Prisoners of Dissent — Locked Up for Exposing Crimes

Berlin · May 12 2017:

Conference series by Disruption Network Lab e.V.

Whistleblowers and truth-tellers persecuted for blowing the whistle, critical thinkers and activists meet to discuss countermeasures to detention and repression.

The 11th event of the Disruption Network Lab to celebrate the upcoming freedom of Chelsea Manning and launch the new book by John Kiriakou (CIA anti-torture whistleblower). Directed by Tatiana Bazzichelli.

With: John Kiriakou (CIA anti-torture whistleblower, USA); Annie Machon (former MI5 intelligence officer, UK/BE);
Annegret Falter (Chair Whistleblower Netzwerk e.V., DE); Magnus Ag (Senior Programm Officer, Freemuse, DK/DE); Silvanos Mudzvova (Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residency at The University of Manchester, ZWE/UK).

A growing number of whistleblowers, activists and truth-tellers have been charged with leaking or mishandling classified information under the Terrorism Act, Espionage Act, or theft of government property. The list of whistleblowers and truth-tellers that have been imprisoned for blowing the whistle is much longer today than in the past. PRISONERS OF DISSENT analyses this phenomenon to better understand this legal grey zone and presents political and technological countermeasures.

On May 17 Chelsea Manning will walk free after seven years of prison detention: we connect our conference to this important event discussing repression and detention in the framework of whistleblowing and truth-telling. John Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, Barrett Brown, Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Edward Snowden, but also Samy Kamkar, Thomas Drake, Jesselyn Radack, and Aaron Swartz, paid a high price for their principles.

Our speakers will analyse and critically discuss the legal and personal consequences of revealing classified information, and the meaning of Terrorism Act, Espionage Act, or theft of government property in the current legal, political and activist terms. Furthermore, we will discuss with the public tactics and strategies to engage in a democratic process of social justice towards the development of a participatory society.

Is the rule of law an illusion as Icelandic activist and politician Birgitta Jónsdóttir points out? Can we imagine interventions that will put pressure on politicians to introduce a collective universal law that protects whistleblowers? Can we think of different models to humanise and modernise our societies?


Friday May 12, 2017

19:00 – Doors open

19:30 – Keynote

Doing Time Like a Spy. On Prison Survival and the CIA's War on Terror
John Kiriakou (CIA anti-torture whistleblower, USA). Moderated by Magnus Ag (Senior Programm Officer, Freemuse, DK/DE)

CIA anti-torture whistleblower John Kiriakou is considered the first US intelligence officer to reveal information about the US intelligence community's use of torture techniques. A long-time former CIA official and case officer, John Kiriakou became an anti-torture whistleblower and activist when he told ABC News in December 2007 that the CIA was torturing Al Qaeda prisoners. Immediately after John's interview, the Justice Department initiated a years-long investigation, determined to find something–anything–to charge him with. John eventually was charged with three counts of espionage, one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and one count of making a false statement as a result of the 2007 ABC News interview. On February 28, 2013, after pleading guilty to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Kiriakou began serving his prison sentence. During this keynote presentation, Kiriakou will talk about the effects and costs of national security whistleblowing in the United States, as well as his book, Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison, to be released May 3, 2017 (published by Rare Bird Books, pre-order here). The book is Kiriakou's memoir of his twenty-three months in prison. Using twenty life skills he learned in CIA operational training, he was able to keep himself safe and at the top of the prison social heap. What were improper and inappropriate manipulations of Kiriakou, through maneuvers that were designed to break him, came an end result that only made him stronger.

21:00 – Panel

Annie Machon (former MI5 intelligence officer, UK/BE), Silvanos Mudzvova (Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residency at The University of Manchester, ZWE/UK, Magnus Ag (Senior Programm Officer, Freemuse, DK/DE). Moderated by Annegret Falter (Chair Whistleblower Netzwerk e.V., DE).
Final Q&A with the speakers and CIA anti-torture whistleblower John Kiriakou.

