Group promotes defense of whistle-blowers

(By Deutsche Welle) On Thursday, Edward Snowden held a live online chat to answer questions about his revelations. The Courage Foundation, which hosted the chat, offers people a way to contribute to Snowden’s legal defense.

In response to the recent crackdown on national security whistle-blowers, concerned journalists and activists have created a new fund to protect sources from legal retribution. The Courage Foundation has begun assisting former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and plans on expanding its client base to other journalistic sources who are being prosecuted for their revelations.

The foundation runs a website for Snowden, where anonymous donations can be made to support his legal defense. According to the site, over $99,000 has been raised so far. Granted temporary asylum in Moscow after the US State Department cancelled his passport last summer, Snowden is the latest national security whistle-blower to be indicted by Washington under the US Espionage Act. If convicted, Snowden could face up to 30 years in prison.

Six other whistle-blowers have been prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act for passing along classified national security information to the press. Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, was convicted under the Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison last July for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and war logs to WikiLeaks. Journalists have sharply criticized the use of the Espionage Act against leakers, saying that it could lead to the criminalization of national security reporting.

The Courage Foundation, originally called the Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund (JSPDF), has emerged in reaction to the aggressive crackdown on Snowden and organizations such as WikiLeaks by Western governments, particularly the US and the UK.

“Its origin was in the clear perception of most journalists, who are involved in sensitive issues, that there is as a serious problem of protection of sources, their own privacy – protection of stories as well for that matter,” Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, told DW.

“It emerges out of that sense that nothing is sacrosanct anymore,” said MacFadyen, who sat on the JSPDF’s steering committee.

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Snowden aide Harrison takes refuge in Berlin

(By Deutsche Welle) After helping US whistleblower Edward Snowden attain asylum in Russia, British journalist Sarah Harrison has left Moscow. Harrison has taken refuge in Berlin, out of concern she could be detained in the UK.

National security leakers lead a precarious existence these days. Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over a year now, unable to leave for fear of being arrested by British authorities and extradited to Sweden as part of a sexual assault investigation. Assange believes that going to Sweden would be the first step in his extradition to the US and an eventual trial there.

Meanwhile, NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden is under constant guard in Moscow after having received temporary asylum in Russia. For now, at least, Snowden has managed to avoid the fate that befell Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, who was convicted on espionage charges and sentenced in June to 35 years in prison for leaking 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

Snowden’s good fortune is largely due to British journalist Sarah Harrison, a Wikileaks researcher who helped the former NSA contractor escape the long arm of the US Justice Department. Having assisted one of the US government’s top public enemies, she has now taken refuge in Berlin, reticent to return to her native England for fear of being detained by authorities under the UK Terrorism Act.

On Wednesday, Harrison published a letter calling for whistle-blowers to be shielded from prosecution, saying that “giving us the truth is not a crime.”

“Wikileaks continues to fight for the protection of sources,” Harrison wrote. “We have won the battle for Snowden’s immediate future, but the broader war continues.”

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