Whistleblowers Not Welcome at New Statesman/Frontline Debate 57

The New Statesman and Frontline Club are holding a debate at Kensington Town Hall on Saturday on the subject of whistleblowing. I was invited to be on the panel, and then my invitation was abruptly withdrawn. The main interest will of course be Julian Assange, but I should have liked to have contributed from my own, very difficult experience.

What is really annoying is that, having disinvited me, they are now discussing whistleblowing without a single whistleblower on the panel. Julian always states (quite rightly) that he is not a whistleblower, but rather publishes things leaked by whistleblowers. The motion is:

“This house believes whistleblowers make the world a safer place”

For the motion:
Julian Assange, Wikileaks
Clayton Swisher, al-Jazeera
Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman

Against the motion:
David Richmond, ex Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Bob Ayers, ex US Department of Defence
Douglas Murray, Henry Jackson Society

Not only is there no whistleblower allowed on the panel, it enables Ayers and Richmond to portray unchallenged their views on what is practically necessary as seen from inside government. I have nothing against Swisher or Hasan, but they are general talking heads, as is Douglas Murray.

It is a complete mystery to me why I should be invited, then uninvited. This is the exchange of emails:

Dear Craig,

I am writing from the Frontline Club in regards to a debate we are organising with the New Statesman on Saturday 9 April at 5pm in Kensington Town Hall, London for which we would like to invite you to speak. It will be a two-sided adversarial debate, the motion being “The house believes whistleblowers make the world a safer place”. Joining you on stage will be Julian Assange, Mehdi Hasan (the New Statesman’s senior political editor), Douglas Murray and others to be confirmed. You will find further details of the content of the debate below. Please do let me know if you think you will be available. We only announced the event late last week and it has already sold out. It is sure to be a brilliant debate and we would love for you to join us.

Best Regards,
Ryan Gallagher

To which I replied:


I should be delighted.


Which was confirmed with:


Excellent news. We are very pleased to have you on board. You will be a valuable addition to the panel.

There are more details of the event here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/03/debate-assange-wikileaks

It will take place between 5pm-6.30pm on 9th April and it is likely there will also be some kind of after party.

I will be back in touch soon with more details. Until then, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch.

Best regards and many thanks,


Which was followed up with this rather strange one:

Dear Craig,

Would you be able to hold off announcing you appearance at the debate for a few days? We are going to formally announce. Sorry, I should have made this clear in my initial email.

Many thanks,


To which I innocently replied:

oops, too late!! But nobody reads my blog any way. I’ll edit it out and hope nobody noticed. Can you not find a larger venue?


At which stage it started to become clear that I was being eased off the panel with:

Dear Craig,

Thanks for editing your blog. The structure and panel for the debate is still subject to confirmation you see, so we cannot 100% confirm at this stage because the details may change. We have sent out numerous invites and at this point are waiting on several replies before the final panel will be selected by the editorial team. We would like to have you involved, but until the format is decided I cannot say in what capacity as the decision is not up to me.

I’ll get back to you as soon as I possibly can on this.

As for the venue, we are not in a position to get a larger one. We had no idea the demand would be so great and have already signed with Kensington.

I’ll be in touch again asap.



Not being the only whistleblower in the world, and seeing that the New Statesman were desperate to withdraw their invitation, I therefore offered to stand down in favour of another whistleblower:


I quite understand. if you do not include me in the panel, I do hope you will nonetheless find room for at least one actual whistleblower. Julian is the first to say he is in the position of an editor who publishes the revelations of whistleblowers. Dan Ellsberg might very possibly come – he is passionate about the subject matter and really the godfather of us all.

I should not wish to participate in any capacity other than one of the main speakers in the debate. You will perhaps understand that in my position it would be difficult for me to accept that my views on whistleblowing, if on nothing else, should command less respect than those of Douglas Murray or Mehdi Hasan. It would, I think, look pretty strange to the audience too.


To which they replied:


Good to hear from you. We have already been on to the wonderful Daniel Ellsberg but it is his 80th birthday that weekend and he is celebrating in the states. Your email will certainly be noted and I completely understand where you are coming from.

I’ll try and get back to you as soon as I possibly can.



But they never did “Get back to me”. Then yesterday they published the final panel for the debate, not only excluding me but excluding any actual whistleblowers.

I phoned Ryan Gallagher from Turkey and said I thought it was impolite of him not to have contacted me before they published the panel. I also suggested that it was very strange to have this debate without any whistleblowers. He said that they were anxious that whistleblowers should not be excluded, and that one or two whistleblowers might be invited to make a statement.

This really is pathetic by the Frontline Club, an organisation for which I had a fair amount of respect.

