Disclosures in the Public Interest: Should national security whistleblowers have a public interest defense?

(WASHINGTON) – Last month marked two years since NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shocked the world with his disclosures about mass surveillance. In the United States, reactions to his revelations have ranged from the Secretary of State urging him to “man up” and return from his exile in Russia to face espionage charges, to an outpouring of support from the civil and privacy rights communities. Internationally, Snowden has garnered support from a myriad of individuals and organizations. Most recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted overwhelmingly for a resolution that calls on “the United States of America to allow Mr. Snowden to return without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.”

What is understood by the public interest defense against criminal charges in Europe and elsewhere? How are persons who disclose national security classified information treated in other democracies? What has changed since Snowden and Manning? How is, and should, the public interest be taken into consideration in classification and declassification determinations?  In the US, what trends can be observed concerning classification and declassification? Are there areas where progress could be made in advancing consideration of the public interest?

Join the Open Society Foundations for an expert panel discussion about the public interest and whistleblowing.


Where: Open Society Foundations, 1730 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC

When: Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Panel: 12:15– 1:45 p.m. Sandwiches will be available at noon.


Morton Halperin, senior advisor at the Open Society Foundations.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Bill Leonard, Chief Operating Officer, National Endowment for Democracy; and former Director of the Information Security Oversight Office.

Beatrice Edwards, International and Program Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP).

Anna Myers, international whistleblowing expert and incoming GAP Executive Director.

Moderator: Sandra Coliver, Senior Legal Officer for Freedom of Information and Expression at the Open Society Justice Initiative. See her blog on the PACE vote.


Alison Glick, GAP International Program Officer
Phone: (202) 457-0034 EXT. 111