Monday, April 7, 2014

Lecture series covers NSA, surveillance, pursuit of peace and healing after 9/11

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and peace activist Army Col. Ann Wright, retired, are coming to Salt Lake Community College as one of several stops in Utah during the Peace Advocacy Coalition’s 2014 lecture series.

Drake will speak on “The National Security Agency (NSA) and Our Constitutional Rights” on April 11, 9 a.m. in the new Instruction and Administration Building (IAB), Room 135, at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.

Photo cred:
Wright will speak about “Pursuing Peace: Healing 9/11” on April 17, 10 a.m. in the new Instruction and Administration Building (IAB), Room 135, at the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.

“We bring them to SLCC as part of our goal of both engaging with the larger community on important issues and of educating the SLCC community, including our students, about what it means to be active and knowledgeable citizens of a democratic society and an increasingly globalized world,” said SLCC’s Dr. John McCormick, dean of SLCC’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “In that effort, nothing is more important than addressing issues of peace, nonviolence, and human rights.”

Drake, whose Wikipedia page reads like an outline for a John Grisham novel, is a decorated veteran of the Air Force and Navy, as well as a former senior executive for the NSA. He is now an outspoken critic of NSA policies and what he calls the “surveillance state.” While still with the NSA Drake’s relationship with the media and his leaks of declassified information about the $1 billion Trailblazer Project, a controversial program designed to gather intelligence that the NSA Inspector General declared a failure, led to an FBI raid on his home and a federal indictment in 2010.

From Twitter.
At one point Drake, maligned by the NSA and government prosecutors, was working in an Apple store. Eventually, charges related his whistleblowing, which could have resulted in 35 years in prison, were dropped in a deal where Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misusing the NSA’s computer system. In 2011 he was presented with the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and he shared the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence award.

Wright served in the Army for 29 years and then worked for the U.S. State Department for 16 years, during which time her work in Sierra Leone earned her the “Award for Heroism” from her employer. But in 2003 she publicly resigned her position in the State Department in protest against the U.S. invasion in Iraq and the curtailment of civil liberties in this country.

After resigning Wright has gone on to campaign for peace and justice around the world, protesting against drone warfare and the oppression of Palestinians and against the development of nuclear weapons. She has been arrested several times for her feisty protests, one in which she disrupted a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting. She co-authored the book DISSENT: Voices of Conscience, Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War In Iraq.