Security -v- Privacy -v- Whistleblowing


We pretty much know the basic arguments. But the lines are not easy to draw.

Any sentient human being knows that interference by some nations in the affairs of others has caused a backlash, which finds expression the only way some people know how – in what used to be termed low-intensity paramilitary operations.

We ought to address the causes more than we do. But. At the same time, any political entity having any kind of civic responsibility for people needs to be able to protect those people. And that requires some element of security activity.

‘Security activity,’ as the phrase suggests, requires a degree of operational secrecy, in order for there to be security. That follows, as night follows day.

At the same time, those in a position to influence that secrecy, that security owe some sort of responsibility to ensure that the required secrecy and security do not overstep, and impinge on people’s right to their own privacy and safety.

You can’t for very long gain the consent of the people you are protecting, in the name of security, if the operations themselves breach individual safety and security.

But. Who decides where the line is drawn and how?

Hmm. I would say each of us has a duty to our own conscience to do what we think is right. Provided we understand and accept that, in a majority-rule democracy, it is the majority who speak for the conscience of the democracy. And if individual conscience conflicts with majority conscience, there may well be uncomfortable consequences.

Ok. That’s all fine and dandy intellectual twaddle. But, what does it mean on the ground? Hard to say.

For myself, I would say that, if you sign a contract or swear an oath to keep secret and secure matters that are patently issues of national security, then if you leak, you breach the contract or oath, and you suffer the full consequences.

So. No. You won’t find me signing petitions saying Edward Snowden is a good guy. If he didn’t want to sign the contract or swear the oath, then he shouldn’t have done so.

In the UK, what about the Official Secrets Act? I don’t like it. But, until the majority direct that it should be repealed, it is the law. You sign it, you abide by it. You don’t like it. Don’t sign it.

What about investigative journalists? Both professional and citizen. Well. I regard myself as one of the latter. We have a duty to be bloody-minded pains in someone’s proverbial a**. To keep the balance. But. We might find ourselves dead as a consequence. It’s the price we might pay. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still investigate.

What about the professional media generally? Tough one. If you’ve signed something, you’ve signed something. Beyond that, it’s a balance thing. Are you publishing because you genuinely believe exposure to be more important than a tyrant’s view of national security (for example)? Or, are you just trying to beat CNN to the ratings?

And I think that is my problem with what certain US officials and US media have been doing recently. There hasn’t been some high-minded, noble ambition to protect people, or fight the good fight. There has simply been a base motive to hurt another protagonist in the security ‘game,’ or achieve profitable ratings.


Published in: on June 5, 2017 at 12:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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