A lawyer whose clients include Edward Snowden has said that a “crackdown on whistleblowers” has had the opposite effect.
Jesselyn Radack was speaking at the National Union of Journalists headquarters as part of a tour for ‘Stand Up For Truth’, an international week dedicated to whistleblowing.
Other speakers included Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst who released top-secret Pentagon papers to various newspapers in 1971.
Radack said: “During the time that I’ve been witnessing this brutal draconian crackdown, I have just as many if not more whistleblowers walking through my door.
“It’s sort of like a pressure cooker, the more you’re trying to suppress people from telling the truth the more people have an impulse to want to get that out there.”
She went on to criticise the US legislation in place to protect whistleblowers, saying: “You have these wonderful words on paper but there’s no enforcement mechanism.
“Additionally, people you would most want to blow the whistle, namely those in national security and the intelligence communities, are specifically excluded from any of the whistleblower protection legislation in the United States.”
But Radack added that “the war on whistleblowers, as far as I know right now, seems very much to be continuing but people are still blowing the whistle".
Justin Schlosberg, a journalism and media lecturer at Birkbeck University in London, also spoke. He noted a shift in attitudes towards press freedom in the UK since the Leveson Inquiry of 2011/2012.
“Editors of national newspapers in this country waged a ferocious war of defence for press freedoms, against what was seen as a kind of epochal moment in regression of state interference into the media and yet it was a matter of weeks later that we had the same editors, I’m not even just talking about the conservative press here, I mean the editor of The Independent who penned an editorial saying, and I think his direct words were “if the security services say something is not in the public interest, who am I to disbelieve them?”"
He said that journalists writing about surveillance face an “uphill struggle…not only in terms of the PR and propaganda machines waged by governments and corporations, but very often in their own newsrooms…I think that’s a particular problem that we face”.