'The Revolution Will Be Digitized': Panama Papers Leaker Speaks Out

from the another-voice-joins-the-conversation dept

We’ve just written about a call from the Greens in the European Parliament for new laws to protect whistleblowers. Given that people who leak confidential information currently enjoy very little protection, it’s remarkable that we have any whistleblowers at all. One of the biggest recent leaks came in the form of the Panama Papers. Although we still don’t know who the whistleblower might be, he or she has just released a very interesting statement entitled “The Revolution Will Be Digitized“, which contains important new information. For example, we learn a little about who the whistleblower is — or isn’t:

For the record, I do not work for any government or intelligence agency, directly or as a contractor, and I never have.

We also learn that the leaked documents were offered to many media organizations — and to Wikileaks — most of whom turned them down:

in addition to Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ, and despite explicit claims to the contrary, several major media outlets did have editors review documents from the Panama Papers. They chose not to cover them. The sad truth is that among the most prominent and capable media organizations in the world there was not a single one interested in reporting on the story. Even Wikileaks didn?t answer its tip line repeatedly.

Most of the document is a denunciation of a failure by governments, the media and the legal profession to tackle what the author calls “one of the defining issues of our time” — income inequality. Frustrated by the lack of action by all those groups, he or she makes an interesting offer:

In the end, thousands of prosecutions could stem from the Panama Papers, if only law enforcement could access and evaluate the actual documents. ICIJ and its partner publications have rightly stated that they will not provide them to law enforcement agencies. I, however, would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent that I am able.

The Panama Papers whistleblower is well aware of the fate of his or her predecessors, particularly in the financial sector. Like Snowden, he or she seems to have studied and learnt from their experiences:

I have watched as one after another, whistleblowers and activists in the United States and Europe have had their lives destroyed by the circumstances they find themselves in after shining a light on obvious wrongdoing. Edward Snowden is stranded in Moscow, exiled due to the Obama administration?s decision to prosecute him under the Espionage Act. For his revelations about the NSA, he deserves a hero’s welcome and a substantial prize, not banishment. Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded millions for his information concerning Swiss bank UBS — and was still given a prison sentence by the Justice Department. Antoine Deltour is presently on trial for providing journalists with information about how Luxembourg granted secret “sweetheart” tax deals to multi-national corporations, effectively stealing billions in tax revenues from its neighbour countries. And there are plenty more examples.

No surprise, then, that the Panama Papers whistleblower would really like more legal protection for those who leak information in the public interest. What is more surprising is the anger that permeates this statement, and how well it is articulated. A striking recent development in the world of whistleblowing is the way in which Edward Snowden has become one of the most acute commentators on the digital sphere, as his extended essay “Whistleblowing Is Not Just Leaking — It’s an Act of Political Resistance” underlines. What’s most remarkable — and encouraging — about the Panama Papers whistleblower’s essay is that it indicates we may be about to gain another valuable voice in the same way. The conclusion of the statement gives a hint of the kind of impassioned writing we could enjoy in the future:

The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system — our system — the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy?s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.

Historians can easily recount how issues involving taxation and imbalances of power have led to revolutions in ages past. Then, military might was necessary to subjugate peoples, whereas now, curtailing information access is just as effective or more so, since the act is often invisible. Yet we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless digital storage and fast internet connections that transcend national boundaries. It doesn?t take much to connect the dots: from start to finish, inception to global media distribution, the next revolution will be digitized.

Or perhaps it has already begun.

Perhaps it has: the Panama Papers site has just launched a public search engine for its database of documents. Start connecting those dots…

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “'The Revolution Will Be Digitized': Panama Papers Leaker Speaks Out”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I actually skipped the main idea that struck me & led to my little joke (and compliment): writing of this style doesn’t seem like it expresses anger so much as it does a sense of rational frustration that has reached a tipping point. Eloquence without hyperbole strikes a rare balance that should be employed more often when addressing a wide audience. (I wouldn’t know from personal experience: I lack one, and the other can only be used if you have a legal department to vet it for ‘government asshat exploitability potential’ first.)

– a compliment to TOG in that he seems to have the ‘passionate but articulate’ thing pretty much down. It was also a statement made to see how well I could resist my desire to mention that TOG could occasionally just… shut the hell up! Go get treated for hypergraphia! Take ’emeritus’ status on ‘Insight’ you greedy bastard, & give the rest of us a bleeding chance once in a while! Frig flatblastulated gorram slrmm’n !#!#?@#$@!!!!

Ahem. Pardon.

Anonymous Coward says:

it’s really encouraging that there is apparent growth in the impetus for good, strong people to tell the truth about the wrongs they encounter.

i can’t recall when i’ve felt more hope for the future. maybe we’ll come out of this ok after all. if so, it’ll come from the people. it won’t come from the governments. we’ll survive in spite of the governments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I actually felt a little tiny bit of hope not too long ago, when I realized that the idea of a “President Trump” wasn’t quite as hilariously absurd a thing as I’d thought. Once everything starts burning, maybe people will start to look a little closer at all the other crap that might best be addressed while the torches and pitchforks are still in hand. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one moron shoving you off the couch.

Disclaimer (‘The Digger Lesson Learned’ bit) – this is a hypothetical flight of fancy that has no basis in any reality that I believe could, would, or should come to pass.

Disclaimer Disclaimer – Screw self-censoring, hand me a damned nail-spiked baseball bat and a Molotov cocktail and point me in the right direction.

Temp says:

I believe Thomas Paine put it pretty succinctly:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

All the encryption in the world doesn’t protect data when the one leaking it has the keys as part of their job or position. An outside person hacking in and leaking information seems to be much less common than someone on the inside deciding to leak information for which they already had access to, so encryption isn’t going to do much there.

However that aside the push towards more widespread encryption is aimed at better protecting personal systems and devices owned by members of the public. It has very little if anything to do with more widespread encryption in private(in the sense of large companies) or government systems, both of which should have been using strong encryption beforehand, making the increase push for more encryption pointless in their cases, and not likely something that will impact whistleblowers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Which still does nothing to stop those that already have access as part of their job/position. Encryption strong enough to stop the most sophisticated hacker cold does absolutely nothing to stop someone that has the key, and unless the data is meant to never be accessed(in which case why keep it?) the key will have to be given out, which opens up the chance that one of those with it will leak the data.

Large companies and government agencies already had the resources and incentives to employ strong encryption, so the push towards more widespread encryption isn’t likely to change much when it comes to companies and government agencies. If they didn’t have encryption before despite having the ability to implement it then I don’t see a push towards the public utilizing more encryption changing that.

The fear that their dirty laundry will be leaked via a whistleblower yes, public push towards more widespread encryption no.

Justme says:

One problem that prevents information released in this manner from leading to people demanding change is there are few journalists/people who seem capable/willing to do deeper analysis of the raw data and present it in a manner accessible to a wider audience.

It does take a lot of integrity to put yourself at risk by releasing such information, It takes a lot more to be the one presenting it to pubic and having to stand up to those that want to bury it at all cost and while they remain few in number its much easier to discredit or portray them as the lunatic fringe. So lets hope more people take up that cause!

Rekrul says:

Historians can easily recount how issues involving taxation and imbalances of power have led to revolutions in ages past.

It’s funny; The perpetrators of the Boston Tea Party are thought of as American heroes, but if any group were to do something similar today, they would be labeled domestic terrorists and the general public would be happy to see them executed for it.

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