Virtue Ethics – Whistleblowing
This essay topic need about Virtue Ethics – Whistleblowing. And you can refer to below question,
this is past year question about this topic: Using examples, discuss critically in what circumstances is it right to ‘whistleblow’.
NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others
• Top-secret Prism program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook
• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007
• Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks
• Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill
• The Guardian, Friday 7 June 2013
• Jump to comments (2936)
A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program.
The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program calledPrism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.
Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.
In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.
An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.
The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.
The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.
It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.
Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.
The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.
Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Yourprivacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.
It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.
Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.
The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.
Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.
The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.
When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.
The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.
The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.
“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”
The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.
The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.
In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.
The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.
In the document, the NSA hails the Prism program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.
It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the Prism program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.
The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.
The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.
Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.
“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.
“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”
Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.
When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 Prism-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.
In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.
“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.
“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”
A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.
“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.
“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.
“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.
“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.
Edward Snowden, NSA files source: ‘If they want to get you, in time they will’
Source for the Guardian’s NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation – and what comes next
Edward Snowden was interviewed over several days in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.
Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?
A: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
Q: But isn’t there a need for surveillance to try to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks such as Boston?
A: “We have to decide why terrorism is a new threat. There has always been terrorism. Boston was a criminal act. It was not about surveillance but good, old-fashioned police work. The police are very good at what they do.”
Q: Do you see yourself as another Bradley Manning?
A: “Manning was a classic whistleblower. He was inspired by the public good.”
Q: Do you think what you have done is a crime?
A: “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence.”
Q: What do you think is going to happen to you?
A: “Nothing good.”
Q: Why Hong Kong?
A: “I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech.”
Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?
A: “That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.”
Snowden is a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA
Q: What about the Obama administration’s protests about hacking by China?
A: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”
Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?
A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”
Q: Does your family know you are planning this?
A: “No. My family does not know what is happening … My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with …
I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.”
Q: When did you decide to leak the documents?
A: “You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realise that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.
“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama’s promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor.”
Q: What is your reaction to Obama denouncing the leaks on Friday while welcoming a debate on the balance between security and openness?
A: “My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it.”
Q: What about the response in general to the disclosures?
A: “I have been surprised and pleased to see the public has reacted so strongly in defence of these rights that are being suppressed in the name of security. It is not like Occupy Wall Street but there is a grassroots movement to take to the streets on July 4 in defence of the Fourth Amendment called Restore The Fourth Amendment and it grew out of Reddit. The response over the internet has been huge and supportive.”
Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital’s Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be “disappeared”. How do you feel about that?
A: “Someone responding to the story said ‘real spies do not speak like that’. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general.”
Q: Do you have a plan in place?
A: “The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me … My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be.
“They could put out an Interpol note. But I don’t think I have committed a crime outside the domain of the US. I think it will be clearly shown to be political in nature.”
Q: Do you think you are probably going to end up in prison?
A: “I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison. You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will.”
Q: How to you feel now, almost a week after the first leak?
A: “I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America. I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want.
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations
The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
• Q&A with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I do not expect to see home again’
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’
Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.
He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.
As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”
On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.
In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.
He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.
Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.
Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.
And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.
“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.
“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”
He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.
The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.
‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’
Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.
By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)
In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.
He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.
After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.
By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.
That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.
He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.
“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”
He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.
First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.
He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”
The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”
Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.
He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.
But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”
Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.
A matter of principle
As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”
For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.
His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.
Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.
He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.
His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.
Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.
Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.
He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.
Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.
He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.
But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”
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Edward Snowden: saving us from the United Stasi of America
Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us a chance to roll back what is tantamount to an ‘executive coup’ against the US constitution
o Daniel Ellsberg
o guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 June 2013 11.30 BST
o Jump to comments (517)
Link to video: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’
In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago. Snowden’s whistleblowing gives us the possibility to roll back a key part of what has amounted to an “executive coup” against the US constitution.
Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: “It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp.”
