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The Dangers of Treating Whistleblowers as Spies

Jun 24 09:00pm

Monday 21 June 2021, by siawi3


Jun 24 09:00pm
The Dangers of Treating Whistleblowers as Spies

By Press Freedom Defense Fund · Unlisted

Presented by First Look Institute’s Press Freedom Defense Fund and The Intercept in partnership with Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic

Whistleblowers, who in recent years have exposed the U.S government’s unlawful surveillance, war crimes, and violations of civil liberties, face imprisonment for their acts of conscience. Why are they treated as spies?

The World War I-vintage Espionage Act has become the U.S. government’s blunt instrument to suppress information that the public needs to know.

Join Daniel Ellsberg and our panel of First Amendment and civil rights experts as they discuss his and other Espionage Act cases, the lack of a public interest or First Amendment defense, and the prospects for reforming or repealing the Espionage Act.

Speakers include:

Gadeir Abbas, senior litigation attorney, Council on American-Islamic Relations

Daniel Ellsberg, former Defense and State Department official who revealed the Pentagon Papers

David Schulz, director of Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, and member of the Press Freedom Defense Fund Advisory Committee

Moderated by Vanessa Gezari, national security editor, The Intercept, and adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School

Introduction by Tom Rosenstiel, executive director, the American Press Institute and member of the Press Freedom Defense Fund Advisory Committee.

Contribute to Support Whistleblowers and Threatened Journalists

We continue to fight for the rights and freedoms of whistleblowers and journalists everywhere.

To support the work of the Press Freedom Defense Fund, click “donate” below or visit

The Press Freedom Defense Fund is a program of the First Look Institute, a recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations to First Look Institute are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable under the law.

About the Press Freedom Defense Fund

Since its launch in 2017, the Press Freedom Defense Fund (PFDF) has become a globally recognized defender of First Amendment rights worldwide by providing legal resources to those who risk everything to expose corruption. While other organizations provide support to ensure information transparency or engage in strategic litigation, PFDF is unique. No other organization consistently remedies the devastating personal injury caused to the under-resourced reporter, isolated whistleblower, or struggling news outlet.

At PFDF, success is measured by security: reporters should be able to do their jobs without having to evade persecution or combat legal prosecution. This guiding principle is especially vital today, when the systematic silencing of the press has never felt so widespread and dire.

In addition to education and training initiatives, PFDF provides grants to support imperiled news agents’ legal defense—but does not pay all of the legal expenses in any particular case. Rather, grants are designed to attract lawyers to a case and to unlock more value toward its defense. Since its founding, PFDF has taken on dozens of individual cases, successfully defended press freedom, protected and strengthened media law—and, crucially, enhanced modern understanding of free speech as a foundational right.

About First Look Institute

First Look Institute is a nonprofit organization that champions fearless investigative journalism, innovative and cinematic nonfiction filmmaking, and provides essential legal support to protect the right to a free and open society and press.