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National Security

Government Accountability Project’s National Security team works with whistleblowers to expose and confront illegal and unconstitutional actions at the highest levels of government. In addition to exposing cases of excessive government secrecy, torture and assassination, and government surveillance, the National Security team ensures democratic principles are not sacrificed in the name of security.

Through legislative advocacy and independent investigations, the National Security team has championed the rights of whistleblowers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, military, and State Department. Notable national security clients have included Edward Snowden, Babak Pasar, and the “Trailblazer” whistleblowers including William Binney, Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis.


The National Security team worked to create the modern-day whistleblowing system for members of the Intelligence Community and military. Our strong relationships with the key players in the intelligence whistleblowing world allow us to navigate the patchwork of protections, and reform them wherever necessary. We consistently work with policymakers to improve the systems through which we represent our clients.

Intelligence Community

In recent years, we helped demonstrate the need for broad whistleblowing reform and secured statutory whistleblowing protections for hundreds of thousands of Intelligence Community contractors, who were not covered by existing laws. We demanded the Intelligence Community reform the method by which they handle security clearance revocations to stop them from being used for retaliation. We accomplish these policy goals through any means necessary: we secure holds on presidential appointees, brief policymakers on problems and solutions, and conduct independent investigations.

Military Whistleblower Protection Act

We helped write the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, delivered protections for millions of defense contractors, and are working within the system to make it easier for whistleblowers to report by using reasonable standards for burdens of proof that are used across the rest of the federal government.

We consistently work with key congressional members and staff in areas affecting the whistleblowing system, clients, and ongoing investigations. Interested partners should reach out to our national security analyst, Irvin McCullough, at [email protected] for more information.


Staff members of our National Security team conduct independent investigations into Intelligence Community and military impropriety. Either in the course of a campaign, at a client’s request, or after receiving an anonymous tip, our experts leverage their journalism experience to find the facts and seek corrective action. Unlike other journalists, our work doesn’t end with publication. We share these stories with our congressional connections to facilitate Congressional or institutional investigations and seek justice.

Whistleblower Profiles

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Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden, a former employee of federal contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, disclosed information regarding the National Security Agency’s blanket surveillance of United States citizens. He exposed a secretive data-mining program that collects the phone records, email exchanges, and internet histories of hundreds of millions of people around the globe. In June 2013, Snowden fled the U.S., passing through Hong Kong on his way to Moscow, where he still resides under the protection of political asylum. Countries around the world, including U.S. allies in Europe, condemn the U.S. for its extensive surveillance operations. Before Snowden fled (his passport soon to be revoked by U.S. authorities), The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed that he was the source of the massive national security revelations. His story was portrayed in the Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour and in the Oliver Stone film Snowden.

Babak Pasdar

In 2008, while overhauling security for major telecommunications company Verizon, computer security expert, Babak Pasdar, discovered a gap in the company’s security protocol. The transmission line, which was referred to as the “Quantico Circuit,” surreptitiously re-routed and captured all customer mobile phone communications, meaning the company had unrestricted access to customers’ information. Pasdar’s findings were one of the pioneering disclosures that exposed the full extent of illegal domestic spying on Americans.

babak pasdar
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ThinThread Whistleblowers

Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe

Former United States National Security Agency (NSA) workers William Binney, Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis, and J. Kirk Wiebe believed ThinThread, an in-house electronic surveillance data collection system, which was both cost-effective and protective of American citizens’ privacy rights, was wrongly rejected in favor of Trailblazer, a conceptually similar program created by NSA contractors for billions of dollars. Loomis, Wiebe, and Binney led the design of ThinThread at a mere $3.2 million cost. But they were all also concerned that the NSA’s umbrella mass surveillance program, STELLARWIND, would violate constitutional protections. Drake also raised concerns about massive 9/11 intelligence failures. After lodging individual internal complaints, testifying to Congressional committees, and drafting collective motions, members of the group protested resignations and leaked unclassified information to media. A May 2006 article in The Baltimore Sun (primarily sourced by Drake) detailed the failings of the NSA and Trailblazer. The stories prompted massive public outcry about NSA surveillance activities, and all of the whistleblowers faced considerable retaliation, including FBI home raids, with Thomas Drake even being charged in April 2010 with 10 felonies, including five under the Espionage Act for improper retention of classified documents. After stories ran in The New Yorker and on 60 Minutes in May of 2011, the Department of Justice dropped the charges against Drake on June 9, 2011, four days before trial, in exchange for a plea to a misdemeanor charge of “Exceeding Authorized Use of a Computer” with no jail time or fines but a sentence of 240 hours of community service and one year of probation. Drake is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, regarded as the nation’s highest honor that a whistleblower can receive.