New Podcast Alert: Episode 2 | USA – Secrecy Superpower  

March 07, 2023
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The second episode of a special 3-part series from the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) and historian Kaeten Mistry is now available to listen to online on all major podcast providers. 

The series explores the history of secrecy around the world, the importance of holding governments to account in the most sensitive areas of state conduct, and the failure to properly protect national security whistleblowers. We speak to international experts working to enhance whistleblowing protection, defend press freedom, and bolster civil society. And we examine how secrecy and liberty, security, and openness became competing concepts within democratic societies. We consider these questions within and across national and regional boundaries, looking at the UK, the US, Europe, and Latin America. 

Episode 2 – USA: Secrecy Superpower 

This week’s episode looks at the United States. A nation founded on the principles of free speech and open government is today home to the largest state secrecy regime in human history. A country that does not permit national security officials to make public interest disclosures, has nonetheless produced some of the most famous cases of national security whistleblowing that have made history such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Daniel Ellsberg. 

Such cases have generated widespread debate about security and liberty, secrecy, and transparency, in the U.S. and internationally. Yet while public interest disclosures are commonly seen as whistleblowing in the public sphere, they are deemed to be “unauthorized disclosures” by the US government.  

To unpack this, we sit down with two leading experts in whistleblowing and secrecy in the United States. Tom Devine, Legal Director at the Government Accountability Project, and Sam Lebovic, Associate Professor of History at George Mason University, author of the prize-winning book Free Speech and Unfree News. 

Additional Reading 

Citizenfour (2014) 

A documentary concerning Edward Snowden and the NSA surveillance program. 

National Bird (2016) 

A documentary following 3 whistleblowers including Daniel Hale who was a former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst who sent classified information about drone warfare to the press. 

United States v. Reality Winner (2021) 

A documentary exploring the story of 25-year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became a target of the Trump administration. 

TOP SECRET: Our Classified Documents System Is [Redacted] | The Problem With Jon Stewart Podcast 

Jon Stewart and Matt Connelly discuss the U.S. classification system and system of secrecy. 

Whistleblowing and the Press Panel 

The keynote panel on ‘Whistleblowing and the Press’ at the conference Exposing Secrets: The Past, Present & Future of US National Security Whistleblowing and Government Secrecy, featured US intelligence community whistleblowers, Edward Snowden and John Kiriakou, and The Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill, in conversation with Kaeten Mistry.  

The Espionage Act Has Been Abused — But Not in Trump’s Case | Politico  

Opinion piece by Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, on the Espionage Act and the need for reform.  

Want to end the war on whistleblowers? Revise the Espionage Act. | The Washington Post 

Article by Sam Lebovic, this week’s podcast guest and Associate Professor of History at George Mason University, on ending the war on whistleblowers. 

The Espionage Act and a Growing Threat to Press Freedom 

Article by Jameel Jaffer on the government’s routine use of the Espionage Act against journalists’ sources.  

If you enjoy the podcast please feel free to share on Twitter using the #WBNowandThen. You can listen to preivous episodes here