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57 thoughts on “Whistleblowers Not Welcome at New Statesman/Frontline Debate

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  • Will Rowan

    Question submitted:

    "Much as I applaud the work of some panel members to make information transparent, none has first hand experience of whistleblowing.
    Which whistleblower(s) do they admire, and would have wished to have heard from today?"

    Since the 'fficial event is full, would it be in the spirit of whistleblowing to hold an alternative conversation, nearby…. ?

  • mike cobley

    A reverse-ferret of unusual alacrity, wouldn't you say? Surely the procedure would be to come up with a list of possibles and clear it with a superior before issuing invitations – one wonders what happened subsequent to the invite which induced such a lithe about-face.

  • WikiSpooks

    One or other (or more) of the 'Against's', will have made it crystal clear that they would decline to appear on the same platform as that man Murray – in the strictest of confidences naturally. I'd nominate the ex-FCO guy but I guess there's little to choose between them.

    I trust that the Frontline Club may shortly discover that they too have the odd whistleblower among their own insiders. We may then get chapter and verse on the matter.

    • Phil

      I'm sure this is right. How craven of the Frontline club and New Statesman to go along with it though, rather than publish details of who made the demand. Sounds like the whole event is being rigged. I'm not surprised as regards to the NS, but disappointed with the Frontline Club.

  • Alan Taylor

    I wish I could say that I was surprised about this development, massaging the panel at a "debate"
    which Assange is to participate in.. Will there be a list of approved questions the attendees may ask
    of Assange, or will unapproved and unscripted questions and comments be off limits??

    Alan Taylor
    PGPBOARD Administrator
    London, England

  • JimmyGiro

    How odd that they should have sold out, prior to having published a panel member list?

    Sounds like it was the mention of Assange, therefore it will be populated by his groupies, throwing their knickers and used condoms at the panel.

    "WAAAAAA…. We love you Julian… SPLODGE!!!"

  • Eddie-G

    I'll just put it out there that one or more of the invitees objected to your being there, and the organisers caved to their demands. That's how these things often play out.

    I do however question the sense of including Julian Assange on the panel – not because I have anything against him or Wikileaks, and certainly not because he will be a focal point of the debate, but can we really expect him to give full and frank answers with the various legal issues in the background? It's no secret that the US government is trying to get Assange and others at Wikileaks implicated as co-conspirators with Bradley Manning, so just seems to me that he can't talk about concrete, current examples of whistleblowers. So in other words, he can't fully participate in the debate.

    • Deep green puddock.

      Are you speaking from knowledge or making an educated speculation?

  • ingo

    It sounds like the guilt over your mysterious illness has gotten the better of the FCO, they could not face being confronted with the facts. I fear that this also looks bad for Julian, indeed if I was him, I would decline and point to the fact that the meeting was rigged.
    looks like the coalition of the damned are out to get him extradited and this is a brilliant opportunity to put him into a corner.

    If you read this Julian, now is the time to realise who is supporting you and who is not, jump, for your own sake, you cannot afford to let these people put up barriers between those who have supported progressive thoughts openess and accountability. You are being stitched up!

  • Deep green puddock.

    Rather an interesting situation described here. I went to a film last night about North Korea, with a discussion afterwards.( the Mad Brueggers film documentary). I was struck by the way virtually all people, those in the film ( both N. Koreans and Danish) , those watching, those commenting, those on the panel ( Korea experts) all construct narrow narratives which are internally consistent with their own pre-selected ideas-according to theior personal experience ( or non-experience) , and self-serving, self aggrandizing or self -confirmatory to some degree.

    The Whistleblower occupies some social space outside these circles, or bubbles of thought, which are usually carefully judged to merely nudge one another gently, merge briefly and usually withdraw unchanged, lest they spill the guts of the illusions that so much of everyone's internal world is based upon. We revert quickly to safety. Only so much reality is tolerable at any one time. and at the moment I think many of us are reeling with post -modern consciousness.


  • Guest

    If I were Julian Assange, Clayton Swisher or Mehdi Hasan I would withdrew from the event.

  • vronsky

    Hmmm. So Assange is 'safe' but you are not? What's that queer, prickling déja vu feeling I'm getting? Shit, must've left the tinfoil hat in the taxi again.

  • Castellio

    I can't help but think they thought an Al-Jazeera connection had more clout than a Craig Murray connection. More "of the time" and 'international' so to speak.

    Bad form in terms of process, however.

