Tag Archives: Doxxing

Doxxing the Whistle Blower

27 Mar

On Monday, March 22, Peter van Onselen, working with Channel Ten News and The Project, broke a story provided to him by a whistle blower that revealed more of the culture surrounding workplace sexual activity in Parliament House, Canberra. 

The story concerns a Liberal staffer masturbating on the desk of his female boss, videoing his performance and sharing it with his friends, including the whistle blower who was at one time in a relationship with him. The whistle blower claims that male sex workers were/are brought into the House for a former and a current MP. The so-called prayer room is allegedly used for sexual assignations. 

Naturally, the story holds considerable interest for the public at a time when we have over the last few weeks learned of the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins by a senior staffer in Parliament House; the alleged rape of a sixteen-year-old girl by Attorney General Christian Porter when he was seventeen; the sexual harassment of several other women by the same Liberal staffer, and a myriad of other sordid revelations of sexual harassment, assault, assorted sleaze and cover-ups perpetrated by Liberal MPs, Senators and staffers. The list of those involved in some way is too lengthy to unpack here, but includes such Liberal luminaries as Eric Abetz, Alan Tudge, Michaelia Cash, Linda Reynolds, Marise Payne, Andrew Laming, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as senior public servants and staffers in the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Department of Finance.

Today, Saturday March 27, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Chip le Grand, currently chief reporter at The Age, late of the Australian where he worked for twenty-five years. In this piece, le Grand names van Onselen’s whistle blower. 

This practice is known as “doxxing,” that is, revealing information about someone who has chosen to remain anonymous, that can lead to their identification. It’s a dangerous practice that can result in serious harassment of the doxxed individual, sometimes to the point of death threats. It entirely contravenes the ethics and practice of journalistic principles with regard to whistle blowers. 

The doxxing of a Project and Channel 10 source by the SMH is a startling turn in Australian journalism. It sends a powerful signal to would-be whistle blowers that there are journalists who cannot be trusted to respect your role as a source, and the reasons for your anonymity. It is a long way from journalists’ traditional protection of their sources.

Indeed, can we be confident that such protection exists any longer in Australian mainstream media after today? 

The whistle blower was not doxxed by van Onselen, but, alarmingly, by another media outlet altogether, bringing into question the capacity of well-intentioned journalists to protect their sources at all. 

What does this mean for investigative programs such as Four Corners, for example?  How can any journalist guarantee the safety of a source, if their colleagues are willing to dishonour the traditional commitment to protecting them? 

Le Grand has attempted to argue that the whistle blower is not, in fact, a whistle blower. Let us look at the definition of whistle blower. A person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity, is a whistle blower. It isn’t complicated. 

I don’t know if ejaculating on your female boss’s desk is illegal, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and call it as immoral. Likewise, the provision of sex workers to the Parliament House workplace for assignations in the prayer room may not be illegal, but I don’t think I’m entirely prudish to consider it immoral. What the whistle blower has done is to disclose workplace practices that are entirely unacceptable, and reveal to an appalled public yet another level of abuse in an inherently abusive culture. 

That there are, apparently, no boundaries to the gratification of male desire in Parliament House, whether that desire is for sex, and/or power, demonstrates just how abusive that environment is.  

In return for this disclosure to the public, in our interests, the whistle blower has today been doxxed by Chip le Grand, who has described his disclosures as a “hit job” against the government.  Le Grand also does a good job of maligning the whistle blower in an attempt to discredit him. 

It is not a huge stretch to speculate that le Grand and the Sydney Morning Herald under the chairmanship of former Liberal treasurer, Peter Costello, are acting in the interests of a besieged LNP government, and not the public.

Regardless of your personal opinion of the man, there can be no doubt that he acted in the public interest in taking his story, with videos and texts as proof, to van Onselen. Whatever his other motives are, and is there one among us without complex motives for much of what we do, he acted in the public interest, which is all that need concern us as citizens struggling to deal with the outrages visited upon us by a government entirely bereft of all morality. 

“Belief” is not enough to justify legislation to reveal private data

4 Mar

government-snooping

 

On Thursday, in the midst of public outrage at Human Services Minister Alan Tudge’s doxxing of a Centrelink user, legislation allowing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to give private information to the media passed through the lower house with bipartisan support, and almost unnoticed.

The power to legally release a citizen’s private information to the media is argued by politicians as necessary, in order for agencies  to respond to people they believe are deliberately misleading the public and in so doing, undermining the public’s confidence in that agency.

Look. I could write an entire post on the irony of citizens undermining confidence in agencies. Think robo-debt for a start. It’s my “belief” that there’s no citizen alive capable of inflicting as much damage on government agencies as they inflict upon themselves, all too often exacerbated by the minister supposed to lead them. Nobody could undermine public confidence in Centrelink better than Hank Jongen and Alan Tudge.

The significant words in the justification for this legislation are they believe. Government agencies and ministers do not have to prove you are deliberately misleading the public and undermining an agency. They simply have to believe you are in order to legally release your private data.

Of course you can fight them after the fact. You can take them to court to make them prove their belief. But by then you’re all over the media, you’re traumatised, and it’s too late. Governments have deep pockets, and you most likely do not.

You have also compulsorily supplied agencies with the very information they now intend to use against you, because they believe your complaints, impressions, and opinions undermine them.

I’ve carefully re-read the article by Andie Fox that caused Alan Tudge to release her data to Fairfax because he “believed” her commentary undermined public confidence in Centrelink.

Ms Fox wrote an opinion piece. It consists almost entirely of how she felt during her encounters with Centrelink. The only points of dispute Tudge could find are a couple of dates, and numbers of phone calls.

According to Alan Tudge, this is sufficient to undermine public confidence in Centrelink, and justifies his release of her private data to Fairfax. Clearly, this is an absolutely ridiculous claim on Tudge’s part, and an abhorrent abuse of his power.

In fact, the power of Ms Fox’s piece is not in a Tudge-like gotcha game with the agency, but rather in her subjective experience of engaging with Centrelink, one with which thousands and thousands of other users can identify.

What Tudge’s reaction demonstrates is that we absolutely cannot trust ministers and senior public servants to exercise good judgement in their use of this legislation.

It demonstrates that citizens must not tolerate legislation that is so open to abuse by ministers and senior public servants, legislation that is based solely on the grounds of their beliefs.

Politicians need to fully explain why they need such legislation in the first place, and in the second, why they feel the need to extend it to include veterans. It wouldn’t have anything to do with military personnel speaking out about the ADF’s stance on the effects of anti-malarial drug Mefloquine, would it?

No senior public servant and no minister should have the power to publicly release a citizen’s private data simply because he or she believes there may be an adverse outcome for an agency. This is an attempt by politicians to silence all dissent by instilling a terror of possible consequences.

Supplying private data to these agencies is compulsory. Politicians are demanding that in handing over our private data, we also agree to their release of it to media should they believe any public commentary we make might adversely affect their interests.

This is an untenable situation for citizens, and a massive over-reach on the part of politicians.

Postscript: Acting Senate Clerk Richard Pye has acknowledged that Tudge’s release of private data may have a “chilling effect” on witnesses at next week’s inquiry into Centrelink Robo-Debt. 

Mr Pye has warned that any attempts at interference with witnesses will be considered to be contempt. 

We have a government that has to be warned not to interfere with witnesses in a Senate inquiry. Think about that. 

 

%d bloggers like this: