“Useful Idiots”

Yet another trans-Atlantic think tank has cranked out a report attacking Russia, and yet again the focus of their ire is RT.com.

Of course, all media outlets get attacked for “propaganda” (you should see the Daily Mail BTL comments about the BBC!), but this particular play book is getting old.

Here’s my take on the subject on, you’ve guessed it, RT:

New “Putin’s Useful Idiots” Report from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

AcTVism film trailer

The AcTVism Munich media collective is releasing a film on 19th April featuring Noam Chomsky, The Real News Network‘s Paul Jay and  myself.

Filmed last January, we discussed the old and new media, activism, and much more.

Here’s the trailer:

AcTVism Trailer – Chomsky, Machon and Jay from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Holistic security for journalists and sources – Logan Symposium

Here is a short talk I gave at the recent Logan Symposium in London, where I discussed a more holistic approach for both journalists and their sources:

The Logan Symposium – Dec 6th – Annie Machon from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

New v old media – RT Crosstalk debate

I recently took part in a debate about the old versus the new “alternative” media and their relative merits on RT’s Crosstalk with Peter Lavelle:

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Whistleblowers deserve full coverage

Here is my recent RT interview about the recent dispute between Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald on what exactly the parameters should be in media reporting of whistleblower disclosures:

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Whistleblowers deserve full coverage – RT interview from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Of course, thanks to Wikileaks this evening, we now know the country that Glenn Greenwald redacted from his original report was Afghanistan.

Why on earth should the Afghanis not be allowed to know the sheer scale of surveillance they live under? In fact, would many be surprised? This is an excellent related article, do read.

International Journalism Festival, Perugia

Here is a panel discussion I did at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, in May 2014:

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Circumventing the Panopticon, Transmediale Berlin

Last month I was on a panel discussion at the Berlin Transmediale conference with NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, Chelsea Manning rapporteur Alexa O’Brian, and activist Diani Barreto. Here is the link to the full two hour event, and here is my speech:

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Transmediale, Berlin 2014 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Snowden, privacy and the CCC

Here’s an RT interview I did about the media response to Edward Snowden, the media response, privacy and what we can do.

Apt, as I am currently at the Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Hamburg, and shall be speaking about similar issues this evening.

Most UK media concertedly ignore Snowden revelations, under gov’t pressure from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Riga Talk about Spies, Whistleblowers and the Media

Last week I was invited to discuss the control of the media by the spies and the government apparatus by the Centre for Media Studies at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga. Many thanks to Hans, Anders and the team for inviting me, and to Inese Voika , the Chair of Transparency International in Latvia, for setting the scene so well.

I focused particularly on how journalists can work with and protect whistleblowers:

Whistleblowing is the New Rock and Roll from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Edward Snowden – the Globalisation of Whistleblowing

I have held back from writing about the Edward Snowden NSA whistleblowing case for the last week – partly because I was immersed in the resulting media interviews and talks, and partly because I wanted to watch how the story developed, both politically and in the old media. The reaction of both can tell you a lot.

That does not mean that I did not have a very positive response to what Snowden has done. Far from it. The same night the story broke about who was behind the leaks, I discussed the implications on an RT interview and called what he did Whistleblowing 2.0.

Why did I say that? Well, it appeared from his initial video interview with The Guardian that he had learned from previous whistleblowing cases: he had watched the media and carefully chosen a journalist, Glenn Greenwald, with a good track record on the relevant issues who would probably fight his corner fearlessly; his information clearly demonstrated that the intelligence agencies were spinning out of control and building surveillance states; he carefully chose a jurisdiction to flee to that might have the clout to protect him legally against the wrath of an over-mighty USA; and he has used his internet and media savvy to gain as much exposure and protection as quickly as possible.

edward_snowdenPlus, he has been incredibly brave, considering the draconian war on whistleblowers that is currently being waged by the American administration. There have been three other NSA whistleblowers in recent years, all also talking about endemic surveillance. All have paid a high personal price, all displayed great bravery in the face of adversity yet, sadly, none has achieved the same level of international impact. Were we just deaf to their warnings, or has Snowden played this better?