  • Suhaylsaadi

    Oh, it's their little phony in-crowd. Yes, it seems odd to invite someone so wholeheartedly and then to dis-invite them – and you've had identical experiences to this one so often that I cannot believe it is simply coincidence or some kind of misplaced snobbery. I think it's possible that they've been warned off. The intelligence services will not forgive and have memories longer than that of an elephant. They will hold grudges just because they hold grudges; their behaviour often moves an irrational orbits. But of course, it is entirely rational to deny you a public platform. Douglas Murray and Mehdi Hassan – a good 'face' double-act, and that's it. Neither is 'real' in the sense that you are real, Craig. These forums do not want real people, they aim render the illusion of reality. They are worse than straightforward censorship because they systemically disempower. The New Statesman is almost archetypal in this regard.

    • Ruth

      It was most probably the intelligence services but rather than a grudge maybe they continue the isolation of Craig to set an example, to show other operatives, diplomats etc what will happen to them if they don't tow the line. Also I think they fear Craig because he's honest and well-respected and given enough publicity could gather a large following.

  • Ishmael

    Yes, the world is a hostile place for whistle blowers. While not positive, I would say any person thinking of doing so would consider the matter carefully beforehand. History is littered with the living dead, suffering an eternity of pain. Even when they recover, they never forget. A shadow of their former self. Destroyed lives and families. It is also completely dangerous, some having committed "suicide" I applaude any person who does so, and they carry my full admiration.

  • Michael.K


    After all you've been through, your 'innocence' and idealism does you credit. The New Statesman has really gone downhill.

    I think they regard you as a loose cannon. You obviously went native in Uzbekistan, and never really came back again, into the fold. Also what really did it was the public assertion, from the heart, that "Zionism is bullshit!" that kind of thing one just, can, not, say.

    • Suhaylsaadi

      Yes, indeed, sir, you're definitely not allowed to 'go native'. Oh no, perish the thought! The New Statesman has a 'house style', you know! Have to keep up appearances, after all – for the good of the natives, you know…

  • Phil Palmer

    I'm waiting for them to complain that you have published their emails. How dare a whistleblower blow the whistle on a whistleblower debate?

  • DRE

    FC is full of spooks & dubious FCO types. Julian should choose better friends, no?

  • somebody

    The NS owner – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Danson

    and the guest editor – Guest editors

    In March 2009 the magazine had its second guest editor (the first being Estelle Morris during her time as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the British Government), Alastair Campbell, the former head of communications for Tony Blair. Campbell chose to feature Fiona Millar (his own partner), Tony Blair (in an article "Why we must all do God"), football manager Alex Ferguson, and Sarah Brown (Gordon Brown's wife). This editorship was condemned by Suzanne Moore, a contributor to the magazine for twenty years. She wrote in a Mail on Sunday article: "the New Statesman fiercely opposed the Iraq war and yet now hands over the reins to someone key in orchestrating that conflict".[13] Campbell responded: "I had no idea she worked for the New Statesman. I don't read the Mail on Sunday. But professing commitment to leftwing values in that rightwing rag lends a somewhat weakened credibility to anything she says."[14]

    No wonder it has gone down the tube.

  • Michael.K

    I was once "vetted", at a lovely lunch at the Ritz, but alas I was found wanting. Subsequently, I found out that the magazine editor/owner had close links to the intelligence services. I wondered why he was so interested in my, admittedly, "colourful" background and political views. I was, at the time, so clearly a born and radiant whistleblower that it was clear to any fool that I wasn't the right kind of material for the security services, even though I did have lots of other valuable qualities, which was why I was being weighed on the scales in the first place.

  • conjunction

    Clayton Swisher is close to being a whistleblower. he was part of the US team at the Camp David peace talks at the end of Bill Clinton's presidency and immediately after wrote an excellent book deconstructing the US position as pro Israeli, simultaneously resigning his position.

    • ingo

      that was a long time ago, what has Swisher done since? and why is this debate loaded to suit the FCO and the US department of defense?
      The whole set up stinks to high heaven and the frontline club should really not partake in such deliberate cornering. We all know that Julian found refuge there, but his progress through the courts has been tinged with the flavour of revenge.

      • angrysoba

        "that was a long time ago, what has Swisher done since? and why is this debate loaded to suit the FCO and the US department of defense? "

        But isn't the point that he WAS a whistleblower so that even if it was A LONG TIME AGO, his contribution isn't worthless?

        After all, the Pentagon Papers was A LONG TIME AGO, does that mean that Ellsberg's contribution was worthless and that his voice would be too?

        If the suppressed premise that once a whistelblower you will forever be outside of the establishment is true then how could Swisher have been a whistleblower since?

        Anyway, more to the point, who was the guy who refused to debate Mr Murray? My bet is on the FCO guy. I think some others might be more inclined to think it was the other Murray but I doubt it as he seems to relish debating anyone.

