GAP’s Work Instrumental to Recommendations that include Robust Protections for National Security Whistleblowers

(WASHINGTON) – The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights called for COE and European Union member states to enact whistleblower protection laws that also cover national security and intelligence community employees. In a particularly significant development, the Committee’s draft resolution urged member states to grant asylum to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation.

The resolution is based on a detailed report by the Committee that draws significantly on the experience of GAP client and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Indeed, the resolution calls for the U.S. to allow Snowden to return without fear of criminal prosecution under laws that prevent a public interest defense, like the Espionage Act. This marks the first time that any inter-governmental body has called on the U.S. not to prosecute Snowden unless he is afforded the opportunity to raise a public interest defense, according to Sandra Coliver of the Open Society Foundation.

Snowden testified before the Committee in June 2014, along with Anna Myers, Director of the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN), a group of non-governmental organizations that GAP co-founded in 2013 to enhance global whistleblower protection. Myers commented about the resolution and report:

“Like many of my WIN colleagues working around the world, I welcome the Committee’s unrelenting commitment to the protection of whistleblowers as a serious matter of democracy. How whistleblowers are treated in relation to information that may stray into areas of government secrecy – even national security – is a litmus test of the health of our systems of accountability.”

Ms. Myers’ testimony is reflected in the Committee’s report and resolution, including her recommendation that whistleblowers be able to avail themselves of a public interest defense and asylum as a means of protection.

In January, GAP’s National Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack read a statement to the Committee from GAP client and CIA torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was incarcerated at the time after facing prosecution in the U.S. under the draconian Espionage Act. The Committee’s report dubbed Mr. Kiriakou’s statement “deeply moving.”

GAP’s Jesselyn Radack commented:

“GAP commends the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for these bold recommendations recognizing the necessity to protect and encourage national security and intelligence whistleblowers. The war on whistleblowers in the U.S. has escalated to the point where whistleblowers are forced to seek asylum in another country or be faced with prosecution under the Espionage Act, prosecutions which essentially prohibit whistleblowers’ defenses. The Committee’s actions validate whistleblowing as a matter of international human rights in the global public interest.”

The full Parliamentary Assembly will debate the report in Strasbourg this June.

Andrew Harman
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