For the president then to say that there is judicial oversight is nonsense – as is the alleged oversight function of the intelligence committees in Congress. Not for the first time – as with issues of torture, kidnapping, detention, assassination by drones and death squads –they have shown themselves to be thoroughly co-opted by the agencies they supposedly monitor. They are also black holes for information that the public needs to know.
The fact that congressional leaders were “briefed” on this and went along with it, without any open debate, hearings, staff analysis, or any real chance for effective dissent, only shows how broken the system of checks and balances is in this country.
Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people’s privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.
There are legitimate reasons for secrecy, and specifically for secrecy about communications intelligence. That’s why Bradley Mannning and I – both of whom had access to such intelligence with clearances higher than top-secret – chose not to disclose any information with that classification. And it is why Edward Snowden has committed himself to withhold publication of most of what he might have revealed.
But what is not legitimate is to use a secrecy system to hide programs that are blatantly unconstitutional in their breadth and potential abuse. Neither the president nor Congress as a whole may by themselves revoke the fourth amendment – and that’s why what Snowden has revealed so far was secret from the American people.
In 1975, Senator Frank Church spoke of the National Security Agency in these terms:
“I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
The dangerous prospect of which he warned was that America’s intelligence gathering capability – which is today beyond any comparison with what existed in his pre-digital era – “at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left.”
That has now happened. That is what Snowden has exposed, with official, secret documents. The NSA, FBI and CIA have, with the new digital technology, surveillance powers over our own citizens that the Stasi – the secret police in the former “democratic republic” of East Germany – could scarcely have dreamed of. Snowden reveals that the so-called intelligence community has become the United Stasi of America.
So we have fallen into Senator Church’s abyss. The questions now are whether he was right or wrong that there is no return from it, and whether that means that effective democracy will become impossible. A week ago, I would have found it hard to argue with pessimistic answers to those conclusions.
But with Edward Snowden having put his life on the line to get this information out, quite possibly inspiring others with similar knowledge, conscience and patriotism to show comparable civil courage – in the public, in Congress, in the executive branch itself – I see the unexpected possibility of a way up and out of the abyss.
Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate the revelations by Snowden and, I hope, others to come might lead us to bring NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the bill of rights.
Snowden did what he did because he recognised the NSA’s surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans’ and foreign citizens’ privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we’re trying to protect.
• Editor’s note: this article was revised and updated at the author’s behest, at 7.45am ET on 10 June
Obama pressured over NSA snooping as US senator denounces ‘act of treason’
Information chiefs worldwide sound alarm while US senator Dianne Feinstein orders NSA to review monitoring program
• Dan Roberts in Washington, Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong and James Ball in New York
• The Guardian, Tuesday 11 June 2013
• Jump to comments (656)
Officials in European capitals denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP
Barack Obama was facing a mounting domestic and international backlash against US surveillance operations on Monday as his administration struggled to contain one of the most explosive national security leaks in US history.
Political opinion in the US was split with some members of Congress calling for the immediate extradition from Hong Kong of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. But other senior politicians in both main parties questioned whether US surveillance practices had gone too far.
Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the national intelligence committee, has ordered the NSA to review how it limits the exposure of Americans to government surveillance. But she made clear her disapproval of Snowden. “What he did was an act of treason,” she said.
Officials in European capitals demanded immediate answers from their US counterparts and denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable, illegal and a serious violation of basic rights. The NSA, meanwhile, asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation and said that it was assessing the damage caused by the disclosures.
Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who revealed secrets of the Vietnam war through the Pentagon Papers in 1971, described Snowden’s leak as even more important and perhaps the most significant leak in American history.
Snowden disclosed his identity in an explosive interview with the Guardian, published on Sunday, which revealed he was a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
In his interview, Snowden revealed himself as the source for a series of articles in the Guardian last week, which included disclosures of a wide-ranging secret court order that demanded Verizon pass to the NSA the details of phone calls related to millions of customers, and a huge NSA intelligence system called Prism, which collects data on intelligence targets from the systems of some of the biggest tech companies.
