the terrorist-watch “No-Fly List.”
Eventually I was exonerated, but because of this experience,I decided to dedicate my professional life to representing whistleblowers who are currently being prosecuted by the Obama administration for Espionage–one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American–under a law that’s meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers. That’s why I found BOGED a very timely, compelling, poignant, and a cautionary tale for the post-9/11 landscape in America. Although my home wasn’t vandalized and my personal safety not threatened, I faced criminal prosecution based on a secret report–for what crimes I was never told– nd my clients are facing spending the rest of their lives in jail for speaking truth to power.
Thank you for your phenomenal play.