Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Logan Symposium - Day two

The Logan Symposium - Day two

I was lucky enough to attend The Logan Symposium  at the weekend, a conference about secrecy, surveillance and censorship which I found fascinating (and somewhat paranoia inducing at times).

Saturday was packed full of talks and presentations from investigative journalists, whistleblowers  hackers, photographers and more, with much of the day focused on protecting sources and whistleblowers in what many were calling a 'surveillance state'.

Special Guest

Famous American whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers in 1971, made a surprise appearance in the morning and talked of his admiration for Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

"Secrets are not kept so much by technical means but by people", he said, with thousands on the inside keeping them.

"Mainly by people who want to keep their jobs, careers, their children going to good schools... their identity as someone loyal and trustworthy."

These secrets only have to be kept long enough for injustice to happen.

He wrapped up his inspiring talk by advising potential whistleblowers to make sure information got out in time to make a difference.

"Don’t do what I did, do what I wish I had done. Go in a timely way... A war's worth of lives may be saved."

Protecting sources and whistleblowers

Protecting those brave enough to speak out was the topic of many of the discussions.

Investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, categorised two types of whistleblower:

1. Someone who sticks their head up, identifies themselves and speaks up.

2. A leaker – someone providing a huge public service but never identified and able to carry on with their career.

He said he'd never had a whistleblower in the first category - in his view expecting a someone to speak out publicly was condemning them to a life of trouble.

This sentiment was echoed by other speakers throughout the day and best summed up below by Bea Edwards

How to protect sources (and yourself)

We also heard lots of useful, practical information about how to protect whistleblowers and sources in today's world.

Hacker, Jacob Appelbaum, gave a talk on anonymity via video link in the afternoon and talked about the lengths journalists need to go to protect their sources.

His advice - mobile phones are compromised. Don't use Skype (he was scathing about Skype). Using the internet anonymously via Tails for investigative journalism is a minimum thing, he said. 

Another speaker, Annie Machon, a former MI5 Intelligence officer, had more guidance to offer on this subject. Her words were often chilling, especially when she referred to any spies in the audience and talked about teams of twenty people from the security services following targeted individuals around.

Her advice - first assess the risk, both to yourself and to the whistleblower. Think about where they come from. If they are coming from health they probably won't be imprisoned, she said. As a journalist, you could go to prison if you are seen to damage national security.

"You need to ask - what will happen to them? What will happen to you?"

Julian Assange

The day finished with Julian Assange who delivered a keynote speech on Fundamental Rights. The controversial figure was greeted with cheers and applause as he appeared on the huge screen above the stage via video link.

His main message was to educate people about growing surveillance in response to perceived security threats. He warned that growing surveillance on the Muslim population, or any minorities, would come back to bite us.

“If we allow seeds of injustice to grow in one part of the population soon enough it will affect the rest” he said.

You can see the speech in full here...

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