Snowden said he had become disillusioned with the overarching nature of government surveillance in the US. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
As media interest intensified on Monday, Snowden checked out of the Hong Kong hotel where he had been staying, and moved to an undisclosed location.
Reacting to Snowden’s revelations, Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, raised questions about whether privacy was being unduly threatened. “I’m sure somebody can come up with a great computer program that says: ‘We can do X, Y, and Z,’ but that doesn’t mean that it’s right,” he told a radio station in Wisconsin. “I want to learn a lot more about it on behalf of the people I represent,” he added.
Pressure was growing on the White House to explain whether there was effective congressional oversight of the programmes revealed by Snowden. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in an NBC interview that he had responded in the “least untruthful manner” possible when he denied in congressional hearings last year that the NSA collected data on millions of Americans.
Clapper also confirmed that Feinstein had asked for a review to “refine these NSA processes and limit the exposure to Americans’ private communications” and report back “in about a month”.
In Europe, the German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she would press Obama on the revelations at a Berlin summit next week, while deputy European Commission chief Viviane Reding said she would press US officials in Dublin on Friday, adding that “a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or constraint but a fundamental right”.
Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner told the Guardian that it was unacceptable that US authorities have access to the data of European citizens “and the level of protection is lower than what is guaranteed for US citizens.” His Italian counterpart, Antonello Soro, said that the data dragnet “would not be legal in Italy” and would be “contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation”.
In London, the British foreign secretary William Hague was forced to defend the UK’s use of intelligence gathered by the US. In the House of Commons, Hague told MPs that British laws did not allow for “indiscriminate trawling” for information. “There is no danger of a deep state out of control in some way,” he said.
But Hague was reluctant to go into detail on how Britain handled information offered by US intelligence agencies, as opposed to information requested, or whether it was subject to the same ministerial oversight, including warrants.
Civil liberties groups ask for review of ‘secret law’
The Obama administration offered no indication on Monday about what it intended to do about Snowden. The White House did however say he had sparked an “appropriate debate” and hinted it might welcome revision of the Patriot Act, legislation introduced in 2001 which it claims gives legal authority for the programmes carried out by the National Security Agency.
“If [congressional] debate were to build to a consensus around changes [to the Patriot Act] the president would look at that,” said spokesman Jay Carney. “Although this is hardly the manner of discussion we hoped for, we would still like to have the debate.”
The first polls since the leak stories first broke indicated that the majority of Americans oppose the government scooping up their phone data. According to the Rasmussen poll just 26% of voters are in favour of the government’s collection of data from Verizon while 59% are opposed. In total 46% of Americans think that their own data has been monitored. But a poll by the Pew Research Center, asking a more general question, said 56% respondents approved of the NSA surveillance program.
The ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Clinic filed a motion on Monday asking for secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions on the Patriot Act to be made public in the light of the Guardian’s revelations.
The motion asks for any documents relating to the court’s interpretation of the scope, meaning and constitutionality of Section 215 of the Patriot Act – which authorises government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to foreign intelligence or terrorism investigations – to be published “as quickly as possible” and with only minimal redaction.
“In a democracy, there should be no room for secret law,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “The public has a right to know what limits apply to the government’s surveillance authority, and what safeguards are in place to protect individual privacy.”
There was support for Snowden among civil liberty activists. Ellsbergwrote for the Guardian: “In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago”.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet rights group, called for a “new Church committee” to investigate potential government infringements on privacy and to write new rules protecting the public. In the wake of the Watergate affair in the mid-1970s, a Senate investigation led by Idaho senator Frank Church uncovered decades of serious abuse by the US government of its eavesdropping powers. The committee report led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and set up the Fisa courts that today secretly approve surveillance requests.
Both Snowden and the Obama administration appeared to be considering their options on Monday. Hong Kong, which has an extradition treaty with the US, is unlikely to offer Snowden a permanent refuge. But Snowden could buy time by filing an asylum request, thanks to a landmark legal ruling that has thrown the system into disarray.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong said the case could be a “strong test” of the Chinese province’s commitment to freedom of expression. “The FCC will watch closely how the SAR [Hong Kong] government handles his case, and in particular how it responds to any pressure from authorities both in Washington and Beijing to restrict his activities or to impede access by the media,” it said in a statement.
