Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Berlin 2015

Last week in Ber­lin the 2015 Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence was presen­ted to the former Tech­nic­al Dir­ect­or of the NSA, whis­tleblower and tire­less pri­vacy advoc­ate, Wil­li­am Bin­ney.

A 36-year intel­li­gence agency vet­er­an, Bill Bin­ney resigned from the NSA in 2001 and became a whis­tleblower after dis­cov­er­ing that ele­ments of a data-mon­it­or­ing pro­gramme he had helped devel­op were being used to spy on Amer­ic­ans.  He explained that he “could not stay after the NSA began pur­pose­fully viol­at­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion”.

Bill remains tire­less, pledging to spend the remainder of his years speak­ing out across the world and work­ing to reform the gross gov­ern­ment­al illeg­al­ity and stu­pid­ity of inter­cept­ing tril­lions and tril­lions of com­mu­nic­a­tions of inno­cent people’s phone calls, emails and oth­er forms of data. Bill states “it’s viol­ated every­one’s rights. It can be used to spy on the whole world.”

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates decided to hold the cere­mony in Ber­lin as it is cur­rently a glob­al hub for pri­vacy-minded indi­vidu­als — journ­al­ists, film-makers, tech­no­lo­gists, whis­tleblowers and cam­paign­ers.

Binney_at_BundestagHis­tory has made Ger­many much more sens­it­ive to the need for basic rights, such as pri­vacy, than many oth­er soi dis­ant west­ern demo­cra­cies, and the dis­clos­ures of Edward Snowden, includ­ing the col­lu­sion of Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies with the NSA as well as the bug­ging of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, have caused out­rage across the coun­try.

Plus, only last year Bill Bin­ney was invited to give evid­ence to the Ger­man Bundestag’s NSA Inquiry Com­mis­sion.

SAA_Photo_Berlin_2015Whis­tleblowers, former intel­li­gence officers, mil­it­ary officers, dip­lo­mats and law­yers flew in from around the world to hon­our Bill Bin­ney. The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates attend­ing the event were Ray McGov­ern (CIA), Todd Pierce (US mil­it­ary law­yer), Coleen Row­ley (FBI), Eliza­beth Mur­ray (US nation­al intel­li­gence coun­cil), Craig Mur­ray (UK ambas­sad­or), Kath­er­ine Gun (GCHQ), Tom Drake (NSA), Jes­selyn Radack (US DoJ), Dav­id MacMi­chael (CIA), and myself (MI5).

We were also pleased that Edward Snowden was able to join us via live link to give a  power­ful speech hon­our­ing Bill Bin­ney.

So, here is the film of a won­der­fully touch­ing cere­mony, and con­grat­u­la­tions to Bill Bin­ney for the cour­age he has already demon­strated and con­tin­ues to dis­play:

Sam Adams Award Ber­lin 2015 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And here we have the text of the award cita­tion to Bill Bin­ney:

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence

Presents its INTEGRITY AWARD for 2015 to:

Wil­li­am Bin­ney

Know all ye by these presents that Wil­li­am Bin­ney is hereby honored with the tra­di­tion­al Sam Adams Corner-Bright­en­er Can­dle­stick Hold­er, in sym­bol­ic recog­ni­tion of Mr. Binney’s cour­age in shin­ing light into dark places.

Bill Bin­ney rep­res­ents the pat­ri­ot­ic side of a duel between two unequal adversar­ies: an exceed­ingly power­ful and ruth­less state and Bill, an offi­cial who would not break his sol­emn oath to defend its Con­sti­tu­tion.  Like Tom Drake and Ed Snowden, he was determ­ined to pre­serve his integ­rity, his pri­vacy, and his per­son­al hon­or.

On both sides of the Atlantic we hear the man­tra: “After 9/11/2001 EVERYTHING CHANGED;” just like “everything changed” after the burn­ing of the Reich­stag on 2/27/1933.  That event led many Ger­mans into what the writer Sebasti­an Haffn­er called “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness” — with dis­astrous con­sequences.

As a young Ger­man law­yer in Ber­lin at the time, Haffn­er wrote in his diary one day after the Reich­stag fire that Ger­mans had suffered a nervous break­down.  “No one saw any­thing out of the ordin­ary in the fact that, from now on, one’s tele­phone would be tapped, one’s let­ters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”

What was miss­ing, wrote Haffn­er, was “a sol­id inner ker­nel that can­not be shaken by extern­al pres­sures and forces, some­thing noble and steely, a reserve of pride, prin­ciple, and dig­nity to be drawn on in the hour or tri­al.”

