On Wednesday 12th December 2012, Spy Blog attended the launch of the WhistleBlowersUK.org website, which offers free, pro bono legal, journalistic and psychological help for whistleblowers. They intend to campaign on changing the inadequate laws and bureaucratic "shoot the messenger" attitude which pervades the UK's power structures.
WhistleBlowers UK give some independent, not commercially motivated, advice on securely contacting them, which is good, but which needs amplification and more detailed, practical, step by step guides.
Are You a Potential Whistleblower?
We will try to minimise the stress and impact of what you are contemplating by showing you the correct process to legally assess, document and reveal wrongdoing in your workplace / sector / environment. In order to protect yourself under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (1998), the Employment Act (2008), or even the Official Secrets Act (1989), you should follow certain procedures and you will find it much easier to gain credibility - in front of a very sceptical and fickle public audience who are riven by a multitude of political views and vested interests - if you do so.
We can help you with the necessary confidential advice and assistance you will need in order to make the experience of whistleblowing worthwhile and create a positive outcome out of the negative situation you find yourself in at present. Most of all, do not be scared, you do have friends and supporters out there - you just haven't met us personally yet!
Talk To Someone With Experience In Your Field
If you wish to discuss your case, confidentially, with a fellow whistleblower who has experience in your particular sector (auditing, financial, medical, defence, or general commercial then please contact us on 0207 040 8224 and we will put you in touch with one of our members.
Concerns About Security And Confidentiality
The level of security that you adopt will depend upon the threat that you perceive to yourself, the capabilities of the organisation, the gravity of the information, and any implications arising from it, upon which you are intending to 'blow the whistle'. We are adopting a WORST CASE SCENARIO below - you may not need to take some or all of these precautions... BUT even with the best will in the world, whistleblowers in the past have been let down by allies, journalists and even regulators who have failed to take adequate precautions to protect their anonymity.
We have compiled a list of key points to help you protect your identity when communicating online or sharing documents with third parties.
You may of course come to the Centre for Investigative Journalism offices, the temporary hosts of WBUK, at Gloucester Building, Gloucester Way, London EC1R 0BN.
You will need an email address that has never been associated with you and which never will be associated with you. You need to set it up from a computer that has no link to you.
Do not use a computer, house or office network that you normally use. Generally, it is best to sign up for a Hotmail or any other popular free email account.
Make sure that this webmail accounty is based outside of the United Kingdom.
Ideally do not use Gmail / googlemail, which is strong on security but very bad for anonymity.
Only use this email address to make contact and correspond with one of our team. Ideally you will have a phone that we can call back (see 'by phone' section below). A message such as "call me John/Jane, you can call me securely on this mobile number, I have information/a story/ documents" will do.
Do not use your real name or any other identifiable information when registering the email account. Never access the special email from home or work - use an internet café or library. Normally, unless you work in an area of high security and government interest, using public wifi may be safe. Remember, you cannot reliably hide your electronic location, or IP address, from the network, although you can hide it from us and anyone who may be monitoring us. You can do this by using the 'Tor' service, or another anonymiser service. However, these tools could attract attention if you do so from places which may be monitored.
You can contact us at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
N.B. they have not yet published a PGP/GPG Encryption Key and there is no use of SSL/TLS encryption on the supporters email subscription form
Existing whistleblowers (who may well be contacted by others with similar experiwences) and their supporters should try to come along to the next CryptoParty London (or in other locations around the world) where expert users will guide them through the often somewhat daunting provess of configuring and using encryption and anonymity software and techniques, to protect potential whistleblowers and their evidence.
Do not use a mobile phone that you have used before, even if you use a 'Pay-As-You-Go' SIM card. The less smart the phone you use, the better. Buying a secondhand phone from a car boot sale or suchlike is the best advice we can give.
Do not use a smartphone with GIS services. If you need to contact us by phone, never use your own landline, mobile phone or any work phone - especially mobile phones issued to you by your employer. Using '141' 'conceal my number' isn't enough - the number is recorded anyway.
'Pay-As-You-Go' SIM cards and phones can be purchased from local shops for a few pounds; do not register the SIM, never give out the number and use it only for contacting 'Whistleblowers UK.' Alternatively, you can use public phones.
If you query is not sensitive you can contact us on this temporary number: 020 7040 8526.
WBUK should also publish publish a mobile phone contact number(s), which would be useful for recieving SMS text messages (less personally revealing than voicemail)
Buying and using a mobile phone also needs quite a few , common sense precautions and there are several things to be aware of to improve your anonymous use of such phones.
Similarly, there are some things to avoid when setting up "free" webmail accounts.
After you make first contact
A member of the team will assess your situation and advise you. Should you wish to whistleblow, the advisor will discuss with you appropriate arrangements for meeting in person or for sending documents electronically (or as paper). We will, if required, make arrangements for you to disclose your information with a trusted journalist in the safest way possible.
Legal And Emotional Support
Once proper internal procedures for reporting wrongdoing have failed, employees bringing complaints have faced perpetrators or complicity in management and aggressive polices of harassment to hide wrongdoing and intimidate those who threaten to bring a complaint. We can support you during this difficult process by providing access to pro-bono legal and psychological advice.
Is Whistleblowing Right For You?
Several of the whistleblowers who have been involved in setting up this organisation say that while they wanted to change the world they live in, they would never wish their experience on their loved ones: "we didn't realise the heavy sacrifice involved when acting on one's conscience. We cannot recommend whistleblowing to everyone and sometimes the advice may be - find another way."
See also our Spy Blog:
Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers etc.- Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc.