Paul Brookes, an associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, dared to be a whistleblower. According to an interview he gave in the Magazine Science, he was author of the now defunct blog science-fraud.org. Like oh so many, he tried to achieve that via the internet. After realising that a lot of the scientific literature that is published contains faults in the form of wrong data, wrong or missing sources, and more, he decided that it was high time to speak out against bad writing and publishing practice. In order to protect his university and himself, he wrote about the problems anonymously. But with the way the internet actually functions, it was not that hard to blow his cover. Somebody apparently tracked back his IP Adress, and since his blog was uncomfortable for more than a few fellow scientists, someone, yet again anonymous, send an email to his university and to other institutions, exposing him and threatening with a law suit. Brookes subsequently declared his authorship the next day and removed the blog from the internet. Fortunately, the university, although not being particularly happy about Brookes actions, led him hold on to his job and Brookes is still blogging about faulty papers. Now under his own name and strictly in his private time. Continue reading “Whistleblowing – are we even allowed to dare?”
For some reason that I am not even aware of anymore, I believed that countries who spy on their citizens are not democratic ones but only those which are governed by a dictator who suffers from an understandable fear of the people he is actually governing. Apparently I was obviously very wrong about that. Edward Snowden, the US ex-NSA (National Security Agency) technician, turned whistleblower on the government, has showed to all of us, that for the US, spying, and not only on its citizens but also on the citizens in many other countries, seems to be quite a normal procedure. (Even though the NSA now states that it mainly spies on people in other countries. Somehow, for me living in Germany, that does not make it on bid better.) Snowden revealed that the NSA has a system called Prism that is designed to track phone and internet connections, and is able to reveal every information about its use and the attached user. It is supposed to work with big companies like Google and Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.” Says Edward Snowden in an interview with the Guardian that was conducted Monday the 10th of June in Hong Kong. Since then Snowden has checked out of the hotel and is believed to be hiding in Hong Kong.
James Clapper, Chief of the NSA has said that the system was not a snooping device to spy on people outside the US but an internal system of the government that is only used to counter terrorism. Unfortunately, even this leaves a lot of room for interpretation and can be widely used if the NSA deems it appropriate. So, the public does not really know how Prism functions, nor what it is actually targeting. Does a red flag on some system come up when I write the word “bomb” three times? Does a red flag come up as soon as I publish this blog because I voice criticism towards the NSA and the US government? Do I have to be afraid now? Even if I would be, and let me say, I am not, I would write and publish my criticism. It is unbelievable how our personal freedom and our liberties are treated since 9/11. As well as I can understand the fear, the way we are behaving, the terrorists have already won, because they have struck perpetual terror in our minds. And they use our fear very cleverly, because now someone like Edward Snowden cannot voice his opinions anymore without having to fear, not some terrorists, but his fellow countrymen who want to prosecute him for saying the truth and for explaining to the public how it is treated by those who claim that they have a claim and a right to protect us. And even though I can imagine that Snowden was probably sworn to secrecy when he was accepted as a NSA employee, it must be possible for each and every individual to follow their conscience and to stand up and speak out. I cannot give you a good answer as to where to draw the line between liberty and security. But I can quote Benjamin Franklin “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And to end with a thought of my own, I am deeply unhappy that this wisdom is still not adhered to. How many more liberties and freedoms do we have to lose to understand that this is not worth all the security in the world?