A Whistleblower Protection Program

Here’s an agorist business idea for you. Start a whistleblower protection program, not for people who speak out against small-time criminals, but for the whistleblowers who speak out against the big-time criminals like the US government and its multitude of oppressive intelligence agencies, from the FBI to the NSA.

With the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as to the extent of the NSA’s massive systematic spying on the world through programs like PRISM and Boundless Informant, we have to admit that there are some good guys inside the empire’s “dirty tricks” operation. I am referring to the “intelligence community”. Snowden gave up a life of comfort in Hawaii including a $200,000 annual salary to go on the run in a cat and mouse game that may end his life.

Given the enormous power of this operation, one with which members of it are all too familiar, it is incredibly difficult for an individual with a conscience, even if he doesn’t care for the perks, the power and the salary, to out its damning secrets.

We in the liberty community, if we truly want to bring about a more just, prosperous and peaceful society, need to create a counterweight to the power of the “dirty tricksters.”

We need to support whistleblowers like Snowden. As any Austrian economist will tell you, when you subsidize something you get more of it. And that is what we need to do. We need to subsidize whistleblowing by shepherding whistleblowers to safety and a new life somewhere outside the empire’s reach.

Sure, whisteblowers also need more honest and courageous journalists like Glenn Greenwald. But right now, no one is offering to shepherd whistleblowers into a new life where the safety of their immediate families and themselves is reasonably protected both legally and physically.

If whistleblowers at the most intimate levels of the “dirty tricks” operation, which is in many ways the moving force behind US imperialism both at home and abroad, had a secure exit plan, we might see more of them take the honorable route of disclosing what they know and leaving their jobs. Once enough whistleblowers have safely shared what they know with the public and moved on to a safe existence somewhere else, it would only create greater momentum for the trend to continue.

So what if all of the state’s secrets are revealed? Good question. See the trailer of the recently released documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” in which Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, NSA director and four-star US air force general said, “Nation-states need to be secret in order to be successful.”

If we can believe Hayden, and his statement is very reasonable, then perhaps exposing US state secrets is one of the most effective ways to strike the root of oppression in the world today. You can also take enormous pride in knowing that you are part of a 21st century underground railroad.

While historians argue that the original underground railroad – the one that freed people enslaved in the southern US in the 19th century – had a minor economic impact, the psychological impact on slaveholders was significant. We can replicate that impact today. Just as Defense Distributed and others have shown with their 3D-printed guns that firearm prohibition laws are pointless, you can likewise show the earnest hand-wringers of the “intelligence community” that their attempts to keep state secrets are equally futile.

By systematically supporting and encouraging whistleblowers, we could effectively take down the now global security apparatus of the US empire and accelerate the movement towards a freer world. That’s important.

How would this new underground railroad work? Perhaps we can take inspiration from the structure of that original underground railroad. There were many roles to play in that operation, from guides to safe house operators to stockholders who financed the escapes.

A whistleblower could contact the witness protection program anonymously and securely using tools like Tor and PGP. There could be a conversation about the nature of the whistle to be blown, what the person needs and where he wants to go. The program could securely connect the budding whistleblower with a sympathetic journalist who would help him get his story out.

Simultaneously, the network could coordinate with contacts in places that would grant him or her asylum and protection so that he could live without unreasonable fears of attack by US government operatives – places like Iceland, mainland China, Iran, Cuba or Venezuela.

The network could coordinate his escape with the release of the documents so that he would get away before they went public. The whistleblower and his family would need plane tickets, new identification documents and identities, a new home and a new livelihood.

What do we need to make it work?

  • Funding. Plane tickets, new identification documents, a new home, a new job or business, personal security guards: these things cost money. The whistleblower should have sizable funds of her own to count on, especially if, like Snowden, she was earning $200,000 per year. But there may be a need for supplementation or financing.
  • New Papers. He may require a new passport under an assumed name in case there is a need to travel across state borders.
  • Disguises. This is cloak and dagger stuff!
  • Shepherds. A network of consciously libertarianesque people in places that are identified as suitable for asylum is important, so that the whistleblower isn’t socially and culturally isolated and to make sure they are able to benefit from solid advice and acculturation assistance.
  • Homes and Jobs. The whistleblowers will need places to live, both temporary and permanent. They’ll need a way to sustain themselves so they aren’t draining the program’s funds. And most importantly they will need to keep busy so they don’t do anything to endanger their operational security. Any funds expended can take the form of a note that the whistleblower will pay back later in order to fund future whistleblowers.
  • Foreign Government Contacts. The program will need to cultivate government contacts in those places it deems appropriate for asylum so that they can be prepared in case of US persecution.
  • Security Culture. Staying out of sight in a foreign land is going to require careful digital and real-life security procedures.

The US government is the foremost threat to liberty, peace and prosperity in the world through its military empire, its control of trade and its massive surveillance operation. If you care about values like liberty, peace and prosperity, you have a new avenue for nonviolently subverting those values’ enemies. Take up the mantle of leadership today and start work on it.

Resources

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Larry Hill for suggesting the metaphor of the underground railroad.

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