Annie Machon, a former MI5 operative who blew the whistle on the UK’s dubious spying activities, has started a new fund to support other whistleblowers such as former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Called the “Courage Fund to Protect Journalistic Sources,” Machon said the foundation will strive to ensure that whistleblowers, such as Snowden, currently in Russia where he has acquired temporary asylum, and Chelsea Manning, sentenced to 35 years in prison after releasing the largest-ever cache of secret US documents – receive the protection they need.
“So many journalists write so many stories, but what happens to the whistleblowers? They’re left swinging in the wind,” Machon said in a speech at the Chaos Communication Congress (CCC) in Hamburg at the weekend. “If they can’t survive the process of coming forward, then we will not have these people.”
“Crucially, we want to encourage other whistleblowers to come forward,” she said. “It is a very frightening and lonely process to go through. We need to show that they can not only survive the process, but even flourish.”
Presently, there are very few groups, aside from Wikileaks, that provide assistance to whistleblowers after they have spilled the beans.
Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks activist who accompanied former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Russia and stayed with him until he was provided asylum, said lawyers at the whistleblowing site advised her against returning home to Britain.
With all these developments in hand, “our lawyers have advised me that it is not safe to return home,”Harrison said from Berlin.
Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer, speaks from personal experience. After leaving the British security service in 1997, together with partner David Shayle, she lived a life on the run for years to blow the whistle on alleged illegal activities inside the intelligence agencies, including secret intelligence files held on the very government ministers, illegal phone taps, and lying to the government.
The ex-spy shared her strong sentiments about the current level of state-sponsored surveillance of peoples’ everyday correspondences.
“It is incredibly corrosive to the human spirit to know that everything you say, everything you do, even if you just want to have a private conversation with your mother, is being listened to,” she said. “Now we all know we are being listened to and surveyed in this amazingly Panopticon-like manner.”
In an interview with RT, Machon spoke about the “global spy pantopticon” that permits the National Security Agency, in cooperation with other national intelligence agencies, to scoop up vast amounts of data on people around the globe.
“It’s great that there is a debate in America about constitutional rights – but it’s so much pantomime,”Machon said. “Even if a decision is made within the US establishment to rein in the powers of the NSA within the USA, they can still investigate the rest of us around the world; we have no rights under their law.”
“What we’re looking at is a panopticon – a sort of dystopian, Orwellian surveillance system that’s gone global. And this is why protecting our own rights, our own privacy, and taking that control into our own hands is so key.
As far as future revelations are concerned, Machon predicts we have “just seen the tip of the iceberg.”
“I think it’s going to get horrendous, what we learn over the coming year, about how our basic privacies, our basic freedom, our basic free media to think freely and speak freely have been eroded by this global spy panopticon,” she said.