I think a bit of both.  He’s a geek, a young geek, he will have seen what happened to other whistleblowers and appears to have taken steps to avoid the same pitfalls. He has gone public to protect his family and prevent harm to his former colleagues in any ensuing witch-hunt. And he has fled the country in order to remain at liberty to argue his case, which is key to keeping the story alive for more than a week in the gadfly minds of the old media. I know, I’ve been involved in the same process.

He has blown the whistle to protect an American way of life he thinks “worth dying for”. Yet he has broadened out the issues internationally – what happens in America impacts the rest of the world. This, in my view, is crucial.  I have been writing for years that the US is increasingly claiming global legal hegemony over the entire internet, as well as the right to kidnap, torture and murder foreigners at will.

The Patriot Act has not only shredded the US constitution, it also now apparently has global reach for as long as our craven governments allow it to. Now we know that this is not some abstract concept, theory or speculation – we are all potentially being watched

Edward Snowden argued his case very effectively in a live chat on The Guardian newspaper website. It became clear that he is indeed a new generation of whisteblower. This is not someone who witnessed one crime and immediately felt he had to speak out. This is a technical expert who watched, over time and with dismay, the encroaching Big Brother surveillance state that is taking over the world via the NSA and its clones.

He is young, he had faith that a new government would mean change, but in the end felt compelled to take considered action when he witnessed the unaccountable mission creep, the limited and ineffectual oversight, and the neutered politicians who rush to reassure us that everything is legal and proportionate when they really have no idea what the spy agencies get up to.

In both the US and the UK the spies repeatedly get away with lying to the notional oversight bodies about mistakes made, rules bent, and illegal operations. Former senior CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, has catalogued the US lies, and here are a few home-brewed British examples. The internet companies have also been wriggling on the hook over the last week.

Snowden appears to be very aware not only of potential state level surveillance but also the global corporatist aspect of the subversion of the basic companies most people use to access the internet – Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Skype et al. A few pioneers have been discussing the need to protect oneself from such corporatist oversight for years, and such pioneers have largely been ignored by the mainstream: they’re “just geeks” they are “paranoid”, “tin foil hat” etc.

Edward Snowden has laid bare the truth of this globalised, corporatist Big Brother state. From his public statements so far, he seems very alive to the international aspects of what he is revealing. This is not just about Americans being snooped on, this affects everybody. We are all subject to the brutal hegemony that US securocrats and corporations are trying to impose on us, with no rights, no redress under the law.

Big_Brother_posterWe have already seen this with the illegal US state take-down of Kim Dotcom’s secure cloud service, Megaupload, with the global persecution of Wikileaks, with Obama’s war on whistleblowers, with the NDAA, with the asymmetric extradition cases, with the drone wars across the Middle East and Central Asia…..  where to stop?

Snowden, through his incredible act of bravery, has confirmed our worst fears. It is not just corporations that have gone global – surveillance has too. And now, thankfully, so too are whistleblowers.

What troubles me somewhat is the way that the old media is responding – even The Guardian, which broke the story. Glenn Greenwald is an excellent, campaigning journalist and I have no doubt whatsoever that he will fight to the wire for his source.

However, the newspaper as an entity seems to be holding back the free flow of information. Charitably, one could assume that this is to maximise the impact of Snowden’s disclosures. Less charitably, one could also see it as a way to eke out the stories to maximise the newspaper’s profits and glory. Again, it’s probably a bit of both.

However, I do not think this will ultimately work in the best interests of the whistleblower, who needs to get the information out there now, and get the whole debate going now.