        I would really have enjoyed the Clash of the Murrays debate. But many of these debates are to real arguments what pro-wrestling is to real fights.

  • paul

    All those days in the year to choose from and they "accidentally" chose his birthday so he cant come.
    How can you whistle blow that the US is pro-Israeli? Thats like whistleblowing that the sky is blue, its not a secret.

    • conjunction

      Well actually it was popularly thought even emong pro-palestinians that it was they, or in particular Arafat who 'blew' the 1999 peace summit. Swisher spelt out how the US loaded the dice.

      You might just as well say that Craig wasn't a whistleblower because it wasn't a secret that those central Asian republics were corrupt.

      There is a tendency on this site to be completely uncritical of Craig, among his supporters, and now we're even expected to be interested in exactly what he's doing at 4pm every day.


      • glenn_uk

        Oh we do have disagreements from time to time, as it happens, and as was explained – the 4pm thing was just another feature being thrown into the mix as a novelty. It's one of many that have been put in and later dropped.

        But while it might be popularly thought that the Palestinians 'blew' the peace accord, that doesn't make such a notion the truth. A lot of popular notions are fanciful or plain wrong.

  • somebody

    Is Julian Assange still electronically tagged to that place in East Anglia that belongs to the |Frontline Club's owner? So much for freedom of speech and freedom of movement.

    This on medialens – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will fight a British judge's decision to extradite him to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault in a two-day hearing in July, it was announced on Wednesday. The hearing at the High Court in London will take place on July 12-13, the court said. Assange is appealing after District Judge Howard Riddle ruled in February that extradition to Sweden would not breach his human rights.

    And what's happening to Bradley Manning meanwhile? Are Obomber and Co still trying to drive him out of his mind??

  • Michael.K

    There's a fault-line in UK politics, the New Statesman, which is a left/liberal/progressive magazine, (whaterver any of those labels really mean today, but that's another question), reflects this schism, and it's an important one. Was Tony Blair merely an honest man who made an honest mistake in relation to the invasion of Iraq, a democrat who should be respected even though one doesn't share his views; or was he a criminal, warmonger, who knew exactly what he was doing.

    Obviously there are profound implications about the nature of our democracy, if leading memebers of Blair's government, and others were involved in what amounted to a criminal conspiracy to attack Iraq and change its regime for one we found more palatable, and the mainstream, liberal/left, illustrated by the New Statesman, won't touch this issue with a bargepole.

    The Assange Affair is also a very controversial issue which the New Statesman, and other bastions of 'liberalism' like the Independent, the Guardian, and the Observer, don't quite know how to deal with. If Assange is an innocent man being stitched-up by the Americans and their new best friends, the Swedes; that is, the affair is Political through and through; this once again has profound implications, which many people simply don't want to address or think about.

  • Suhaylsaadi

    I'm sure that if each of the people who regularly or sporadically post here and agree with what you do, Craig, would at every pertinent opportunity allude or give a link to one of your posts in a sort of 'virally' on the web, including on social networking sites, etc., the 'establishment' (and I include such 'platforms' as the one you have described within that somewhat hackneyed yet still useful umbrella term) will not be successful in 'blacklisting' knowledge of your views, experience and activities and most importantly of the issues you raise. But it will require a concerted, sustained and almost obsessional (in the positive sense) effort. Do you have Facebook and Twitter pages – not personal ones, I mean 'political' ones, open to the public?

  • somebody

    The snakes under the hay in Libya, so to speak.

    The MI6 'help-Gadaffi project'
    Thursday 07 April 2011 by Solomon Hughes

    As the British government crosses its fingers and hopes lobbing missiles and diplomatic initiatives around Libya will break up Muammar Gadaffi's state machine, it is worth remembering how much effort it put into building it up in the first place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monitor_Group See the long roll call of previous employees at the bottom of the page and see where they are embedded now.

    • angrysoba

      I didn't read the Morning Star link you put there but I did put the word "aquifer" using the highlighter option on Google and yet no mention of Gadaffi's aquifer project came up. Should I have looked harder?

  • somebody

    Right now, Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning is being tortured in a US military prison. Manning is subjected to utter isolation that can drive many people insane, with short periods each day where he is stripped naked and abused by jeering inmates.

    Manning is awaiting trial for releasing secret military documents to Wikileaks – including a video of US soldiers massacring Iraqi civilians. And his brutal treatment appears to be part of an intimidation campaign to silence whistleblowers and crack down on Wikileaks. The US government is split on this issue, with diplomats publicly criticizing the military for Manning's treatment, but President Obama has stood aside so far.

    PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION http://www.avaaz.org/en/bradley_manning_2/?cl=100

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