In New York, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, cancelled at very short notice a planned photo opportunity with the Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying. “It would have been a circus, so we decided to catch up with him another time,” a mayoral spokesman told the Guardian.
Additional reporting by Matt Williams and Tom McCarthy in New York.
The whistleblowers: ‘The truth
sets you free’
Edward Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s electronic surveillance make him one of the most damaging whistleblowers in history. But what drives loyal employees to reveal the truth? And how do they live with the backlash?
• Interviews by Leo Benedictus, Leo Hickman and Richard Norton-Taylor
• The Guardian, Monday 10 June 2013 20.00 BST
• Jump to comments (85)
Edward Snowden: ‘People like him who do the right thing should be recognised and celebrated instead of being tarred and punished.’ Photograph: The Guardian
A former MI5 officer, Machon resigned from the security service, along with her then partner David Shayler, in 1996, and blew the whistle on alleged failures and crimes, including illegal MI5 phone taps.
I think Edward Snowden is in for a rough ride. But 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 people around the world has been very sophisticated. Obviously, he will have taken on board the sort of security and extradition issues that he needs to think about. From what I can see, he has taken very careful steps to protect those closest to him. The message he is putting out now is why he is doing it, why it is important, why people need to listen to what he is saying. I think it has been very, very well done.
What the NSA is doing is turning the US – and, by extension, the rest of the world – into a Big Brother surveillance state. As soon as you get into this situation where the nuts and bolts of the internet – Google, Facebook, a system we all use – can be used to spy on us, whether those companies know it or not, we have no privacy whatsoever. And once we have no privacy on the internet, we 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.
Annie Machon: ‘They tell you to shut up, not rock the boat and follow orders.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian
I hope the Obama administration has learned from prosecuting and persecuting multiple whistleblowers, Bradley Manning being just one of them. They are not winning the war of the desire for information to be free, the desire for people to be informed. 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.
Often people who blow the whistle try to deal with the issue in-house. We certainly did. You go to your boss and say: “This is wrong.” You say: “We should learn from mistakes made.” And they tell you just to shut up, not rock the boat and follow orders.
What does it take to be a whistleblower? Often the very trait that attracts you to intelligence work – that is, to make a real difference, protect your country’s way of life and potentially save lives. To stand up against organisational groupthink and say: “This is wrong”, knowing you face not just loss of career but also loss of liberty, takes courage – and Snowden has that in spades.
Jesselyn Radack: ‘The government was calling me a traitor.’
A legal ethics adviser at the US Department of Justice during the aftermath of 9/11. When John Walker Lindh, the so-called “American Taliban”, was captured in Afghanistan, she was asked by criminal prosecutors if they could question him without a lawyer present. She said not because he already had legal counsel, but she later found that her emails confirming this crucial information were missing from his file and prosecutors proceeded to question Lindh without representation. She resigned in protest and later blew the whistle anonymously via an article in Newsweek magazine.
My heart sank when I found my emails had been purged. I had sent Lindh 14 and only two remained in his prosecution file. I knew Lindh didn’t have a lawyer present and he was facing the death penalty. I was young – about the age of Edward Snowden – so I asked a senior prosecutor for advice. He confirmed the emails had been purged. I called my husband and told him I was going to resign. He was very supportive. I managed to retrieve the missing emails and I photocopied them. A few hours later, I walked into my boss’s office and tendered my resignation.
Within a few weeks I had another job. But it didn’t last. A few weeks later, DoJ officials brazenly marched into my new law firm saying I was a criminal and that I had stolen documents. I was crying every day thinking about it all.
After an article in Newsweek magazine, my identity was [accidentally] revealed. This embarrassed me further at work. I faced prosecution and, in my defence, my lawyer said I was a whistleblower. But my firm put me on unpaid leave. I felt they had abandoned me. I was placed into a state of purgatory at work.