Plus, today it was reported that a D-Notice had been issued against the UK media last week. I have written before about this invidious self-censorship with which the British media collaborates: senior editors and senior military personnel and spooks meet to agree whether or not stories may act against “national security” (still a legally undefined phrase), and ban publications accordingly. And this is “voluntary” – what does that say about our press holding power to account, when they willingly collude in the suppression of information?

Plus, some of the key journalists at The Guardian who were involved in the Wikileaks stitch-up are also now pecking away at the Snowden story. The old media are still continuing to act as a bottleneck of the free flow of information from whistleblowers to the public domain. In the post-Wikileaks era, this is a retrograde step. It is not for them to assess what the public needs to know, nor is it down to them to analyse and second-guess why any whistleblower is doing what they are doing.

As Edward Snowden stated: “The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed“.

Journalists need to tool up

Published in the Huffington Post UK:

Over the last week more sound, fury and indignation has cascaded forth from the US media, spilling into the European news, about the American government and the Associated Press spying scandal.

Last week it emerged that the US Department of Justice monitored the telephones of, gasp, journalists working at AP. Apparently this was done to try to investigate who might have been the source for a story about a foiled terrorist plot in Yemen. However, the dragnet seems to have widened to cover almost 100 journalists and potentially threatened governmental leakers and whistleblowers who, in these days of systematic security crackdowns in the US, are fast becoming Public Enemy No 1.

Now it appears that the US DoJ has been reading the emails of a senior Fox News reporter. And this has got the US hacks into a frightful tizz. What about the First Amendment?

Well, what about the fact that the Patriot Act shredded most of the US Constitution a decade ago?

Also, who is actually facing the security crackdown here? The US journalists are bleating that their sources are drying up in the face of a systematic witch hunt by the US administration. That must be hard for the journalists – hard at least to get the stories and by-lines that ensure their continued employment and the ability to pay the mortgage. This adds up to the phrase du jour: a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Er, yes, but how much harder for the potential whistleblowers? They are the people facing not only a loss of professional reputation and career if caught, but also all that goes with it. Plus, now, they are increasingly facing draconian prison sentences under the recently reanimated and currently much-deployed US 1917 Espionage Act for exposing issues in the public interest. Ex-NSA Thomas Drake faced decades in prison for exposing corruption and waste, while ex-CIA John Kiriakou is currently languishing in prison for exposing the use of torture.

The US government has learned well from the example of the UK’s Official Secrets Acts – laws that never actually seem to be wielded against real establishment traitors, who always seem to be allowed to slip away, but which have been used frequently and effectively to stifle dissent, cover up spy crimes, and to spare the blushes of the Establishment.

So, two points:

Firstly, the old media could and should have learned from the new model that is Wikileaks and its ilk. Rather than asset stripping the organisation for information, while abandoning the alleged source, Bradley Manning, and the founder, Julian Assange, to their fates, Wikileaks’s erstwhile allies could and morally should campaign for them. The issues of the free flow of information, democracy and justice are bigger than petty arguments about personality traits.

Plus, the old media appear to have a death wish: to quote the words of the former New York Times editor and Wikileaks collaborator Bill Keller, Wikileaks is not a publisher – it is a source, pure and simple. But surely, if Wikileaks is “only” a source, it must be protected at all costs – that is the media’s prime directive. Journalists have historically gone to prison rather than give away their sources.

However, if Wikileaks is indeed deemed to be a publisher and can be persecuted this way, then all the old media are equally vulnerable. And indeed that is what we are witnessing now with these spying scandals.

Secondly, these so-called investigative journalists are surprised that their phones were tapped?  Really?

If they are doing proper, worthwhile journalism, of course their comms will be tapped in a post-Patriot Act, surveillance-state world. Why on earth are they not taking their own and their sources’ security seriously? Is it amateur night?

In this day and age, any serious journalist (and there are still a few honourable examples) will be taking steps to protect the security of their sources. They will be tooled up, tech-savvy, and they will have attended Crypto-parties to learn security skills. They will also be painfully aware that a whistleblower is a person potentially facing prison, rather than just the source of a career-making story.

