Whistleblowing, Classification, and the U.S. Public Interest: What Reforms Are Possible?

It is now two years since whistleblower Edward Snowden shocked the world with his disclosures about mass surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).

In the United States reactions to his revelations have ranged from the Secretary of State urging him to “man up” and return from Russia to face espionage charges, to an outpouring of support from the civil and privacy rights communities.

Internationally, Snowden has garnered support from a a wide range of individuals and organizations. Most recently, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted overwhelmingly for a resolution that calls on “the United States of America to allow Mr. Snowden to return without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.”

What is understood by the public interest defense in Europe and elsewhere? How are persons who disclose national security classified information treated in other democracies? What has changed since the Snowden and Manning disclosures? How is, and should, the public interest be taken into consideration in classification and declassification determinations? What trends can be observed concerning classification and declassification? Are there areas where progress could be made in advancing consideration of the public interest?

Join the Open Society Foundations for an expert panel discussion about the public interest and whistleblowing.