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A Whistleblowing Primer
Blowing a kiss to Sweden's ridiculously corrupt and irrelevant pirate party.
What is a Whistleblower?
The term 'whistleblower' was coined by Ralph Nader in the 1970s. Nader wanted to avoid the negative connotations of earlier terms such as 'informer' and 'snitch'. The term is a reference to the action of a sports referee when observing foul play.
So what is a whistleblower? Relax! It's been defined by the US Office of Special Counsel at 1739 M Street NW in Washington DC.
A 'whistleblower' discloses information he or she reasonably believes evidences:
- A violation of any law, rule, or regulation
- Gross mismanagement
- A gross waste of funds
- An abuse of authority
- A substantial and specific danger to public health
- A substantial and specific danger to public safety
Many supposedly reputable organisations have facilities for accepting information from whistleblowers, ostensibly in the public interest, as people don't normally take kindly to graft or crime (unless they're on the inside benefiting from it).
One of the first laws to protect whistleblowers in the US came in 1863 - the False Claims Act. The act tried to combat fraud by suppliers of the US government during the civil war. (Yes there were companies trying to exploit pain and suffering even back then.) The False Claims Act even rewarded whistleblowers with bounty if monies could be recovered. Brad Birkenfield received $104,000,000 for showing the IRS in the US how the wealthy used Swiss banks to dodge taxation.
The Whistleblower's Reality
As powerful and even sinister forces are involved in the types of crimes whistleblowers want to expose, and as these forces are often deeply rooted in the governments purportedly representing their citizenries, whistleblowers most often will face a number of colourful reprisals if they act on what they know, and their persecution has become a serious issue throughout the world.
Brad Birkenfield, mentioned above as the recipient of a walloping bounty of $104,000,000 for his part in uncovering tax fraud in the US, was nevertheless hounded and persecuted by the very government he attempted to help.
The idea that whistleblowers be able to expose wrongdoing without fear of reprisal is something new to the Internet age and was brought to the fore by Julian Assange.
By use of a secure online submissions system, Assange was able to guarantee that:
- The identity of the whistleblower is never known. Assange carried this to an extreme: he declared that his WikiLeaks would simply not publish if the identity of the source were ever known. WikiLeaks had online chatrooms where anybody could have outed themselves at any time; but do that and your collaboration with WikiLeaks had come to an end.
- The traffic between the whistleblower and the WikiLeaks servers cannot reasonably be deciphered. SSL encryption was only part of it. The advanced system in use also peppered the traffic with tens of thousands of bogus packets so only the recipient at the final destination could know which ones were real and how to connect them all together.
Given such a technological milestone, whistleblowing literally accelerated to the speed of light. No more 'brown envelopes', no more 'data trails'. (Note that no system can protect a whistleblower who through sheer stupidity comes forward after the fact.)
WikiLeaks and Sweden's Pirate Party
Dick Gregor Augustsson (aka Rick Falkvinge) bet his farm on 1 January 2006 when he quit his career as IT consultant and founded the first pirate party in the world. Rick was a voracious learner, and his articles on the history and nature of copyright, patent, and the greedos exploiting those misunderstood institutions have been an inspiration to many.
Rick's plan was simple. He bet his life savings on getting enough public response that his party could soon win seats in the Swedish parliament, at which time they'd be entitled to government subsidies and be able to work full time and be supported full time in that endeavour. Rick reckoned correctly that this process would take several years. The party also accepted donations that could help to bolster things a bit.
Rick's party saw a better opportunity to win a seat in the European parliament and went full throttle towards that goal. Rick himself did not stand for the election but left matters to his friend Christian Engström who had prior experience as a lay judge in Sweden's court system.
Rick's Pirate Party won a mandate - ultimately two - in the EU parliamentary elections, and Christian Engström was sent to Brussels.
Sweden's Conservatives, the GOP, and Bush's Brain
Sweden had been a thorn in the side of the US for quite some time. Special communications had taken place between the White House, assorted intellectual property holders, and members of Sweden's government cabinet office. Sweden demonstrated in the noughties (2000s) that they were not adverse to breaking the law when it came to helping the US.
The visit to Strategic Air Command headquarters by Carl Bildt before he began his career in politics; Bildt's later unsanctioned abduction of a copy of Sweden's submarine report which he personally delivered to the CIA in Langley; Bildt's long-questioned affiliation with Lundin Oil and genocides in Africa; Bildt's unethical affiliation with Russian 'mafia' enterprises; and last but not least: the affection shown by the international arm of the US Republican Party towards political fledgling John Fredrik Reinfeldt since the early 1980s.
The US GOP began cultivating Reinfeldt back then, even as Bildt was flying the pond to turn over the commission work of prime minister Olof Palme to US intelligence. Bildt followed that up by collaborating with the CIA and NATO in orchestrating a 'Russian sub scare' and attacking Palme in the parliament.
It was only through WikiLeaks releases of embassy cables that the truth was found out - that Bildt, the CIA, and NATO had orchestrated the affair right from the beginning, and the goal had been to frighten the peace-loving Swedes so they ran from their famous neutrality and into the arms of the US.
The US GOP was meanwhile helping Reinfeldt work his way up through the hierarchy of Sweden's most conservative party. Reinfeldt was considered the most right-wing of the hopefuls, which is why the GOP chose him. The GOP were instrumental in seeing Reinfeldt won his election as head of the party's youth association.