If mainstream journalists are serious about exposing corruption, holding power to account, and fighting for justice they need to get serious about source protection too and get teched-up. Help is widely available to those who are interested. Indeed, this summer the Centre for Investigative Journalism is hosting talks in London on this subject, and many other international journalism conferences have done the same over the last few years.

Sadly, the level of interest and awareness remains relatively low – many journalists retain a naive trust in the general legality of their government’s actions: the authorities may bend the rules a little for “terrorists”, but of course they will abide by the rules when it comes to the media…..

….or not. Watergate now looks rather quaint in comparison.

As for me: well, I have had some help and have indeed been teched-up. My laptop runs the free Ubuntu Linux (the 64 bit version for grown-ups) from an encrypted solid state hard drive. I have long and different passwords for every online service I use. My mail and web server are in Switzerland and I encrypt as much of my email as possible. It’s at least a start.

And here’s what I have to say about why journalists should think about these issues and how they can protect both themselves and their sources: Opening keynote “The Big Dig Conference” from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Talk at the Icelandic Centre for Investigative Journalism

Wikileaks spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson, invited me to speak at the Icelandic Centre for Investigative Journalism while I was in Iceland in February.

While focusing on the intersection and control between intelligence and the media, my talk also explores many of my other current areas of interest.

Iceland Journalists talk 2013 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Lies, damned lies, and newspaper reporting…

Also on the Huffington Post UK, RT, The Real News Network, nsnbc, and Information Clearing House:

Where to start with this tangled skein of media spin, misrepresentation and outright hypocrisy?

Last week the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence presented this year’s award to Dr Tom Fingar at a ceremony jointly hosted by the prestigious Oxford Union Society.

Thomas_FingarDr Fingar, currently a visiting lecturer at Oxford, had in 2007 co-ordinated the production of the US National Intelligence Estimate – the combined analysis of all 16 of America’s intelligence agencies – which assessed that the Iranian nuclear weaponisation programme had ceased in 2003.  This considered and authoritative Estimate directly thwarted the 2008 US drive towards war against Iran, and has been reaffirmed every year since then.

By the very fact of doing his job of providing dispassionate and objective assessments and resisting any pressure to politicise the intelligence (à la Downing Street Memo), Dr Fingar’s work is outstanding and he is the winner of Sam Adams Award, 2012.  This may say something about the parlous state of our intelligence agencies generally, but don’t get me started on that…

Anyway, as I said, the award ceremony was co-hosted by the Oxford Union Society last week, and many Sam Adams Associates attended, often travelling long distances to do so.  Former winners were asked to speak at the ceremony, such as FBI Coleen Rowley, GCHQ Katherine Gun, NSA Thomas Drake, and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray.  Other associates, including CIA Ray McGovern, diplomats Ann Wright and Brady Kiesling and myself also said a few words.  As former insiders and whistleblowers, we recognised the vitally important work that Dr Fingar had done and all spoke about the importance of integrity in intelligence.

One other previous winner of the Sam Adams Award was also invited to speak – Julian Assange of Wikileaks.  He spoke eloquently about the need for integrity and was gracious in praising the work of Dr Fingar.

All the national and international media were invited to attend what was an historic gathering of international whislteblowers and cover an award given to someone who, by doing their job with integrity, prevented yet further ruinous war and bloodshed in the Middle East.

Few attended, still fewer reported on the event, and the promised live streaming on Youtube was blocked by shadowy powers at the very last minute – an irony considering the Oxford Union is renowned as a free speech society.

But worse was to come.  The next day The Guardian newspaper, which historically fell out with Wikileaks, published a myopic hit-piece about the event. No mention of all the whistleblowers who attended and what they said, no mention of the award to Dr Fingar, no mention of the fact that his work saved the Iranian people from needless war.

