The-heroism-of- David-Mcbride

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    John Kiriakou is a former C.I.A. counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

    The Heroism of David McBride (John Kiriakou)

    Sometimes a whistleblower does everything right. He or she makes a revelation that is clearly in the public interest. The revelation is clearly a violation of the law. And then he or she is even more clearly abused by the government. It would be great if these stories always had happy endings. Unfortunately, they don’t. In this case, the whistleblower, the hero, Australian David McBride has been sentenced to five years and eight months in prison for telling the truth. He will not be eligible for parole for 27 months. David McBride is former British Army officer and a lawyer with the Australian Special Forces who blew the whistle on war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, specifically the killing of 39 unarmed Afghan prisoners, farmers, and civilians in 2012. After failing to raise a response through official channels, McBride shared the information with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which published a series of major reports based on the material.

    The ABC broadcasts in 2017 led to a major inquiry that upheld many of the allegations. Despite this, the ABC and its journalists themselves came under threat of prosecution for their work on the story. The ABC offices in Sydney were raided by the national police, but in the end the government did not prosecute an ABC journalist because it was not in the public interest. McBride himself, however, was prosecuted for dissemination of official information. Let’s go back a few years. McBride at the time already was a seasoned attorney. After studying for a second law degree at Oxford University, he joined the British military and eventually moved back to Australia where he became a lawyer in the Australian Defence Forces (ADF). In that role he had two tours in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2013. While on deployment, McBride became critical of the terms of engagement and other regulations that soldiers were working under, which he felt were endangering military personnel for the sake of political imperatives determined elsewhere.

    By 2014 McBride had compiled a dossier into profound command failings that saw examples of potential war crimes in Afghanistan overlooked and other soldiers wrongly accused. His internal complaints were suppressed and ignored. McBride’s reports also looked at other matters, including the military’s handling of sexual abuse allegations. After his use of internal channels had proven ineffective, McBride gave his report to the police. And eventually, he contacted journalists at ABC. ABC’s Afghan Files documented several incidents of Australian soldiers killing unarmed civilians, including children, and questioned the prevalent “warrior culture” in the special forces. Subsequent to McBride’s disclosures, the behavior of other Coalition Special Forces in Afghanistan also came under sustained investigation.

    In many ways, McBride’s reports went further than the issues identified by ABC. Amid prevalent rumors that Australian troops were responsible for war crimes, questionable deaths in Afghanistan had led to calls for investigations. In November 2020, the Brereton report (formally called the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force Afghan Inquiry report) was published, utterly vindicating McBride and the ABC. Judge Paul Brereton found evidence of multiple incidents involving Australian personnel that had led to 39 deaths. Among his recommendations were the investigation of these incidents for possible future criminal charges. There would be almost no criminal charges, however. At least, there would be only one eventual criminal charge against one single soldier in the murder of Afghan civilians. There have been no charges against the officers who covered up the war crimes. Instead, though, there would be serious charges against McBride for “theft of government property” (the information) and for “sharing with members of the press documents classified as secret.” He faced life in prison.

    [..] First, just like in the United States, there are no protections for national security whistleblowers. McBride took his career — indeed, his life — into his hands when he decided to go public with his revelations. But what else could he do? Second, as in the United States, there is no affirmative defense. McBride, like Edward Snowden, Jeffrey Sterling, Daniel Hale and like me, was forbidden from standing up in court and saying, “Yes, I gave the information to the media because I witnessed a war crime or a crime against humanity. What I did was in the public interest.” Those words are never permitted to be spoken in a court in the United States or Australia.

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