Former British agent, Annie Machon: What is the case for whistleblowing?

Former British MI5 agent Annie Machon revealed, together with David Shayler, alleged criminal behaviour within the agency. In an interview with Sebastian Huempfer she speaks about the need for official channels through which whistleblowers can voice their concerns.

Annie Machon suggests that the best argument against the claim that whistleblowers are violating national security and public order is that these concepts are not well defined and can be used to serve ill-defined interests.(0:15 min) The lack of official channels through which whistleblowers can go is a major problem (1:40 min). In the UK, the 1989 National Security Act silences whistleblowers as they have only the head of the organisation to go to, even if they were to witness murder.To Machon, the justification for violating the Official Secrets Acts, which she had signed when she joined MI5, is that she pledged to protect official secrets, not unofficial secrets such as crime.(3:00 min) The British intelligence agencies are among the legally most protected in the world, there are no official channels to go through and there is no oversight. She therefore suggests that oversight bodies are put into place to make sure whistleblowers have a place to go and do not need to violate the law (3:50 min).

Thanks to the internet, the Official Secrets Acts ends at Dover, she explains. Through the internet, whistleblowers can now hand over documents to prove their allegations securely, while a newspaper can be pressured into handing them back over to the accused agency. Organisations like Wikileaks are providing protection by constituting a safe channel. She would be tempted to go through Wikileaks herself.(6:05 min) This freedom is now under threat due to new legislation restricting the internet. Thankfully legislators cannot crush the idea of Wikileaks even if they shut down the Wikileaks website. (7:40 min)

Machon explains that if there was a formal channel through which disclosures could be carried out, that would be a step forward to release pressure from the valve. (9:20 min)  Occasionally a file is released by an intelligence agency, but the information we need as citizens and voters to make informed decisions now is information from the last 5 or 10 years which might not be  released for another 50 to 100 years, if ever. (11:40 min)  Now there is probably more need for whistleblowing in MI5 than in the 1990s, which might have been the most moral era in MI5. After 9/11 there has been a step back to torture and violations of human rights. (14:20 min)

In a secret organisation some things will always go wrong, But with greater oversight this may be less so, especially since in secret organisation you do what you are being told and an institutional mind set develops, especially when you see what is happening to the whistleblowers. (12:30 min) Places like Norway are doing better than the UK, but in general since 9/11 she has watched intelligence agencies going down the MI5 route. (15:20 min) She acknowledges that she and David Shayler, now in prison, paid a high price for whistleblowing but she still believes that it was the right thing to do. (16:40 min)

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Comments (1)

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  1. I do believe that we should have the greatest degree of free speech possible; however this freedom should not harm others in any significant way, that could have been avoided by moderation of such freedom. In the case of Annie Machon things are much more complex than they at first appear. Annie Machon may appear to many as just another individual who has broken the law; in the traditional sense of the word. There is nothing ordinary about this case; the first thing that should come into our minds is that all parties were and are the accused. State actors have been accused of criminality on many occasions and by many people; these accusations are becoming more frequent, diverse, ubiquitous and plausible each day. So if Annie Machon spoke out against criminality rather than secrets; she is not only innocent but morally superior. The risk factor must also be considered to be of immense importance; we are without doubt experiencing a new level of organised crime here; able to do far more than any criminal organisation has ever achieved at any time in history. We have crime that’s risen so high it’s lost it’s identity. I believe Annie Machon to be one of a growing number of people who are awakening to reality. If we are wrong, in the long term it does not really matter; if not, the whole world is in trouble. Once again I must mention complexity, no two people would agree on any of what I have written, and what opinion there is to be found is mostly highly polarized and in a world full of ‘red herrings.’

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