Oh no, the entire piece focused on the tawdry allegations emanating from Sweden about Julian Assange’s extradition case.  Discounting the 450 students who applauded all the speeches, discounting all the serious points raised by Julian Assange during his presentation, and discounting the speeches of all the other internationally renowned whistleblowers present that evening, The Guardian’s reporter, Amelia Hill, focused on the small demo outside the event and the only three attendees she could apparently find to criticise the fact that a platform, any platform, had been given to Assange from his political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Amelia_HillSo this is where we arrive at the deep, really deep, hypocrisy of the evening.  Amelia Hill is, I’m assuming,  the same Guardian journalist who was threatened in 2011 with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.  She had allegedly been receiving leaks from the Metropolitan Police about the on-going investigation into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

At the time Fleet Street was up in arms – how dare the police threaten one of their own with prosecution under the OSA for exposing institutional corruption? Shades of the Shayler case were used in her defence. As I wrote at the time, it’s a shame the UK media could not have been more consistently robust in condemning the chilling effects of the OSA on the free-flow of information and protect all the Poor Bloody Whistleblowers, and not just come out fighting when it is one of their own being threatened.  Such is the way of the world….

But really, Ms Hill – if you are indeed the same reporter who was threatened with prosecution in 2011 under the OSA – examine your conscience.

How can you write a hit-piece focusing purely on Assange – a man who has designed a publishing system to protect potential whistleblowers from precisely such draconian secrecy laws as you were hyperbolically threatened with? And how could you, at the same time, airbrush out of history the testimony of so many whistleblowers gathered together, many of whom have indeed been arrested and have faced prosecution under the terms of the OSA or US secrecy legislation?

Have you no shame?  You know how frightening it is to be faced with such a prosecution.

Your hypocrisy is breath-taking.

The offence was compounded when the Sam Adams Associates all wrote a letter to The Guardian to set the record straight. The original letter is reproduced below, and this is what was published.  Of course, The Guardian has a perfect right under its Terms and Conditions to edit the letter, but I would like everyone to see how this can be used and abused.

And the old media wonders why they are in decline?

Letter to The Guardian, 29 January 2013:

Dear Sir

With regard to the 24 January article in The Guardian entitled “Julian Assange Finds No Allies and Tough Queries in Oxford University Talk,” we question whether the newspaper’s reporter was actually present at the event, since the account contains so many false and misleading statements.

If The Guardian could “find no allies” of Mr. Assange, it did not look very hard! They could be found among the appreciative audience of the packed Oxford Union Debate Hall, and – in case you missed us – in the group seated right at the front of the Hall: the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

Many in our group – which, you might be interested to know co-sponsored the event with Oxford Union – had traveled considerable distances at our own expense to confer the 10th annual Sam Adams award to Dr. Thomas Fingar for his work on overseeing the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that revealed the lack of an Iranian nuclear weaponization program.

Many of us spoke in turn about the need for integrity in intelligence, describing the terrible ethical dilemma that confronts government employees who witness illegal activity including serious threats to public safety and fraud, waste and abuse.

But none of this made it into what was supposed to pass for a news article; neither did any aspect of the acceptance speech delivered by Dr. Fingar. Also, why did The Guardian fail to provide even one salient quote from Mr Assange’s substantial twenty-minute address?

By censoring the contributions of the Sam Adams Associates and the speeches by Dr. Fingar and Mr. Assange, and by focusing exclusively on tawdry and unproven allegations against Mr. Assange, rather than on the importance of exposing war crimes and maintaining integrity in intelligence processes, The Guardian has succeeded in diminishing none but itself.

Sincerely,

The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence:

Ann Wright (retired Army Colonel and Foreign Service Officer of US State Department), Ray McGovern (retired CIA analyst), Elizabeth Murray (retired CIA analyst), Coleen Rowley (retired FBI agent), Annie Machon (former MI5 intelligence officer), Thomas Drake (former NSA official), Craig Murray (former British Ambassador), David MacMichael (retired CIA analyst), Brady Kiesling (former Foreign Service Officer of US State Department), and Todd Pierce (retired U.S. Army Major, Judge Advocate, Guantanamo Defense Counsel).