It actually brought me and my husband closer. However, some family members were disappointed. They thought I had thrown my education and career away. The government was calling me a traitor. You have to remember what that time after 9/11 was like. Most of my “friends” stopped talking to me. I got the cold shoulder from the soccer moms and at the synagogue. My two little kids lost all their playmates.
Our family income was cut in half. I was placed on the no-fly list. They tried to de-bar me from working in law. I ran up $100,000 in legal costs. From 2002 to 2006, I was defending multiple investigations. It really was David v Goliath. I was never able to work for a law firm again. But then I had another child. It kept me grounded. I was determined not to be chased out of the town I loved.
I do not regret it at all. How could you, if you knew someone’s life was on the line? I have moved on and love what I do. [Radack is now the director of national security and human rights at the Government Accountability Project.]
I applaud Snowden. He is brave, courageous and clearly has a strong moral compass. But it is an incredibly isolating process. Most people don’t wake up saying, “I’m going to be a whistleblower today”. They struggle with it. It is a crisis of conscience.
Derek Pasquill: ‘Whistleblower cases over the last 10 years have got bigger and bigger.’ Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian
A former Foreign Office official who was sacked but cleared of Official Secrets charges in 2008 for leaking documents about what Britain knew of the US’s policy of extraordinary rendition, and guidance about which Muslim organisations ministers should embrace.
Snowden raises the whole question of civil liberties and of the government spying on people. It is a huge case. Whistleblower cases over the last 10 years have got bigger and bigger – WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning. You can reveal things at the touch of a button. So governments might be quite concerned about the level of their security in the future.
Why do people blow the whistle? It comes down to intuition. Something’s not quite right. I was in a specific position to do something. There were two strands – the policy of “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects and confusion surrounding that term – and concern about using the Muslim Council of Britain as a one-stop shop [for guidance on the British Muslim community]. It was a misguided policy, so I blew the whistle.
Snowden will be in a difficult position. I was dismissed by the Foreign Office for gross misconduct. I am now working on a project on 17th-century art.
Seth Freedman: ‘The inevitable backlash was sharp and swift.’ Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
The whistleblower at the centre of the gas price-fixing scandal in November 2012. He was working as UK wholesale gas price reporter for ICIS Heron when he noticed unusual movements in the market, which are still being investigated by the FSA and Ofgem.
I watched the interview with Snowden and he appears pretty unimpeachable – it certainly doesn’t seem as if he has any ulterior motive. He is a very inspiring figure for potential whistleblowers: he hasn’t acted rashly; he has been very methodical in how he has gone about it. It is sobering because he has obviously realised that this could be the end of everything for him: his job, his relationships, everything. That is a very principled stand to take.
When I first worked in the City, as a coked-up teenage trader, I saw corruption around the clock, but I never spoke out. Too much to lose, I thought; too many consequences if I dared rock the boat. But this time round – older, wiser, far more sober – it wasn’t so easy to stay silent. Every passing day brought more traders telling me the market was manipulated, and when hard evidence appeared to back up their claims and my bosses dragged their heels about approaching the regulators, I found myself standing at a familiar crossroads. This time I took the right turn.
The inevitable industry backlash was sharp and swift, and I was smeared in public, suspended from work and made a sector-wide pariah. Suspension turned to dismissal, and a journalist was asked to delve into my past.
I would do it again, but only just. My allegations were political dynamite, given the backdrop of recent financial scandals and the public’s hatred of power companies, so I was well supported by press and politicians alike, and was empowered as a result. Most whistleblowers aren’t anywhere near as protected, and suffer all the more for it.
I still look over my shoulder, wonder who is reading my emails or listening to my calls, but I have done nothing wrong. I am not the bad guy, despite my firm’s clamourous claims to the contrary. You see the best in some people in a situation like this, but you see the worst in many more. Apathetic regulators, amoral management, corporate automatons all paid handsomely to dispense with principles and just protect the industry by any means necessary. Politicians talk the talk in public, but in private they admit they don’t have a clue how the markets work and thus have precious little idea how to make change for the better. The fear that my allegations and evidence will simply be swept under the carpet is one of the most distressing parts of the whole experience. But still I have no regrets: I did what I could to try to right a scandalous wrong.
