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U.S. Less Hospitable to Whistleblowers Than Country That Poisons Them With Polonium

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When Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked classified information about vast NSA information-gathering capabilities, accepted a year-long temporary asylum offer from Russian authorities, it was the clearest proof yet of what many have suspected for a long time -- the United States is now more hostile toward whistleblowers and leakers of classified information than most countries on earth, including countries widely accused of having them killed with poisonous, radioactive material.

This includes even Russia, whose leadership was thought by many to have been behind the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive isotope of Polonium, Polonium-210. He became violently ill, shortly after meeting with former Russian agents in the United Kingdom, where he had been granted political asylum, and he died within weeks. Litvinenko was a former officer in the Russian secret service who publicly blew the whistle on what he claimed was the ordered assassination of tycoon Boris Berezovsky. He went on to reveal several other criminal acts by Russian leadership, which included Vladimir Putin.

Snowden, who was virtually trapped in the transit area of the Moscow airport for over a month, apparently found the leadership thought to be responsible for the alleged murder of Litvinenko to be a safer bet than returning home and facing justice in the United States. Another prominent U.S. whistleblower, Bradley Manning, was recently convicted of several acts of espionage, and faces up to 136 years in prison.

"I wouldn't come home either, if I was in his place," said Mark Jacobi, a criminal justice professor at Georgetown University. He points out that the Obama Administration and its Justice Department have waged a remarkably vicious war against whistleblowers and others involved in the leaking of classified information.

"This administration has charged double the number of people under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. They've tapped reporters phones, they've gone after journalists. This is not a nice administration, if you're into disclosing information that the powerful might not want disclosed. I know one guy who told a reporter what the White House lunch special was, and he's now in several different pieces, all over the world."

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