A new organization has been launched by whistleblowers, journalists, activists, lawyers and former government officials to help whistleblowers make disclosures that are in the public interest. The launch was announced at a press conference at the National Press Club this morning.
Similar to how WikiLeaks was initially set up, the organization has a website with a submission system developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation known as “SecureDrop.” The system will make it possible for a person to submit material to the organization, ExposeFacts, while at the same time giving that individual a level of confidence that their identity will be protected.
The organization’s editorial board consists of Barbara Ehrenreich, who is on The Nation’s editorial board; former Washington Post reporter John Hanrahan; Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) director of media and communications, Sam Husseini; “Uprising” radio show host Sonali Kolhatkar; and author and executive director of IPA, Norman Solomon.
As outlined in the organization’s press release, “The seasoned editorial board of ExposeFacts will be assessing all the submitted material, and when deemed appropriate, will arrange for journalistic release of information.”
There are over forty individuals on the organization’s incredibly diverse advisory board. Its members include: NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney and Kirk Wiebe, EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, investigative journalist Dahr Jamail, Black Agenda Report’s Margaret Kimberly, freelance writer and organizer Maegan Ortiz, writer for Frontline and The Hindu Vijay Prashad, journalist Nomi Prins, lawyer on WikiLeaks’ legal team Michael Ratner, State Department whistleblower Peter Van Buren, and retired US Army Reserve colonel Ann Wright.
The advisory board will offer their experience and expertise when handling and publishing disclosures.
Wiebe told Firedoglake that he was supporting this organization because the “more activism in support of whistleblowers/whistleblowing, the better.”
“There are precious few organizations devoted to the fight,” he added. Plus, US intelligence agencies have failed to provide a “reasonable process” for whistleblowers so this organization would act as a kind counter-balance.
Binney explained it will help “facilitate whistleblowers.” He said “sources are drying up.” Journalists are not really getting the stories anymore.
The Government Accountability Project’s National Security and Human Rights Division Director, Jesselyn Radack, called it significant that the organization would accept classified information. “I applaud their bravery,” to stand up in the face of governmental threats, she said.
She found this to be particularly bold in light of the recent development where the Supreme Court refused to review an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen, who has been fighting to keep the Obama administration from forcing him to reveal his confidential sources.
Also, she noted, “At the Government Accountability Project, we cannot and do not accept classified information because we do not have security clearances for it.” An organization like ExposeFacts.org, which is willing to fully exercise freedom of the press, could be valuable to stopping waste, fraud, abuse and illegality in government.
In a video statement, Ellsberg stated, “The ability to know every aspect of a source’s dealings with a journalist, or with a member of Congress, really is a deadly threat to democracy.”
He shared his belief that ExposeFacts would be an organization that would “counter that effect by making it more possible—in the face of this technological onslaught”—for sources to “tell their truths.”
On Huffington Post Live, Matthew Hoh, who resigned from a State Department position in 2009 in protest of an escalation in the war in Afghanistan and is on the advisory board, explained that the organization would be set up to encourage and help others come forward to speak the truth.
Anyone coming to ExposeFacts.org would benefit from the “view, the guidance, the experience of those of us who have been there before,” Hoh added. Those submitting information could “find solace in the fact” that they could trust the organization.
People like Hoh know what it is like to have the government come after them. Hoh recalled that when David Petraeus was head of CENTCOM a strategic communications firm was hired to discredit him after his resignation. A false Wikipedia page was produced to undermine his effort to expose the truth about the Afghanistan War, Hoh said.
Multiple sites since WikiLeaks have been launched to accept whistleblower submissions. What stands out about this organization is the shared history of individuals advising it, who will be capable of providing support based off their experiences.
From the moment that a whistleblower’s disclosures begin to be discredited by the government and the government begins to accuse a source of betraying their country, ExposeFacts.org will be capable of generating media attention that beats back efforts to kill the messenger. The organization will amplify the message and ensure what is exposed has the biggest impact possible.
It appears it could develop into an invaluable organization to counteract the conduct on the part of the government to clamp down on the free flow of information and zealously enforce secrecy by pursuing a record number of leak prosecutions in recent history.
The organization will also be able to act as a counter to an increasing trend in journalism, where reporters are more and more reluctant to publish “confidential business or government documents without authorization.”
Despite the fact that journalists who published stories based on documents from Edward Snowden have won awards, this is somehow viewed as a “controversial” practice in reporting. But more often, the government is censoring and denying the public access to records that are in the public interest, particularly those having to do with national security matters.
The Associated Press found, when conducting its annual review of responses to Freedom of Information Act requests, that the “government more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 244,675 cases or 36 percent of all requests. On 196,034 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.” AP concluded the “government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”
There is an important role for ExposeFacts to play in not only forcing more transparency, but also inspiring more media organizations to engage in adversarial journalism. Such journalism is called for in the face of wars, environmental destruction, escalating poverty, egregious abuses in the justice system, corporate control of government, and national security state secrecy. Perhaps a truly successful organization could inspire US media organizations to play much more of a watchdog role than a lapdog role when covering powerful institutions in government.