Eileen Chubb: ‘I never regret it.’ Photograph: Neil Spence
In 1999, Chubb and six other care workers spoke out against abuses they had witnessed against elderly residents at a Bupa-run home in Kent. She has since founded Compassion in Care.
Until I blew the whistle, I lived in a different country. I had an impeccable work record, I had been promoted, but then my life was turned upside-down. After we left the care home, it was clear we were unemployable. I would ring up for a job, but as soon as I said my name, I would get no further. They would say: “Oh sorry, the job has just gone.” That happened dozens of times. Sometimes, I would be asked outright: “Are you one of those Bupa women?”
We were reduced to selling our belongings in car boot sales. Then we would put the money together and see who the worst-affected was that week. Some of the people in our group were evicted from their homes. Others are living in hostels and caravans and going to food banks. I have got no pension, no savings, nothing. And we are in that position because we did the right thing.
The problem is, people don’t trust whistleblowers. There is a stigma attached to it. I have lost friends as a result. “It’s not your problem,” people say, but once your eyes are open to what is going on and what happens to people, you can never close them again, and that is a very lonely place to be.
My husband has been an absolute rock. But some people are not so lucky, and this can crack open their whole lives. Edward Snowden should be given a medal. People who do the right things, such as he and Bradley Manning, should be recognised and celebrated instead of being tarred and punished.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t blown the whistle. I never regret it, though. The people I tried to defend were my friends, and if I had done anything different, I would have lost part of myself.
Ian Foxley (on left) with Peter Gardiner, who both co-chair Whistleblowers UK. Photograph: Geoff Pugh
In 2010, Ian Foxley was working as the programme director for a British subsidiary of defence giant EADS on a £1.96bn contract to modernise the communications systems for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. When he came across evidence of corruption and bribery he fled the country and reported it to British officials, triggering a Serious Fraud Office investigation. He is now chair of Whistleblowers UK.
Snowden seems like a very intelligent chap. But his and Bradley Mannings’s problem is that they were part of intelligence organisations and had signed up to that. They should have taken it up with their chain of command. I have a problem with what Manning did, releasing everything like that. Snowden also took an ideological stand. He should have resigned on moral grounds and threatened to his seniors that he would go the press if they didn’t act.
In my case, I started detecting “red flags”. Certain things just weren’t making sense. There were lots of potential factors that could explain some of the odd behaviour I saw. Perhaps it was just the cultural difference of working in Saudi Arabia? But then the balance tipped. I knew something was wrong. I wrestled with it all night – I call it my “Gethsemane Night”. But by the morning I had decided what to do. I had to secure the hard evidence of wrong-doing and then take it to a trusted external agency.
I soon realised I had been utterly betrayed. A Saudi princess [representing his company] told me in a meeting at the top of a tall office tower that they would have me arrested. I knew within seconds this meant my life was in danger. I had realised before that whistleblowing might jeopardise my job, but not my life.
The local MoD military office thankfully got me out of Saudi. But I didn’t go home. I found a safe place. I needed to make sure that the documents could be released if I disappeared. I then told the MoD that if they did nothing about this then I would go to the papers. The MoD police took it up. I knew then that the big boys would take notice.
I have noticed since how many whistleblowers are Catholics like me. Maybe it’s our in-built moral code? It would have been moral cowardice to have walked away. But there were certainly repercussions. We lost a fortune – my job, our lifestyle. No one in the industry would hire me. I was too hot to handle. Just ask my wife what it has done to my health. It has had stressful implications for my wife, friends and children. We have run through our savings and it has caused our health to degrade. You don’t just lose your job when you blow the whistle.
Paul Moore: ‘I thought about killing myself numerous times.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
As an executive at HBOS, Moore drew the board’s attention to excessive risks that he believed the bank was taking. He was subsequently dismissed in 2004.
