The Sam Adams Associates – the Weirdest Club in the World

Since 2002 a unique award ceremony has taken place annually in either the USA or Europe: the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. This year it occurred in Washington DC on 22 September and was given to veteran journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Seymour Hersh.

Why unique? Well the group comprising the Sam Adams Associates is made up of former Western intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals, many of whom have spoken out about abuses and crimes committed by their employers. For their pains, most have lost their jobs and some have also lost their liberty.

Laureates include US army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley (Time person of the year in 2002 and the first SAA laureate), publisher Julian Assange, UK Ambassador Craig Murray, and co-ordinator of the US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran in 2007, Dr Tom Fingar.

The common theme that binds this disparate group together into a rather weird, wonderful and very informal global club is that they have all attempted to shine a light on the dark corners of government, to speak truth to power and expose wrongdoing and “fake news” for the greater good of humanity. It is appalling that they have to pay such a high personal price for doing this, which is why the Sam Adams Associates provides recognition and presents as its annual award – a candle stick, the “corner brightener”.

The Sam Adams Award has, over most recent years, gone to bona fide whistleblowers such as Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Jess Raddack and Chelsea Manning, while publishers, such as Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame, have also received recognition. But Seymour Hersh is the first mainstream journalist to receive the accolade.

Hersh has a long and illustrious career, beginning with his exposure of the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war in 1969 . But it was an article he wrote about the April 2017 chemical attack in Syria that won him the award this year.

To remind people, on 4th April this year a chemical weapon was reportedly used against the civilian population of Idlib Province in Syria and civilians were reportedly killed. Ahead of any possible investigation, the international media unilaterally declared that the Assad regime had attacked its own people; President Trump immediately ordered a retaliatory strike on the Syrian Air Force base from where the alleged attackers launched their fighter jets, and was lauded by the militatry-industrial complex for firm and decisive action.

Except – this was all based on a lie, as Hersh established. However, despite his journalistic reputation, he was unable to publish this story in the American mainstream media, and instead had it published in Germany’s Die Welt.

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The event in Washington this year was a game of two halves – the first was the dinner where Seymour Hersh was presented with his award, lauded by both former intelligence professionals and fellow investigative journalists for his work. It was a recognition of the value of true journalism – speaking truth to power and attempting to hold that power to account.

The second half of the evening, which Mr Hersh was unable to attend because of prior commitments, was the more general annual SAA celebration of all things truth telling and whistleblowing. I had the honour of MCing the event, which included a speech from Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, SAA founder Ray McGovern and many more.

Between us all we have decades of service and experience across different continents. Despite this geographical spread, common themes continue to emerge as they always do at Sam Adams events: official obfuscation, spy spin, media control, illegal war and more.

What to do? We shall continue to speak out in our work around the world – I just hope that the awareness spreads about the fake news that is daily peddled in the mainstream media and that more people begin to look behind the headlines and search for the truth of what is going on.

Whistleblowers, as well as their enablers in the publishing and media world, remain the regulators of last resort for truth and for justice.

Here is a link to the opening segment – other parts can be found on Youtube via World Beyond War 2017:

#NoWar2017 Sam Adams Associates with Ed Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg, Annie Machon and Elizabeth Murray from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

SAAII Award at the Oxford Union Society

On 23 January the Oxford Union Society will be hosting the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.

The SAAII is one of the few international recognitions for those within the intelligence community who follow their conscience, often at great professional and personal cost.

Thomas_FingarThis year’s winner is Dr Tom Fingar, who headed up the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. He collated the official assessments of all 16 of America’s intelligence agencies, which unanimously assessed that Iran had ceased trying to build a nuclear weapon in 2003. This evidence-based analysis made it impossible for the Bush administration to push through its plans to launch a war against Iran in 2008. This excellent article by ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains Dr Fingar’s achievements far better than I could.

Former SAAII winners include FBI Coleen Rowley, GCHQ Katherine Gun, NSA Thomas Drake, and Wikileaks supremo Julian Assange.

Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of working with the Union officers and fellow SAAIIers, especially renowned peace activists Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray (formerly of the US National Intelligence Council), to organise this event.  Many of us will be speaking that evening, and Julian Assange will be doing a live video link.

All this in recognition of Dr Fingar’s contribution to professional, ethical intelligence work. Even in this “gloves-off”, post-9/11 world, it is heartening to hear that is possible.

I hope that many people can support and report on this event.