Monday, November 25, 2013

Whistleblowing - Some Thoughts

Dr. Fredrik von Kieseritzky, aka Dr. Freddy, the author of the Synthetic Remarks blog has stated that he is willing to be the "whistle blower" for anyone that knows of corruption within the world of chemistry. While I admire his ambitions and his objective, ("sunshine is the best disinfectant"), this is effort may come with a heavy price for anyone involved in it.

1) While Dr. Freddy thinks he has the law on his side to protect your anonymity, I would seriously recommend that any potential whistle blower think again. All he can supply for support is a link to a Wikipedia page. Very seldom is the law ever clear. Even something as simple as a point of the US Constitution has volumes of case law that are necessary to interpret a simple sentence, and that case law is often not static but changes over time. The fact that Sergeant Bradley Manning is spending 35 years in a military prison while Julian Assange is free says that you need to think long and hard about what it means to be a whistleblower. Swedish law will protect you while you are in Sweden and will not protect you anywhere else. Hire a Swedish lawyer before you proceed so you can go in with your eyes wide open.

2) While Dr. Freddy has suggestions about how to avoid detection (all of which seems pretty good), I would still emphasize caution. As the recent episodes with Mr. Snowden showed, the reach of the NSA or other agencies is far greater than we can possibly imagine. The fact that the Russian President Mr. Putin is using typewriters strongly suggests that the NSA is not gathering information by hacking PGP keys or other security features, but may in fact have the ultimate backdoor via firmware. If they want access to your computer, they will get it and short of disconnecting it from any network, you probably can't stop it.

3) Institutions with damaging information intentionally limit access to it, not only so that it is less likely to be leaked, but also so that they can quickly identify possible leakers. If you know damaging information and leak it, don't think that you won't be under suspicion, especially if you have history of stating your dissatisfaction.

As for Dr. Freddy, I need to caution him as well. Consider the case of a Mr. Dan Rather, who used to be the lead reporter for the US's CBS News. Back in 2004 when President George W. Bush was up for reelection, Dan got a copy of letters that showed that Bush was disobeying orders while in the Air Guard back in the 70's. Dan and all the resources at CBS agreed that the letter was in fact authentic and so they ran the story. As soon as release it, it became clear that the documents could not have been prepared on a typewriter for that that time period. Dan had been duped by a liberal/Democratic operative that didn't want to see George Bush reelected. Firings and lawsuits soon followed. The person that gave Dan the letters was left unharmed.

I can't imagine that Dr. Freddy has better resources to authenticate documents. Further, I'm not sure what the Swedish laws are regarding libel and other defamatory remarks are, but I can't imagine that they take to kindly to publishing damaging words that are untrue.

A whistleblowing site is quite different than finding fraudulent published papers such as has been done by Paul Bracher, Stuart Cantrill and others. In these cases, the authentication of the papers is never an issue - they are accessible from the publishers website. Paul, Stuart and others are pointing out items within the papers that look suspicious.

Again, I understand what Dr. Freddy is trying to accomplish and I support his actions. But I would strongly advise caution for him and any potential whistleblowers. I think the issues that I've raised here are serious enough that it should give pause to both sides. People not involved in this may be cheering the whistleblowing on (who doesn't love to see a trainwreck), but since they have nothing to lose, it's easy support to give. That support won't be there when trouble arises. The people will, watching excitedly the next phase of the trainwreck, but their support won't.


@karldcollins said...

I love the though of the ACS having the same capabilities as NSA. Looks like tomorrow will be spent smashing my round bottom flaskS, and disassembling my stirrer plates looking for bugs!

@karldcollins said...

Hi, are the comments broken? My moderately amusing thought about the ACS bugging my hotplates only last about ten minutes. Thanks, Karl

John said...

I don't know about any problems, but since Google runs the site, I can see them being in cahoots with the ACS as well.

DrFreddy said...

Hi, thank you for clarifying several most important issues. I have replied to your post over at my page, <a href=">here</a>.

DrFreddy said...

Hm, that hyperlink didn't work as intended. Could you fix it? Thanks.

John said...


I can't fix the broken link (missing closing quotations mark), but I can post it here.

Thanks for your reply; sorry I didn't get back to this sooner, but we just had a major 4-5 day holiday here in the US.

John said...


Somehow your comment got caught up in Google's spam filter. Strange, because it normally does a pretty good job in filtering what is spam from what is not. Which maybe, in a dark and sinister way supports my argument...