The following is a lengthy comment related to an article published yesterday in The Pen (Attacks on speech and secret trials are undermining our rights 6 July 2020). It raises some important points. Because of this and its length, John Candido’s contribution is being published as an article, rather than in the comment box below the original article.
Governments on both sides of the aisle and the public are correct in stating that whistleblowers break the law.
There is no legal right to obtain and publish classified documentation, unless future governments provide for whistleblower concerns with the insertion of ‘public interest clauses’ in legislation, that includes classified material from Australia’s security establishment.
Most whistleblowers know that they are going to be sacked, pursued by law enforcement, shunned by their colleagues, vilified by governments of any stripe, ostracised by their friends and relatives, despised by their former employer, conceptualised as traitors by governments and some media outlets, and disliked by most members of the public.
For all of these reasons, whistleblowers better understand the hell that their lives will become as a result of their activities.
Whistleblowers, journalists, and lawyers, who cooperate in publishing highly classified information, are genuinely publicly-minded, serious people, who are not acting in a cavalier, unpatriotic, or reckless manner.
Whistleblowers who consciously and deliberately break the law to provide highly classified information to experienced journalists, whose serious task is to carefully and diligently curate any classified information before it is published, are not doing this as a lark, to deliberately ruin their careers, to place great strains on their family, to damage their own country through a gross act of vandalism, compromise any ongoing operations, or place any under-cover operatives in danger of losing their lives.
What they are doing is reporting corruption, illegality, grossly inappropriate or unethical behaviour, of a corporation or a government.
Assuming the public and the mainstream media has a broad and flexible mind on these matters, they may eventually understand why whistleblowers break the law at great personal expense.
It’s called doing the public a service.
It is particularly at this cutting edge of law-breaking by whistleblowers and journalists, where the public needs a balanced consideration of the public gain, versus their whistleblowing activities.
Where would the public be without the revelations through whistleblowers like Ed Snowden and lawyer-journalists like Glenn Greenwald, who exposed the mass surveillance of all of the public’s phone calls, emails or SMSs, and the potential sharing of that information, by each security establishment of the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and Australia, also known as the ‘Five Eyes’?