Fast forward now to the year 2010. The first prime minister of the 2000s, Göran Persson, was voted out of office because of rampant and unprecedented corruption and Sweden's traditionally last choice for a ruling party, the conservatives, march into Rosenbad. Reinfeldt wins the election to no minor extent because he promises 'to not criminalise an entire generation for file-sharing'.
This was of course a fetid stump statement and no such intentions were ever on the table for Reinfeldt. The people behind The Pirate Bay were duly brought into court and charged with crimes that didn't even technically exist, this according to earlier studies by Sweden's chief IT prosecutor Håkan Roswall. Sweden circumvented that insurmountable hurdle by getting the US corporations involved in the case to alter their copyright claims after the fact to bring them in accordance with EU and Swedish law.
(Technically - and legally - the crimes the TPB people were accused of were not crimes at the time they took place, but this was of course dodged in accordance with White House directives.)
The people behind The Pirate Bay were convicted in a ruling that challenged Olympic alpine champion Ingemar Stenmark for the best slalom run ever. The chief magistrate was later found to have had conflicting interests which he naturally kept hidden. (He'd gone so far as to recuse a lay judge at the same trial for having the same conflicts of interests.) Attorneys for the TPB defendants therefore filed for a mistrial.
The ruling on the mistrial was handled by a high court in the Stockholm area. The justices tasked with the case were found to have conflicting interests of their own: they were members of the same private property organisations as the magistrate under investigation! These justices were asked to recuse themselves; they reviewed the request and ruled that they themselves didn't have a conflict of interest. Then they ruled on the first verdict and the judge with the conflict of interest, an acquaintance they knew from the many expensive dos put on in Stockholm by the Hollywood moguls. They ruled that their friend did not have a conflict of interest and that the verdict stands. And at that point the TPB attorneys filed for an appeal of the first TPB verdict.
All of which takes time. For now we're in the summer of 2010 and national elections are in September. And there is one thing Reinfeldt's special adviser Karl Rove (yes that one, 'Turd Blossom' aka 'Bush's Brain') is adamant about - keep that blasted Rick Falkvinge and his Pirate Party out of the campaign.
Rick had a lot of things he could have campaigned about: he could have started with the broken promises of Reinfeldt's US lapdog government, how it was later shown (through WikiLeaks cables of course) that every letter and punctuation mark in the extraordinarily repressive legislation under Reinfeldt had in fact been dictated by the US through their Swedish embassy.
But he needed a platform for this, and his party comrades, mostly a rather lacklustre lot, aren't keen or good at such an enterprise. Rick's party had already become infiltrated by a 'second generation' who in Rick's party didn't see ideals as much as crass career opportunities. (And they would soon make a move to push Rick out of the party, a move they were mostly successful at, but a move that forever signaled the end of their era.)
And to make sure there were no untoward interruptions in his carefully orchestrated campaign, Reinfeldt had the court system push the date for the new TPB trial beyond election day so transparency and civil rights online weren't campaign issues.
Rick was desperate, but he saw a way out: WikiLeaks. He would offer hosting and a minimal server space to Julian Assange, and this free of charge. He didn't need the space, Rick said, so why not? After all, didn't he and Julian Assange share the same ideals, the same goals? Of course they did!
Rick and Julian had a grand old time at the Glenfiddich Warehouse (Rick loves scotch and the pub specialised in steaks and Rick loves steaks too) together with - names that today are unfortunately known well - former pirate party techie Richie Olsson, state feminist Anna Troberg, and of course Julian's right arm and volunteer press secretary Svea Anna Karolina Ardin.
And everyone - particularly Troberg and the beaming Ardin - seemed to enjoy that day as Richie's photos bear witness.
[Note: The photo with Anna Ardin, property of party member Richie Olsson, was suppressed and only recently leaked - and not by Olsson. Why would that be?]
Put very simply so even Sweden's current pirate party can understand: Rick Falkvinge needed the publicity of his deal with Julian Assange to get in the news, to establish his platform, to get his campaign underway, and to win his own seat in the parliament in Stockholm come September. Everything was riding on that victory - everything in Rick's plan now more than four years underway.
But none of this was to be. Complaints were filed against Julian Assange on 20 August 2010; by early the next morning, Rick Falkvinge realised his entire election campaign had crashed, and less than one hour later he wrote an panicky internal memo to the fellow party members who would soon betray him. Rick was soon thereafter pushed out of the party with a copper parachute and the 'second generation' completed their takeover.
This 'second generation' of Rick's pirate party is nothing to write home about. Several have openly admitted they feel no particular zeal for party ideals but are exploiting Rick's successes to further their own careers. There's no way that crazed, now state feminist, party would ever come to the defence of the original programme, Rick Falkvinge, WikiLeaks, or Julian Assange.
But they got 0.63% of the vote in the last Swedish parliamentary election, down by 0.02% from the election before, when they needed at least 4% to get a single seat (formerly slated for Rick) and all those juicy government grants. This 'second generation' have made themselves so unpopular by their betrayal of their party ideals, Rick Falkvinge, WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange that they can count themselves lucky if they do as well in 2014 as they did in 2010.
Massive greed, crass career ambitions, smugness, and the all too pervasive backwater 'duckpond' mentality all contribute to the downfall of Sweden's Pirate Party, the first such party in the world, a party once dedicated to ensuring civil rights also continue on the Internet.