Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

When Does A Whistleblower Cross The Line?

I’m feeling rather confused about whistle blowing. The premise of The Accidental Activist was the abuse by large multinational corporations of individuals and their rights. My politics are generally left-wing – I’m sure you haven’t noticed from this blog – and I feel I should be siding with those who purport for freedom from surveillance, but when it comes to national security, my politics shift…sometimes dramatically.

The question for me with regards to the actions of both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon revolves around three questions:

1.  Was US national security breached?

2.  Were men and women risking their lives for our protection compromised?

3.  Will our ability to utilize various systems of intelligence be closed to us because those willing to help us cannot trust our government agencies to control the information and sources?

imgres-1If any of the above leads to the death of one innocent individual, much less the failure to prevent a terrorist attack, then the actions of Manning and Snowdon are inexcusable. It is, I believe, not clear whether Snowdon crossed this line.

The definition of whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization. 

The image portrays a hero/ine who is willing to stand up when they see an injustice, knowing that they might face repercussions from that oft-powerful business or organization. In fact, the US Government put laws in place to protect whistleblowers, as early as 1863 to expose suppliers who were fraudulent during the Civil War. The Act even goes so far as to offer incentives such as a percentage of any money recovered or damages won in court. The act also protects them from wrongful dismissal. 

whistleblower-cliffIt all sounds great until we get to issues of national security. I suspect we will never know the extent of many of these secrets or the implications. I read that, after Mannings’ leaks, an entire ring of Afghan informers and their families were taken out of Afghanistan for their own safety. Beyond the upheaval of those families, US forces were left more exposed to potential and life-threatening ambushes. How desperate must someone be to step in as an informer under those circumstances?

I have no doubt that our intelligence agencies do a lot of bad stuff to protect our freedom. I am sure they bend the rules and sometimes cross the lines. But the reality is that it is a rough world out there and when you enter the realm of religious or political extremism, and face up against people willing to kill thousands of people in an indiscriminate fashion, then you have to decide what values you prioritize, and I put the lives of freedom-loving people first.

For several months I boarded public buses in Israel knowing that there were daily attempts to blow up these buses. I did it, not because I was a hero, but because I had no choice.

images-4I treasure freedom and democracy and I believe that all who choose to live in such a society have the right to do so, without fear. If the price is that someone occasionally taps my communications because I have a foreign name, I can live with it.

Note to NSA: 80% of the websites I go into refer to Arsenal – they are my soccer team back in the UK and have no connections to munitions. When I comment that we need someone who can shoot straight, I mean with an inflated round piece of leather. I hope I have saved you considerable time with this revelation.

A final question to Edward Snowdon: If you leaked all this information in the name of democracy and freedom, because you feared America was becoming a surveillance state, why did you flee to a Chinese colony, where security cameras abound and people regularly checked for what they read, surf and write?

If you have any free time while in China, perhaps you could speak out to help free Shi Tao – he was, I guess, also a whistleblower 


Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

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3 thoughts on “When Does A Whistleblower Cross The Line?

  1. I hope the NSA is enjoying reading all about me…

  2. Posted: February 20, 2007 False confessions are among the leading causes of wrongful conviction. In 2006 alone, two New York men – Jeff Deskovic and Doug Warney – who had confessed to murders were exonerated by DNA evidence, proving that their confessions were false. For every case in which biological evidence is available to prove innocence or guilt, there are many without evidence that can be tested. In some cases, a false confession leads police to charge someone with a crime, but before the case goes to trial evidence is uncovered that proves the confession was false. In late January, prosecutors in New York City dropped charges against Lourdes Torres, a 31-year-old woman who had confessed to a murder after 18 hours in interrogation. She had been held in jail for over four years awaiting trial before charges were dropped when DNA test results pointed to two men in the murder.In an interview from Riker’s Island Penitentiary, Torres told NewsChannel 4 that she believed detectives when they promised her freedom in exchange for giving a written confession to the fatal stabbing of her lover, 49-year-old Romeo Acuna, in his Jackson Heights apartment in September 2002.”They told me if I signed the paper, they were going to take me out of jail,” said Torres. “I did not kill him. I’m innocent. I wasn’t even in the apartment when that occurred.” Read the full story and watch video here . (WNBC New York, 01/25/07) Recording custodial interrogations helps eliminate false confessions and also helps police do their job. The reform is gaining support from a diverse array of criminal justice groups around the country. Read more about it here . Steve Drizin, a staff attorney at the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern School of Law in Chicago, maintains a blog on False Confessions. Read the “Bluhm Blog” here .

  3. The founding principle of ILO is that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice” Therefore, the ILO set its methods and principles which were considered to be of ‘special and urgent importance’ for attainment of universal and lasting peace which are reflected in the Preamble to its Constitution and includes:- the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for old age and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principles of equal remuneration for work of equal value, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures.

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