Exposefacts.org Launches New Whistleblower Website
Some of the best-known whistleblowers in the U.S. appeared at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on June 4 to announce the creation of a new organization, exposefacts.org, that offers a website where anonymous whistleblowers can submit information in a secure and protected environment.
Founded by Norman Solomon, a longtime journalist with the Institute for Public Accuracy, exposefacts.org aims to “shed light on concealed activities that are relevant to human rights, corporate malfeasance, the environment, civil liberties, and war.” Exposefacts.org will feature a “SecureDrop” submission system, provided by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
In 2013 Reporters Without Borders, which calculates press freedom in 180 countries, dropped the U. S. to 46th place, after Latvia, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, and Romania. The judgment against Chelsea Manning, and the threats issued to Edward Snowden after his revelations of mass surveillance by the NSA highlighted the shocking emergence of the United States government as a vast security state that threatens not only freedom of the press but the privacy of all of its citizens. “The Stasi (the former East German state security apparatus) on steroids” was how NSA whistleblower William Binney, at the press conference, described the developing surveillance policies and practices in the U. S. He warned that the U.S. is well on the way to becoming a “totalitarian State” and compared Section 1021 of the NDAA, promulgated by the Obama administration and which allows the arrest and detention of anyone declared a “terrorist threat,” to Special Order 38 which was in effect in Nazi Germany. He also described the way that would-be whistleblowers who try to go through official channels have been subjected to FBI raids, firing, and intimidation.
Binney appeared along with two other board members, J. Kirk Wiebe, a retired NSA whistleblower, and Marsha Coleman-Abayo (a former senior policy analyst for the EPA and founder of the NO FEAR Coalition). In her statement, Coleman-Abayo noted that, despite the passage by Congress of the “No Fear Act” designed to protect whistleblowers on May 26, 2002, there has been little enforcement; instead government agencies have spent more than a billion to protect themselves from whistleblowers.
The advisory board includes over 40 whistleblowers, journalists, former U.S. government officials, and other experts. A statement by board member Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, is featured on a six-foot poster that has been installed in a bus stop half a block from the State Department. Solomon explained that, with the help of the 430,000 active members of RootsAction (which he also co-founded), similar notices will appear near other government offices, corporations, and financial institutions (from Wall Street to Silicon Valley) that are similarly involved in “criminal activities.”
At the press conference, investigative journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich (an editorial board member) remarked that news stories are often buried by the establishment press because they might offend the corporations that own the media. She voiced the hope that the new organization might be able to investigate and make public such practices as post-wage theft (a practice where workers are obliged to continue working after they have clocked out).
Solomon asserted that exposefacts.org will accept classified information. He also noted that under Executive order 13526 (December 29, 2009), in addition to other restrictions, it is illegal to use classification to conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.
When I questioned Sam Husseini, Communications Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, about the way that exposefacts proposes to preserve the anonymity of whistleblowers, he went into some of the technical aspects of the site. He explained that, given massive NSA surveillance, it’s impossible for anyone to guarantee anonymity with 100 percent assurance. However, exposefact’s latest version of SecureDrop (originally written by the late Aaron Swartz and now maintained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation) along with the TOR browser that whistleblowers must use when sending information, provides the most security currently available.