Whistleblower middlemen, intermediaries, cut outs
In very high profile whistleblower leak cases, especially were some sort of monetary payment is sought from the mainstream media, it is common to make use of middlemen or intermediaries who act as a cut out between the media and any leak investigators and the real whistleblower source(s).
The leak of the uncensored details of expense claims by UK Members of Parliament, which was brokered around several newspapers, before being taken up by the Daily Telegraph, illustrates this.
The Times has some more details about the role of this intermediary:
From The Times
June 12, 2009
Security expert John Wick says he wants all erring MPs exposed, regardless of their party
Dominic Kennedy and Steve Boggan
The security expert who brokered the leak of MPs' expenses secrets has said that he fled Britain fearing arrest for theft and stayed abroad until Scotland Yard announced that there would be no investigation.
John Wick, 60, an ex-SAS major, insisted that he was just a middleman and was deliberately unaware of the identity of the mole who removed more than a million computerised Commons documents.
Mr Wick says he accepted assurances that none of the material he provided to The Daily Telegraph had been stolen by the mole. But he admitted that he fled to Spain as the story was published, having consulted his lawyer about the risks of a police investigation into the leak. "There are several possible potential crimes all with different likelihood of the Crown Prosecution Service doing anything about it and all with different punishments and different defences," Mr Wick said.
He and his communications consultant, Henry Gewanter, who sat through the interview, mentioned theft, fraud, aiding and abetting, the Terrorism Act and breaching state secrets. Mr Wick said: "The deal was with the people [behind the leak] that if there was a problem I would have to go to court and I would have to defend myself and not disclose them so if I went down, I went down.
"As soon as the thing went out I left the country because I could run it, look after the sources and run everything I had to do with The Telegraph from outside the UK while it just settled down.
"I only came back when the Commissioner let it be known that he was not interested in me."
Mr Wick said he adopted a blind approach to the mole so that, even if he ended up in a police cell or courtroom, he could honestly deny knowing who had accessed the secrets.
The go-between was acting on behalf of the original anonymous source. Mr Wick said: "I was told it was not stolen. I was told it was a copy that had been made without anybody really realising it because of lax controls in Parliament."
This sort of espionage tradecraft cut out is probably also still necessary even if little or no money is to change hands , in order for the whistleblower leak to be made public as widely as possible, without destroying the whistleblower source's anonymity.
As in this case,it may require more than one middleman or intermediary, one to handle the confidential "dead drop" arrangements with the whistleblower source, and another to actually contact and negotiate with the mainstream media publications etc.
Suggestions of how to contact such Trusted Intermediaries, in confidence, are welcome. - see Trustworthy Contacts for Whistleblowers ?