Logo Assembly Logo Hemicycle

‘A law meant for spies is being used against whistleblowers’

Whistleblowers from the US and the EU recounted the problems they faced in trying to expose what they believed to be wrongdoing in the organisations they worked for, testifying this week at a hearing of PACE’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney and former ethics adviser to the US Department of Justice who revealed ethics violations in the FBI’s interrogation of John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban”, told parliamentarians via video-link of her experience of being prosecuted for revealing state secrets. “A law meant for spies is being used against whistleblowers. No distinction is made between selling secrets to our enemies and revealing public interest information.”

She also communicated a statement to the hearing from former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who is currently in prison in the US after a conviction for revealing state secrets.

Maria Bamieh, a British former prosecutor at EULEX, the EU’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, went public after she felt that her evidence of possible corruption in the mission was not being properly investigated internally. “I have no problem with abiding by secrecy laws for genuine national security reasons, but I have a problem when they are used to cover up crimes,” she told the hearing.

Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), who is preparing a report on improving the protection of whistleblowers for the Assembly, said: “These testimonies have brought home for all to see the need to improve the protection of whistleblowers. Whistleblowers risk their careers and livelihoods – and sometimes even their health – by disclosing serious wrongdoings such as corruption and torture, in the public interest.”

Last year the committee took testimony also from US whistleblower Edward Snowden, speaking by video-link from Moscow.

Mr Omtzigt’s report is due to be approved by the committee in the spring of 2015.