We are grate­ful that these traits were NOT miss­ing in Bill Bin­ney.  Nor were they miss­ing in Edward Snowden, whose pat­ri­ot­ic risk-tak­ing opened the way for Bill and his col­leagues to expose the col­lect-it-all fan­at­ics and the dam­age they do to pri­vacy every­where.

What Ed Snowden called “turn­key tyranny” can still be pre­ven­ted.  But this can only hap­pen, if pat­ri­ots like Bill Bin­ney can jolt enough people out of “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness.” Goethe under­stood this 200 years ago when he warned, “No one is more a slave than he who thinks him­self free, but is not.”

Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein*.

Presen­ted this 22nd day of Janu­ary 2015 in Ber­lin by admirers of the example set by the late CIA ana­lyst, Sam Adams.

And finally, here are some extra inter­views from the night with Bill Bin­ney, Tom Drake, Jes­selyn Radack, and Coleen Row­ley:

With thanks to Ber­lin Moscow on Unter den Linden and the Dreger Group for host­ing the event, to pro­fes­sion­al pho­to­graph­er Johanna Hul­lar for all her great pic­tures of the cere­mony.

In Celebration of Whistleblowers

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge.

In the UK last week there was a series of events to cel­eb­rate the won­der­ful work of whis­tleblowers.

In pre­vi­ous dec­ades these brave and rare indi­vidu­als have often been all too eas­ily dis­missed with the usu­al, care­fully orches­trated media slanders of “dis­gruntled”, “too juni­or”, “sacked”, whatever ad nauseam. But no longer.

Now, in this era where we have been lied into illeg­al wars, where the banks privat­ise their profits yet make their risks pub­lic and get repeatedly bailed out, and when people are need­lessly dying in our hos­pit­als, more and more people real­ise the value that whis­tleblowers can bring to the pub­lic debate.

Indeed, the sys­tem is now so broken that the whis­tleblower is often the reg­u­lat­or of last resort.

Plus, of course, this is the era of Wikileaks, Chelsea Man­ning and Edward Snowden. The concept of whis­tleblow­ing has gone glob­al in response to the scale of the threats we are all now facing from the mil­it­ary-secur­ity com­plex world-wide.

So last week was rather invig­or­at­ing and involved a num­ber of events that gave due cred­it to the bravery and sac­ri­fice of whis­tleblowers.

First up we had the inter­na­tion­al launch of the UK whis­tleblower sup­port group, The Whist­ler. This is a Brit­ish organ­isa­tion designed to provide a leg­al, psy­cho­lo­gic­al and social sup­port net­work to those in the UK brave enough to come out and blow the whistle on incom­pet­ence and crime from any sec­tor, pub­lic or private, and many hun­dreds have over the last few years, par­tic­u­larly from the fin­an­cial and health sec­tors.

Sadly all exper­i­ence the same treat­ment; vili­fic­a­tion, sup­pres­sion, and even the loss of their careers for dar­ing to expose the incom­pet­ence and even crime of oth­ers.  Sadly, while there is a law in place that is sup­posed to provide some pro­tec­tion, all to often this has failed over the last 16 years.  The Whist­ler provides a much needed ser­vice.

A num­ber of inter­na­tion­al whis­tleblowers were in the UK for the week for oth­er events, and The Whist­ler was able to host them and hear their stor­ies. Gav­in Mac­Fa­dyen of the Centre for Invest­ig­at­ive Journ­al­ism, and the indefatig­able cam­paign­er Eileen Chubb hos­ted the event, and former CIA ana­lyst Ray McGov­ern, NSA whis­tleblower Tom Drake, Jes­selyn Radack of the Gov­ern­ment Account­ab­il­ity pro­ject (The Whist­ler­’s US coun­ter­part), and myself spoke. The Whist­ler will offi­cially be launched in the UK on 20th March, so watch this space.

The next night we found ourselves at the pres­ti­gi­ous Oxford Uni­on Soci­ety, which was kind enough to host the award cere­mony for the Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence for the second year run­ning. You may remem­ber that last year the award went to Dr Tom Fin­gar, whose US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate of 2007 single-handedly hal­ted to rush to war against Iran.