What whistleblowers want

Whistleblowers want the sun and the moon – or at least they want to get their information out there, they want to make a difference, they want a fair hearing, and they don’t want to pay too high a personal price for doing so.

Is that too much to ask? The decision to expose criminality and bad practice for the public good has serious, life-changing implications.

By going public about serious concerns they have about their workplace, they are jeopardising their whole way of life: not just their professional reputation and career, but all that goes with it, such as the ability to pay the mortgage, their social circle, their family life, their relationship…  Plus, the whistleblower can potentially risk prison or worse.

So, with these risks in mind, they are certainly looking for an avenue to blow the whistle that will offer a degree of protection and allow them to retain a degree of control over their own lives.  In the old days, this meant trying to identify an honourable, campaigning journalist and a media organisation that had the clout to protect its source.  While not impossible, that could certainly be difficult, and becomes increasingly so in this era of endemic electronic surveillance.

Today the other option is the secure, high-tech publishing conduit, as trail-blazed by Wikileaks. While this does not provide the potential benefits of working with a campaigning journalist, it does provide anonymity and a certain degree of control to the modern whistleblower, plus it allows their information to reach a wide audience without either being filtered by the media or blocked by government or corporate injunctions.

As someone who has a nodding acquaintance with the repercussions of blowing the whistle on a secret government agency, I have liked the Wikileaks model since I first stumbled across it in 2009.

As with most truly revolutionary ideas, once posited it is blindingly obvious.

Never before has this been technically possible – the idea that a whistleblower’s information could be made freely available to the citizens of the world, in order to inform their democratic choices, with no blockage, not censorship, no filtering or “interpretation” by the corporate media.

This is particularly relevant in an age when the global media has been consolidated in the hands of a few multinationals, and when these multinationals have a certain, shall we say “cosy”, relationship with many of top our politicians and power elites.

The control of the mainstream media by the spooks and governments has been the focus of many of my recent talks.  These corrupt inter-relationships have also been recently laid bare with the News International phone-hacking scandals.

The days of garnering news from one favoured paper or TV bulletin are long gone. Few people now trust just one media outlet – they skip across a variety of news sources, trying to evaluate the truth for themselves. But even that can be problematic when something big occurs, such as the “justification” for the invasion of Iraq or Libya, and the current beat of war drums against Iran, when the corporate media mysteriously achieves a consensus.

Hence the democratic disconnect, hence the distrust, and hence (in part) the plummeting profits of the old media.

Wikileaks is based on a simple concept –  it allows the people to read the source material for themselves and make up their own minds based on real information.  This led to exposure of all kinds of global nasties way before the massive 2010 US data-dump.

Despite this approach, the impact was initially subdued until Wikileaks collaborated with the old media.  This, as we all know, did indeed produce the coverage and awareness of those issues deemed important as it was filtered through the MSM. This has also inevitably lead to tensions between the new model hacktivists and the old-school journalists.

No government, least of all the USA, likes to have demands for justice and transparency forced upon it, and the push back since 2010 has been massive across the world in terms of an apparently illegal financial blockade, opaque legal cases and a media backlash. Certain of Wikileaks’s erstwhile media partners have collaborated in this, turning on one of their richest sources of information in history.

However, Wikileaks is more than a media source.  It is a whole new model – a high-tech publisher that offers a safe conduit for whistleblowers to cache and publicise their information without immediately having to overturn (and in some cases risk) their lives.

For this work, Wikileaks has over the years won a number of internationally prestigious journalism awards.

Inevitably, critics in the mainstream media seem to want to have their cake and eat it too: one early partner, the New York Times, has written that it doesn’t recognise Wikileaks as a journalist organisation or a publisher – it is a source, pure and simple.

