In an interview by US lawyer and Courage Advisory Board member Kevin Zeese for Truthout, Acting Director of Courage Sarah Harrison talks about Courage, why the organisation was started and how it is working to protect whistleblowers.
As well as protecting individual truthtellers, Courage also defends the right to know broadly by “fighting for policy and legal changes to give whistleblowers the protections they deserve”, Harrison explained.
The ethos of Courage is to reflect the courage shown by the truthtellers it serves to protect, showing support and solidarity in spite of risks:
I think it was important to show future whistleblowers that if you come forward and expose wrongdoing, that there are people who will stand with you and help you, no matter what the cost… It is very important to show a sense of solidarity around whistleblowers.
Harrison explained how Courage was borne from her experience of helping NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to safety and achieving his asylum in Russia:
The Courage Foundation was born from the idea that whistleblowers need protection from prosecution. When we first started to help Edward Snowden, there were many other NGOs and organizations around the world that should have been able to help him; but, when it comes to high risk people with huge persecution from places like the United States, the reality is that to move quickly and robustly to provide the support they need is actually very difficult. So after we helped Snowden, we realized that there was a need for an organization that was able to do this for future Snowdens as well.
Campaigning for asylum and international protections for truthtellers is set to be some of Courage’s core work. Harrison explained why:
It is unrealistic to expect that a country is suddenly going to put in place laws that are really going to protect someone like Snowden who comes forward with such high value classified information. It is better to focus on agreements and conventions between countries that prevent extradition so there is the ability to support a whistleblower from another country somewhere else.
Mr Snowden also reiterated the importance of protections for truthtellers at an international level in his recent testimony to the Council of Europe, 24 June 2014. Referencing the problems he faced in securing a safe haven after disclosing national intelligence of global importance, he said:
it’s critical that we need international mechanisms in these cases to distinguish between the legality of the act on national terms and the propriety of the act on global terms.
In many cases those protections are not provided on a uniform national basis and that raises the question of how our global society can provide an independent, international mechanism for arbitration and redress on matters that are of international public importance
A full transcript of Mr Snowden’s testimony can be found here.
As Mr Snowden’s temporary asylum period in Russia ends, Harrison described it as a ‘critical’ time for people to take action. She invited supporters to take part in the ‘Stand With Snowden’ campaign, recently launched by Courage, to show solidarity with Mr Snowden, and to pressure governments around the world to act and help Snowden to a safe haven.
A full transcript of Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers’ interview of Sarah Harrison can be found at Truthout.
Take Action – #StandWithSnowden
Upload a photo of yourself or your friends, family, and colleagues holding a sign like the one Sarah Harrison is holding below and the many more on our campaign page here. Make sure you mention where you’re from: Courage will formally approach the governments of those countries where the public support for Snowden is strongest to ask them to act.