If You’re in a Position to Blow the Whistle, Remember, “Courage is Contagious”

In my long and checkered past, I have encountered or even lived with all sorts of people who have held secret information of one kind or another.

One was the big brother of a childhood friend of mine. He worked for Raytheon, designing missiles — and died, early on, of some mysterious disease. Another was an uncle, who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency, and I always wondered if his cynicism and churlishness stemmed from some kind of inner compromise he had been forced to make to keep that job. Just recently, I sat with a young woman who works at Indiana University, in a job connected to Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, just down the road. I confronted her, only half-joking, while pouring tea: “You know you’re working for the Military Industrial Complex” — and, as if relieved, she admitted that she experiences inner ethical conflicts.

At one point I was married, for a very short while, to a man whom I now realize, was probably telling the truth, when he’d talk about his life as a “black beret” for the military in the early ’60s, stealthily assasinating “targets” after being dropped into the jungles of southeast Asia and Central America, having to take pills to both stay awake and go to sleep, so much much more that I couldn’t take in, much less process and integrate. I just thought he was blowing off steam. Clearly, I’d say now, he had what we call PTSD, big time, and died an alcoholic in his early 40s, of liver disease.

Not telling the truth, when you know what the truth is, takes a terrible toll, on humanity and the planet, and on you.

Former whistleblowers: open letter to intelligence employees after Snowden

Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but it is the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and democracy

December 11, 2013

by Thomas Drake, Daniel Ellsberg, Katherine Gun, Peter Kofod, Ray McGovern, Jesselyn Radack, Coleen Rowley

theguardian.co.uk

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden’s revelations have changed the debate on civil liberties. Photograph: Ho/AFP/Getty Images

At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies turned out post-Snowden, to be not even the whole story.

What’s really remarkable is that we’ve been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. All is done in the name of “national security”, which has more or less become a chant to fence off debate and make sure governments aren’t held to account – that they can’t be held to account – because everything is being done in the dark. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever.

By and large the media have paid scant attention to this, even as more and more courageous, principled whistleblowers stepped forward. The unprecedented persecution of truth-tellers, initiated by the Bush administration and severely accelerated by the Obama administration, has been mostly ignored, while record numbers of well-meaning people are charged with serious felonies simply for letting their fellow citizens know what’s going on.

It’s one of the bitter ironies of our time that while John Kiriakou (ex-CIA) is in prison for blowing the whistle on US torture, the torturers and their enablers walk free.

Likewise WikiLeaks-source Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning was charged with – amongst other serious crimes – aiding the enemy (read: the public). Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison while the people who planned the illegal and disastrous war on Iraq in 2003 are still treated as dignitaries.

Numerous ex-NSA officials have come forward in the past decade, disclosing massive fraud, vast illegalities and abuse of power in said agency, including Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe. The response was 100% persecution and 0% accountability by both the NSA and the rest of government. Blowing the whistle on powerful factions is not a fun thing to do, but despite the poor track record of western media, whistleblowing remains the last avenue for truth, balanced debate and upholding democracy – that fragile construct which Winston Churchill is quoted as calling “the worst form of government, except all the others”.

Since the summer of 2013, the public has witnessed a shift in debate over these matters. The reason is that one courageous person: Edward Snowden. He not only blew the whistle on the litany of government abuses but made sure to supply an avalanche of supporting documents to a few trustworthy journalists. The echoes of his actions are still heard around the world – and there are still many revelations to come.

For every Daniel Ellsberg, Drake, Binney, Katharine Gun, Manning or Snowden, there are thousands of civil servants who go by their daily job of spying on everybody and feeding cooked or even made-up information to the public and parliament, destroying everything we as a society pretend to care about.
Some of them may feel favourable towards what they’re doing, but many of them are able to hear their inner Jiminy Cricket over the voices of their leaders and crooked politicians – and of the people whose intimate communication they’re tapping.

Hidden away in offices of various government departments, intelligence agencies, police forces and armed forces are dozens and dozens of people who are very much upset by what our societies are turning into: at the very least, turnkey tyrannies.

One of them is you.

You’re thinking:

● Undermining democracy and eroding civil liberties isn’t put explicitly in your job contract.
● You grew up in a democratic society and want to keep it that way
● You were taught to respect ordinary people’s right to live a life in privacy
● You don’t really want a system of institutionalized strategic surveillance that would make the dreaded Stasi green with envy – do you?

Still, why bother? What can one person do? Well, Edward Snowden just showed you what one person can do. He stands out as a whistleblower both because of the severity of the crimes and misconduct that he is divulging to the public – and the sheer amount of evidence he has presented us with so far – more is coming. But Snowden shouldn’t have to stand alone, and his revelations shouldn’t be the only ones.

You can be part of the solution; provide trustworthy journalists – either from old media (like this newspaper) or from new media (such as WikiLeaks) with documents that prove what illegal, immoral, wasteful activites are going on where you work.

There IS strength in numbers. You won’t be the first – nor the last – to follow your conscience and let us know what’s being done in our names. Truth is coming – it can’t be stopped. Crooked politicians will be held accountable. It’s in your hands to be on the right side of history and accelerate the process.

Courage is contagious.

Signed by:

Peter Kofod, ex-Human Shield in Iraq (Denmark)
Thomas Drake, whistleblower, former senior executive of the NSA (US)
Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower, former US military analyst (US)
Katharine Gun, whistleblower, former GCHQ (UK)
Jesselyn Radack, whistleblower, former Department of Justice (US)
Ray McGovern, former senior CIA analyst (US)
Coleen Rowley, whistleblower, former FBI agent (US)

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