Either way, by saying this the media are surely shooting themselves in the corporate feet with both barrels. If Wikileaks is indeed “just” a source (the NYT seems to be blithely forgetting that good journalism is entirely dependent on its sources), then the media are breaking their prime directive: protect a source at all costs.

However, if Wikileaks is a journalism or publishing organisation and as such is being targeted by the US government, then all other media are surely equally at risk in the future?

By not standing up for Wikileaks in either capacity, it appears that the old media have a death wish.

Over the years whistleblowers around the world have demonstrated their trust in Wikileaks, as it was set up by someone emerging from the original bona fide hacker community.   And rightly so – let’s not forget that no source has been exposed through the failure of the organisation’s technology.

Many media organisations rushed to emulate its success by trying to set up their own “secure” whistleblowing repositories.  What the media execs failed to understand was the hacker ethos, the open source mentality: they went to their techie department or commercial IT service providers and said “we want one”, but failed to understand both the ethos and the security concerns around closed, proprietary software systems, often channelled through the post-Patriot Act, post-CISPA USA.

Other, apparently well-meaning organisations, also tried to emulate the Wikileaks model, but most have died a quiet death over the last year.  Perhaps, again, for want of real trust in their origin or tech security?

Why on earth would any security-conscious whistleblower, emerging out of a government, military or intelligence organisation, trust such a set-up?  If someone comes out of such an environment they will know all-too-well the scale of the push-back, the possible entrapments, and the state-level resources that will be used to track them down. They either need an uber-secure whistleblowing platform, or they need journalists and lawyers with fire in their belly to fight the fight, no matter what.

So now to OpenLeaks – apparently the brainchild of Wikileaks defector Daniel Domsheit-Berg. He and the shadowy “Architect” famously fell out with Julian Assange in late 2010, just when the political heat was ramping up on the organisation.  They left, reportedly taking some of the crucial coding and a tranche of files with them, and Domsheit-Berg decided to set up a rival organisation called OpenLeaks.  As a result of his actions, Domsheit-Berg was uniquely cast out of the international hacker group, the CCC in Berlin.

He now seems to have been welcomed back into the fold and OpenLeaks appears, finally, to be ready to receive whistleblower information.

However, there is a crucial difference between the two organisations.  Where Wikileaks wants to lay the information out there for public evaluation, OpenLeaks will merely act as a repository for certain approved mainstream media organisations to access. We are back to the original blockage of the corporate media deciding what information we, the people, should be allowed to ingest.

I would not wish to comment on Domsheit-Berg’s motivation, but to me this seems to be an even worse option for a whistleblower than directly contacting a campaigning journalist with a proven track record of covering hard-core stories and fighting for the cause.

With OpenLeaks, the whistleblower loses not only the automatic widespread dissemination of their information, but also any semblance of control over which journalists will be working on their story.  Their information will be parked on the website and anyone from pre-selected media organisations will be able to access, use and potentially abuse it.

One could say that OpenLeaks operates as a secure staging platform where a whistleblower can safely store sensitive documents and information…. but the founder allegedly removed and destroyed sensitive files from Wikileaks when he jumped ship in 2010.  Could any whistleblower really trust that OpenLeaks would not similarly “disappear” shit-hot information in the future?

Plus, there is the added worry for any rightly-paranoid whistleblower that the founder of OpenLeaks so easily abandoned Wikileaks when under pressure.  Who’s to say that this would not happen again, if the full might of the Pentagon were brought to bear on OpenLeaks?

OpenLeaks offers neither the personal support of working with a trusted journalist and a media organisation with the clout to fight back, nor does it provide full disclosure to the wider public to side-step potential media self-censorship and government law suits, as the original Wikileaks model does.

As such OpenLeaks seems, at least to this particular whistleblower, to be an evolutionary blip – a retrograde step – in the quest for justice and accountability.