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At a press conference, President Obama said:

So the fact is, is that Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case. If the concern was that somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public, I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community -- for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.

What Executive Order was this, and would it have covered Snowden who was a NSA contractor?

Were these same Executive Order protections in place at the time for NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe? (How did it work out for them?)

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Obama is likely referring to this executive order, called Presidential Policy Directive 19, which allows whisteblowers within the intelligence community to report waste, fraud, and abuse without fear of retaliation.

This appears to cover internal reporting, not public whistleblowing or public revelations about classified NSA programs. Snowden could have used this to report any abuse internally, but he likely didn't trust the NSA to agree with him on what constituted "abuse". From that article:

Some searches conducted by NSA analysts are periodically reviewed by their supervisors within the NSA. "It's very rare to be questioned on our searches," Snowden told the Guardian in June, "and even when we are, it's usually along the lines of: 'let's bulk up the justification'."

(Justification, there, refers to a form field an NSA worker has to fill out explaining the legal and practical justification for the search).

The Presidential Policy Directive was passed in October 2012, and so was too recent to apply to to Thomas Drake, William Binney, or J. Kirk Wiebe.

  • Well the executive order lists two criteria for employees. They must be "(1) serving in the Intelligence Community or (2) who are eligible for access to classified information". I'm not entirely sure if a contractor meets criterion one, but Snowden did meet criterion two. – Avi Aug 11 '13 at 7:40
  • I'm guessing that the clause is intended to deprive people of legal recourse if they feel that they haven't been granted the protections the executive order offers. The latter doesn't appear to specify that the policies would be implemented in 270 days, just that their implementation would be confirmed in 270 days. But at this point, you have the text of the executive order and you know to what Obama was likely referring, so I'm not sure what more you want from me. – Avi Aug 11 '13 at 16:15

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