Whistleblowers from four American and British “national security” agencies will hold a news conference in London on November 21 in a direct challenge to surveillance policies of the U.S. and UK governments.
The whistleblowers — from the NSA, FBI, State Department and GCHQ — will speak about the effects of their governments’ policies on freedom of the press and democracy. They are traveling as a delegation co-sponsored by the U.S.-based organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
The news conference is being hosted by the Foreign Press Association.
What: News Conference — Whistleblowers on “Special Surveillance Relationship”
When: Friday, November 21 at 9:30 a.m.
Where: Foreign Press Association, Award House, 7-11 St Matthew Street, London SW1P 2JT
Who: Speakers will include:
* Katharine Gun, GCHQ whistleblower
* Matthew Hoh, State Department whistleblower
* Coleen Rowley, FBI whistleblower
* J. Kirk Wiebe, NSA whistleblower
* Norman Solomon, coordinator of ExposeFacts.org
Katharine Gun is a former translator for GCHQ. In 2003, she leaked to the Observer a top-secret memorandum concerning an NSA operation to bug the United Nations offices of six countries regarded as swing votes that could determine whether the U.N. Security Council approved the invasion of Iraq. After the Observer article appeared, Gun confessed to her GCHQ superiors and was subsequently charged with violating the Official Secrets Act. The case was dropped after the prosecution declined to offer any evidence. For her whistleblowing, Gun was given the 2003 Sam Adams award by the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence. Daniel Ellsberg called Katharine Gun’s leak “the most important and courageous leak I have ever seen.” He added: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Gun did: tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it.”
Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. During his service in Afghanistan, five months into his year-long contract in 2009, he resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.
Coleen Rowley, an attorney and former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the agency’s pre-9/11 failures, was one of three whistleblowers named as Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. In February 2003, Rowley again wrote to the FBI Director questioning him and other Bush administration officials about the reliability of supposed evidence being used to justify the impending U.S invasion of Iraq. Under sharp criticism for her comments, Rowley stepped down from her legal position to go back to being an FBI Special Agent. She retired from the FBI in 2004 after 24 years with the agency.
Norman Solomon is the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org, a new project for whistleblowing and independent journalism in the United States. ExposeFacts is part of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, where Solomon is executive director. He is the author of a dozen books on media and public policy including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org, an online action group that currently has close to half a million active online members.
J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on U.S. citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and Binney made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program.
Katharine Gun, Matthew Hoh, Coleen Rowley and Kirk Wiebe are on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org. Norman Solomon is on the ExposeFacts editorial board.