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.

See Spy Blog Naming of the MP Expenses whistleblower leak intermediaries ?

The Times has some more details about the role of this intermediary:

From The Times
June 12, 2009

John Wick, middleman who passed on MPs' expenses, on why he fled the UK

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 ?

About this blog

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Some of these people will, in the public interest, act as whistleblowers, and may try to leak documents or information to the mainstream media, or to political blog websites etc.

Here are some Spy Blog "Hints and Tips", giving some basic preecautions, and some more obscure technical tips, which both whistleblowers, journalists, and bloggers need to be aware of, in order to help preserve the anonymity of whisteleblowing or other journalistic sources, especially in the United Kingdom, but applicable in other countries as well.

Whistleblower anonymity may not always be possible, or even necessary, forever into the future, but it is usuially crucial during at least the early stages of a "leak", whilst it is being evaluated by others, to see if it merits wider publication and publicity.

Email & PGP Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.


Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG).

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.


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CryptoParty London

Most months there is a CryptoParty London event. where some of these Hints and Tips and other techniques are demonstrated and taught.

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