Secrets: A Very British Affair
Play • 45 min

Welcome to a special series of the Whistleblowing Now and Then podcast, called:

The Public Interest and National Security Whistleblowing: Looking Back, Thinking Forward.

This 3-part series is a collaboration between Whistleblowing International Network and Kaeten Mistry, Associate Professor of History at the University of East Anglia, and co-author of the book Whistleblowing Nation: The History of National Security Disclosures and Cult of State Secrecy.

The podcasts will consider how secrecy and liberty, and security and openness became competing concepts within democratic societies. We’ll examine these questions within and across national and regional boundaries, looking at Europe, North America, and South America. We’ll delve into issues relating to the United States, UK, Spain, France, Argentina, and Chile, among others.

Today’s episode is entitled, “Secrets: A Very British Affair.” We speak to Martin Bright, Editor-at-Large at Index on Censorship, and Maurice Frankel, Director at Campaign for Freedom of Information, about public interest whistleblowing, government transparency, and state secrecy in the United Kingdom.

Additional Reading:

In addition to the podcast series, we share resources supporting those working on issues relating to whistleblowing, the public interest, and strengthening civil society organisations.

Below are some resources related to Episode 1.

Briefing on the National Security Bill - Protect
This briefing (2022) outlines the concerns of Protect, the UK’s whistleblowing organisation and legal advice centre, about new offences in the new National Security Bill that may criminalise whistleblowing where it involves disclosures to foreign regulators and journalists.

Introducing a public interest disclosure defence - Matrix and Mishcon de Reya LLP
This briefing paper by lawyers from Matrix and Mishcon de Reya, sets out the basis for the introduction of a public interest disclosure defence for breaches of the Official Secrets Acts (“OSAs”) or any replacement Espionage Act.

When We Speak (2022)
'When We Speak', directed by Tas Brooker, follows 3 whistleblowers: Katherine Gunn, Rose McGowan, and Helen Evans. By cutting between these stories, Brooker highlights their common threads, abuses of power, and exploited vulnerabilities. Crises of conscience, painful examinations of where one’s loyalties lie. We hear the motivation behind the decision to blow the whistle, and we see its dramatic fallout.  The film offers a human perspective, on what can often be quite an abstract discussion. You can listen back to the Whistleblowing Now and Then episode with Director Tas Brooker here.

Official Secrets (2019)
Official Secrets is a film based on the case of whistleblower Katharine Gun who worked as a linguist at the UK’s government communication headquarters (GCHQ). In 2003, she intercepted an email from the US National Security Agency - an email asking GCHQ to assist the US in their efforts to legitimise a war on Iraq. She made a copy of the memo – given anonymously to a journalist at the Observer – as she believed revealing the proposed bugging and blackmail tactics might

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