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates is a group of intel­li­gence, gov­ern­ment and mil­it­ary whis­tleblowers and cam­paign­ers.  Each year we vote to con­fer an award on a mem­ber of the intel­li­gence com­munity or related pro­fes­sions who exem­pli­fies CIA ana­lyst, Sam Adams’ cour­age, per­sist­ence and telling truth to power, no mat­ter what the con­sequences.

Since its incep­tion in 2002, the award has been giv­en to truth tell­ers Coleen Row­ley of the FBI, Kath­er­ine Gun of GCHQ, Sibel Edmonds of the FBI, Craig Mur­ray former UK ambas­sad­or to Uzbek­istan, Sam Provance former US army Sgt, Major Frank Gre­vil of Dan­ish intel­li­gence, Larry Wilk­er­son former US army Col­on­el, Juli­an Assange of Wikileaks, Thomas Drake of NSA and Jes­selyn Radack of the Depart­ment of Justice, Dr Thomas Fin­gar former Deputy Dir­ect­or of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, and Edward Snowden former NSA con­tract­or.

This year the award went, unan­im­ously and inev­it­ably, to Chelsea Man­ning, and many Sam Adams asso­ci­ates trav­elled to the UK to attend and to hon­our her achieve­ments and 2013 SAA laur­eate Edward Snowden sent through a con­grat­u­lat­ory mes­sage. Sadly and for obvi­ous reas­ons Chelsea could not receive the award in per­son, but her old school friend, Aaron Kirk­house read out a power­ful and mov­ing state­ment writ­ten by her for the occa­sion.

The fol­low­ing night the Uni­on hos­ted a debate on “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero”. I had the pleas­ure of arguing for the pro­pos­i­tion, along with US journ­al­ist Chris Hedges, NSA whis­tleblower Bill Bin­ney, and former UK gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Chris Huhne, and we won — 212 to 171 was the final tally, I believe.

I very much enjoyed the events, so a massive thanks to Polina Ivan­ova, the cur­rent Uni­on pres­id­ent, and her team who organ­ised the events.

The best part of the week though, apart from the set events, was hav­ing the time to be with oth­er intel­li­gence whis­tleblowers and fel­low cam­paign­ers. While in Lon­don we also all had the oppor­tun­ity to do a range of media inter­views with pro­grammes such as Bri­an Rose’s Lon­don Real TV and Afsh­in Rat­tansi’s “Going Under­ground” on RT.

Sadly but rather pre­dict­ably, the old media chose not to take advant­age of such a rich source of expert­ise in town.  Des­pite repeated invit­a­tions, the MSM failed to attend any of the events or inter­view any of the whis­tleblowers. But per­haps that’s bet­ter than the appallingly off-beam cov­er­age the Guard­i­an gave to Dr Fin­gar’s award cere­mony last year.

But the old media are behind the times, which are def­in­itely a’chan­ging. In this post-Wikileaks, post-Man­ning and post-Snowden world, the tone of the debate has changed for good. Whis­tleblowers are increas­ingly val­ued as brave indi­vidu­als of con­science and there is much more aware­ness and interest in the issues of pri­vacy, human rights and the mean­ing of demo­cracy. Indeed, in the fun­da­ment­al mean­ing of free­dom.

Week of the Whistleblower

So this com­ing week prom­ises to be inter­est­ing in the UK, with a num­ber of inter­na­tion­al whis­tleblowers gath­er­ing for a range of events and inter­views in Lon­don and Oxford.

SAA_logoThe primary reas­on for this gath­er­ing is the SAA award cere­mony for Chelsea Man­ning at the Oxford Uni­on Soci­ety on 19th Feb­ru­ary.  Every year an inter­na­tion­al group of former intel­li­gence per­son­nel vote on the Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence and this year, inev­it­ably and resound­ingly, the award went to Chelsea.  She joins a dis­tin­guished list of laur­eates.

TheWhistlerlogoWe shall also be par­ti­cip­at­ing in the launch of the UK whis­tleblower sup­port net­work, The Whist­ler. This aims to provide prac­tic­al sup­port to whis­tleblowers com­ing out of every sec­tor: med­ic­al, fin­an­cial, gov­ern­ment… — whatever and wherever there are cov­er-ups and cor­rup­tion.

There seems to be a grow­ing aware­ness of the role of the whis­tleblower and the safe­guards they can add to our soci­ety and demo­crat­ic way of life: the reg­u­lat­ors of last resort.  Please sup­port these cam­paigns.