In defence of whistleblowing

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has been an outspoken defender of whistleblowers and alternative media sources.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains his view that a secrecy agreement is not an oath, it is a promise. (00:20) The purpose of secrecy agreements is to protect national security, not to protect abuse and illegal activities. (2:00) Bradley Manning, in his view, was faced with a dilemma of either keeping quiet or expose the abuses he saw and risk prosecution. Manning followed his moral conviction and publish the information being withheld from the public, including by a Washington Post reporter who had been assigned to his unit and did not report what he saw. We therefore need whistleblowers to provide evidence and get the word out.

The biggest change McGovern has seen in his nearly 50 years in Washington is that there is almost no big free media any more. (06:30) He describes the fourth estate as dead in the US, but says there is a fifth estate – the internet, including Wikileaks. This is a new tool for people to find out what is going on in the world. (09:40) Today most US broadcasting channels are owned and operated by the same corporations who are profiteering form the wars they have espoused and justified. (12:00) There is hope in the alternative media, but it comes with not shackling them, as happened with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. McGovern writes for, which is one of the earliest examples of  investigative journalism online. (24:20) Julian Assange is a journalist, according to McGovern, as someone who is trying to find out what is really going on. Journalists impose their own brand of self-censorship today in order to not be ‘sensationalised’. (26:00)

While serving in the USSR, he witnessed suppression of free speech himself. (29:00) The media were a major factor in the people’s struggle for freedom. There are secrets worth keeping, such as information of spies and their sources. Also strategic arms technology details are important to be secret. The protection of illegitimate secrets threatens our ability to protect legitimate ones. (30:45)

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Comments (4)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. A few years have passed since I looked at this interview with Ray McGovern. It is far more important and relevant now than ever, in the past. Once we failed to secure the freedom of Julian Assange; we failed to secure the freedom of all Whistle Blowers everywhere. I believe we must have some form of justice with ‘checks and balances’ now the traditional newspaper industry seems to be almost finished, the internet and heavy censorship are bringing such to a close. I do believe that governments try to limit censorship to make it appear less ubiquitous and sinister. This tends to make me more curios. I have no doubt that the Armed Forces of the United States and various other factions have engaged in wars principally following a “pack of lies” Maybe the US and NATO are on the road to a nuclear disaster; they all seem very keen to start a war with: Russia, China, Iran. Surely only openness and sensible dialogue can help, not secrecy and war crimes. I write numerous letters of support to Julian Assange, and some others. Censorship and propaganda seem to go to together, often with various types of official or unofficial action taken against the whistle blowers. In the UK we live through a barrage of all types of propaganda from the USA. I use this part secrecy, general behavior and so forth to gather forward thinking understanding of things. I am certainly not an educated person; in fact I’m a bit of a moron. I’m sure the manipulating and modifying of the law to achieve best results for US Interests to be the greatest threat to the world.

  2. The lack of transparency when politicians meet with private corporate owners are really sad to say the least. Our political party is the only party in Sweden promoting the idea that elected officials and politicians need to act in openness when meeting with private corporations. We have for instance taken a stance against groups such as the Bilderberg conference, which is an annual conference of the high and mighty each year. We will continue our fight for transparency. Cheers!

  3. Hi Malcolm
    thank you for this very positive feedback! Very glad you find this useful.

  4. Having viewed this video and read the accompanying text with great interest; I feel this video interview to be of immense importance to the entire population of the United States, United Kingdom and everyone else. Albeit it covers issues of monumental importance, few will ever have any knowledge of Ray McGovern; those that do not sing, dance or kick a ball about are of no interest to the vast majority of ordinary people across the western world. Therefore those in power across the western world, particularly within the US and UK; can simply create their own false reality as they go along.

    I have watched the news channel, Democracy Now on many occasions; this channel really does relentlessly search for the truth and does not exclude stories, just because they are not conducive to the status quo. I can view this channel via the internet and they email the program schedule to me here in the UK. Democracy Now is like the Guardian newspaper too some degree, not funded by powerful corporate business and able to cover a wide range of issues with less fear of reprisal. There are a lot of other web sites and so-fourth one can view and perhaps participate with on the web. There are many other ways to gain more information; tricks that can be learnt as time passes.

    I have added Ray McGovern’s web site and details to my Bookmarks and other records and will look forward to more stuff from him. People like Ray McGovern talking on video: whistleblowers, journalists, researchers, analysts and so on , are all of great importance to humanity; in these times of casual arbitrary killings, torture and false imprisonment. Although I do not believe all these problems began on 9/11; but greatly intensified and rearranged after that date; it would be foolish to presume 9/11 to be the beginning of all wrong doing.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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