Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

The role of Whistleblowers and the Internet

Generally the state was the main actor which had control over security and defence secrets. However, there have been many concerns about the demand for Freedom of Information. Especially, concerns have been expressed that such activities can be tricky and governments have hidden their illegitimate deeds. There have been many examples of whistleblowing in the modern era.

One of the first well-known whistleblowes is considered to be Deniel Ellsberg. He leacked Pentagon Papers about the US involvement in Vietnam to the New York Times, for which he was accused of treason. A few years later the thecnological evolution and the emergence of the internet meant  thet materials can be transmitted instantly despite the volume. Also the internet has opened up state secrecy through Wikileaks and the Cablegate.  Namely Bradley  (now Chelsea ) Manning  leaked classified information to WikiLeaks through a mouseclick. Some of the information “included 91,000 files from the war in Afghanistan, 392,000 from the Iraq War, 779 files of inmates in the Pentagon’s Guantanamo prison, and a quartet of a million memoranda from the U.S. State Department.”.[1] All of the leaked information shows injustices (corruption, violence, conspiracy) by governments and military services. It is impossible to go through the content of all of these files, but in order to get some insight, here is an example: [2] This is “footage of two US Apache attack helicopters firing on and killing 12 civilians on a street in Baghdad.”[3] As seen there is an excessive use of military power over innocent civilians, which remains unpunished.

Similarly Edward Snowden demonstrated how the social media could spread such information. In 2013 he leaked classified information from the NSA (National Security Agency). The files expose “a number of mass-surveillance programs undertaken by the NSA and GCHQ. The agencies are able to access information stored by major US technology companies, often without individual warrants, as well as mass-intercepting data from the fibre-optic cables which make up the backbone of global phone and internet networks. The agencies have also worked to undermine the security standards upon which the internet, commerce and banking rely.”[4] This raised public concerns about personal freedoms and security. The following interview provides a better understanding of this issue: [5]

In recent years governments have been pushing back freedoms on the internet, turning an invention that was intended to liberate the individual into a tool for surveillance and control. Mostly the authoritarian states have seen cyberspace as the ultimate threat to their source of power, however this trend seems to be spreading rapidly worldwide. The internet has flourished perhaps because of its decentralised governance model and if it is to be governed more homogeneously then it should not be left to governments alone, because transparency and inclusivity is all that matters at the end of the day

References: [1] “This Machine kills secrets”, Andy Greenberg, CPI Group (UK), 2012, p. 14 [2] “Baghdad Airstrike/Collateral Murder, WikiLeaks”, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojw5MnsqkJQ viewed 23.01,2015 [3] “Bradley Manning: Whistleblower or traitor?”, Al Jazeera, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/08/2013817912749650.html viewed 23.01.2015 [4] “The NSA files decoded”, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files viewed 23.02.2015 [5] “NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden”, Youtube, The Guardian, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hLjuVyIIrs viewed 23.01.2015

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3 thoughts on “The role of Whistleblowers and the Internet

  1. What an interesting and well written blog entry! I really like your creative introduction and your analogy to Pinocchio. Just a few small comments: In your second paragraph, you are listing the things Manning revealed. I would add an “amongst others” or “etc.” since the ones you listed are not all of the issues which have been revealed, aren’t they? Also, when you start the Edward Snowden paragraph, I would mention that you now turn to another case, as the reader otherwise has to figure out what comes next. Introducing it with half a sentence, just so the reader has an idea what’s going on would be helpful. Something like: “Another case has been Edward Snowden, who leaked…” or something similar. Additionally, I would extend your conclusion, since it is very, very short. Besides all these minor points, well done.

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  2. Thnak you for you comment, Amelie. I shall make the changes you have suggested. I appreciate your feedback.

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    • mwheeler833 on said:

      This blog provides an interesting analogy. However, you will want to make the approach somewhat more academic in relation to questions of international security, secrecy, accountability and transparency. The role of Whistleblowers and the Internet has become the political and media spotlight. I make the following comments:

      1. Traditionally state have controlled security and defence secrets. There have been many concerns about states within state and the demand for Freedom of Information. In particular, concerns have been expressed that such activites are problematic and governments have hidden their illegitimate actitivies. There have been many example of whistleblowing in the modern era. One of the most famous referrred to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers about US involvement in Vietnam which he leaked to the New York Times. Ellsberg was accused of treason and he also had photo-stat thousands of documents.

      2. The Internet has meant that materials can be transmitted instantly despite volume and also has opened up state secrecy through Wikileaks and the Cablegate. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning submitted the material through a mouseclick. The ramifications have been widespread about all of the US defence materials. Similarly Edward Snowden demonstrated how the social media could dissiminate such information.

      3. Snowden’s revelations also demonstrated how the Internet and the digital media have been used by the NSA to spy and store information on world leaders and manu foreign citizens. So does the Internet provide greater state control over the rights of the public? These issues need to be further unpacked in your analysis.

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