More young whistleblowers 2.0 to seek justice through maximum exposure
Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer for MI5, the UK Security Service, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incompetence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Drawing on her varied experiences, she is now a public speaker, writer, media pundit, international tour and event organiser, political campaigner, and PR consultant. She is also now the Director of LEAP, Europe. She has a rare perspective both on the inner workings of governments, intelligence agencies and the media, as well as the wider implications for the need for increased openness and accountability in both public and private sectors.
RT:You've been in Snowden's shoes - you know first-hand the reaction of a security service. How will the CIA and NSA react to this?
Annie Machon: I think he is in for a rough ride. But I
have to say that the way he has run the whole exposure and
disclosure of the crimes of the NSA and what they are doing
against the American people and the rest of the world people has
been very sophisticated. And I take heart from that. The fact
that he has fled the USA, he is now in Hong Kong. The fact that
he has been working with journalists of Glenn Greenwald's
caliber. And obviously he'll have taken on board the sort of
techno security issues that he needs to think about and also the
extradition issues that he needs to think about.
And the message he is putting out now: why he's doing it, why it’s important, why people need to listen to what he saying, the disclosures he is making.
I think it’s been very, very well done. I would call this Whistleblowing 2.0.
RT:Does Edward Snowden have good reason to fear for his family's safety - he says he can't sleep at night... is he exaggerating here?
AM: No, absolutely not. I mean when I was involved in
whistleblowing 15 years ago with David Shayler who blew the
whistle on illegal MI6 assassination plots and things, it wasn’t
just me who got arrested, it wasn’t just David who went to prison
twice. It was also an ever-widening circle of his friends and
family and journalists who were arrested and in some cases
convicted for daring to expose the truth of the spy crimes.
So I think from what I can see Edward Snowden has actually taken very careful steps to protect those closest to him. And also all credit to the journalists.
RT:Why do you think he has done it?
AM: Well, because what the NSA is doing is turning the USA and by de-facto the rest of the world into a Big Brother surveillance state. As soon as you get into this situation where the nuts and bolts with the internet, like Google, Facebook and all, a system that we all use can be used to spy on us whether those companies know it or not, means that we have no privacy whatsoever. And once we have no privacy on the internet we then lose any sense of freedom to express ourselves openly. We lose our freedom to download information and ingest information openly. So we lose free society. Free thought requires free media.
RT:Is his fate now going to mirror that of Bradley Manning?
AM: I would hope not. I would hope that the Obama administration has learnt by prosecuting and persecuting multiple whistleblowers, Bradley Manning being just one of them, that they are not winning the war of the desire for information to be free, the desire for people to need the information, to be informed. And that’s the situation we are facing. So I think the way this story is playing out is showing us a sort of lessons learnt from the terrible tragedy of the Bradley Manning case. And I hope that Edward Snowden will be much safer and will have a fair hearing and not have to go through the same experience.
RT:And now, after Snowden, do you think we are going to see more?
AM: Of course. This happens time and time again. And as the powers of the state and corporative state become greater people will become more concerned about civil liberties not just within their own countries but also the implications around the world: what happens in Syria, or Libya, or the Middle East or Central Asia? People are worried about this, the implication.
So I think normal young people within the intelligence agencies are going to think: Well, actually we are doing this for good reasons not bad reasons. And they will speak out.
RT:How does it reach a point where the organization you are working for becomes so bad you have to go public? Why couldn’t – and I sound idealistic I know – this be dealt with in-house?
AM: Well, often people who do blow the whistle do try to
deal with it in house. I mean certainly we did. You go to your
boss and you say “this is wrong”, you say “we should learn from
mistakes made” or whatever it is. And they tell you just to shut
up, not rock the boat and just follow orders. And that’s our
So, I can imagine – what I did was 15 years ago – but now particularly we are looking into a situation where intelligence agencies are being asked to spy on fellow citizens, or to draw up CIA drone kill list, or to kidnap and torture people, terrorist suspects.
And we have a situation now where young people are going to be
coming into this and thinking: “Is this right? Should we be doing
this to our fellow human beings? And if it is not right what can
we do?” Raise it with the boss? That goes nowhere, you are told
to shut up.
The only other way in this Internet age, I think, for it to go
public and get the maximum exposure. To get justice through that
transparency but also to provide a certain degree of safety and
protection for yourself as well while you are doing it and that’s
what I think is going on here. And it’s been very well done.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.