There you were, at the top of your profession, earning £700,000 a year, everything that your children want they can have. You are a respected person, people listen to you, you have a sense of achievement. And it all gets taken away. You are then at home, and you feel useless, and you begin to think they are right and you are wrong, because they crush it out of you. Imagine how you feel about the way you are.
Would anybody give me a job, or even talk to me about a job? No. You get treated like an outcast, a leper, toxic waste. I remember getting a text from a supplier of training services saying: “Paul, I hope you won’t mind me saying this, but please don’t be in contact with me. I’m sure you can understand why.”
Whistleblowers speak up because they love the organisation they work for, then they experience pretty much the same sequence of events. 1) They are ignored. 2) They are demeaned. 3) They are dismissed. 4) After they speak up, they are publicly rubbished. 5) Everybody, even the people who were their friends, scatter like the four winds.
Think about the emotional upset of a child who gets treated really unfairly. It’s a very deeply wounding thing, but you can get over that relatively quickly. What is most difficult is the way your friends scatter. It takes a very long time to come to terms with that.
If Snowden has gone through a proper process to try to get this issue dealt with internally, and that hasn’t worked, then absolutely he should speak up. It is only by people like that speaking up that we actually see things.
I thought about killing myself numerous times. If it hadn’t been for my wife, I would probably be dead. But I now am the person that I always was, so it has all turned out well in the end. The truth does set you free.
Helene Donnelly: ‘It’s only through brave people that these things can be revealed.’ Photograph: Central News
As nurse in the A&E department, Donnelly spent years insisting that there were serious problems at Stafford Hospital before they eventually came to light.
I don’t know the Snowden case, but I think that if anybody has genuine concerns that are in the public interest, then they are duty-bound to raise them. If you’re a nurse, especially, it’s part of your professional code of conduct to speak up if you see things that are not right.
I do appreciate how hard it is, however. Initially, I found it quite traumatic – especially dealing with the backlash from my colleagues. Although the vast majority supported what I was doing, a lot felt that they had to do it anonymously. People are worried about losing their jobs, or threats from their workmates, or maybe the implication for their families, and I don’t want to dismiss those fears. You may go through the process of sticking your neck on the line, and then nothing changes, which is clearly very demoralising. But it’s only through brave people that these things can be revealed and – hopefully – changes made.
I think there is a shift now, and that’s beginning to change – albeit very slowly. Hopefully “whistleblower” is becoming not a stigma to be afraid of, but something to take pride in.
I am now working for a different trust, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent, where I have been given the rather grand title of ambassador for cultural change. Essentially, I am promoting a healthy culture, the importance of raising concerns, and how to go about doing it, as well as offering support to staff. This trust is very keen to get the message out that it wants to hear from its staff if things are not right. I am only able to do that because I have been through it myself.
Gary Walker: ‘I cannot ever work in the NHS again, because I took on the people at the top.’ Photograph: Andy Weekes/Rex Features
When he was chief of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals trust, Walker noticed that its hospitals were becoming dangerously full. He was sacked when he refused to disregard the problem.
I think these leaks from Snowden are just the beginning of us all starting to ask questions about what information governments have got on us. For him, I suspect he is going to be unemployable. Certainly no government office is ever going to hire him. And I would have thought most big companies would be concerned in case he whistleblows on them. The reality for him is that he did the right thing but, like most whistleblowers, that is probably not going to be rewarded.
In my case, I have found not many people want to employ me, apart from charities. I am also doing lots of work with individuals who need help. I have even done a law degree and represented people in employment tribunals to help them fight their case. The reality is that while I had a “promising career”, apparently, I cannot ever work in theNHS again, because I took on the people at the top.
There is also the toll it takes on family and friends. I was in a relationship when I voiced my concerns, and that relationship broke down after six years. The house was on the line, and we were £100,000 in debt with legal fees. I wasn’t well for part of it either, and was on antidepressants for a period of time. But would I do it again? Of course. The safety of patients has to be what comes first.
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