Presented in collaboration with the Whistleblower Netzwerk e.V., this panel reflects on the political, legal, social and personal consequences of whistleblowing and truth-telling. Speakers are Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the UK's Security Service MI5 who helped blow the whistle on the crimes and incompetence of the British spy agencies; Silvanos Mudzvova, artist and truth-teller persecuted for staging his one-man play 'Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share', criticising Zimbabwe's cash crisis and $15 billion USD raised from diamond sales that has gone missing; and international human rights advocate Magnus Ag, who works as senior programme officer at Freemuse, an international civil society organisation advocating and defending the right to artistic freedom worldwide. Moderated by Annegret Falter, chair of the Whistleblower Network of Germany, the panel presents personal experiences of repression and detention, and analyses the meaning of 'social agreement' in the information society, debating the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual, as well as discussing new forms of distributed social justice. CIA anti-torture whistleblower John Kiriakou will join the debate after the presentations.


John Kiriakou (CIA anti-torture whistleblower, USA),

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counter-terrorism officer, a former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a former terrorism consultant for ABC News. In 2007, he blew the whistle on the CIA's torture program in a nationally-televised interview. He is the winner of the prestigious PEN First Amendment Award and the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. He is the author of three books, such as The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror (2009), Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison (May 2017), and The Convenient Terrorist: Abu Zubaydah and the Weird Wonderland of America's Secret Wars (forthcoming June 2017).

Magnus Ag (@AgMagnus, Senior Program Officer, Freemuse, DK/DE)

Magnus Ag is a Berlin-based international human rights and freedom of expression advocate. He works at Freemuse, a CSO defending and promoting the right to artistic freedom worldwide. Prior to joining Freemuse in 2015, Magnus spent five years with the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, most recently as the organisation's Assistant Advocacy Director. He has led and participated in research missions to Bangladesh, Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan and Zimbabwe and advocacy missions in Ankara, Brussels, Geneva, New York, Rabat and Washington D.C. Magnus has previously worked in government for the Danish Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation and in journalism at the Danish news agency Ritzaus Bureau, and as a researcher on a book project about the Arctic. In 2007, he developed the first social media strategy for the Mayor of Auckland in New Zealand.

Annie Machon (former MI5 intelligence officer, UK/BE)

Annie Machon was an intelligence officer for the UK's Security Service, MI5, before resigning to help blow the whistle on the crimes and incompetence of the British spies. She is now a writer, media pundit, and international public speaker on a variety of related issues: the wars on terrorism, on whistleblowers, on drugs, and on the internet.  She is a member of the Sam Adams Associates, a global group of intelligence, diplomatic and military whistleblowers. Annie has an MA (Hons) Classics from Cambridge University. She is the author of Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers: MI5 and the David Shayler Affair (The Book Guild, 2005).

Silvanos Mudzvova (Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residency at The University of Manchester, ZWE/UK)

Silvanos Mudzvova has been involved in the struggle for greater democracy and for LGBT rights in his home country of Zimbabwe for several years. He endured harassment and beatings on a regular basis, and was openly monitored by state security agents from a car outside his home. He was hospitalised after six armed men abducted him from his home late in the evening on 13 September 2016, drove him out of the capital city of Zimbabwe and brutally tortured him. Since April 2016, Mudzvova had been performing his recent one-man play, 'Missing Diamonds, I Need My Share', criticising the country's cash crisis and $15 billion USD raised from diamond sales that has gone missing. He was arrested on 13 April 2016 for his first performance of the play, which he staged in front of Parliament, and was released later that same evening with several injuries. He was also arrested at the premiere of his play 'Final Push', which was seen by some as an instigation to remove Mugabe's party Zanu PF from power. Mudzvova has been awarded an Institute of International Education Artist Protection Fund Fellowship and is in residence at The University of Manchester (read more here).

Annegret Falter (Chair of the Whistleblower Netzwerk e.V., DE).

Dipl.-Pol. Annegret Falter works as an author and consultant in Berlin. She is the chairperson of Whistleblower-Netzwerk e.V. 1999-2014 she was a member of the jury bestowing the German Whistleblower Award donated by the Association of German Scientists (VDW) and by IALANA. Among the winners are Chelsea Manning, 2011 and Edward Snowden, 2013. Falter has written and edited numerous publications about whistleblower cases and issues of the political and social importance of whistleblowing. She analyses whistleblowing in the context of the public interest, of freedom of expression, of democratic discourse and political participation. She is a member of the German Science Journalist Association (WPK).


Funded by: the Reva & David Logan Foundation, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and the Open Society Initiative for Europe, part of Open Society Foundations. In cooperation with the Whistleblower Netzwerk e.V. and the Chelsea Manning Initiative Berlin. In collaboration with: Wau Holland Stiftung, The Artist Protection Fund (APF), Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) and the Resistance Study Initiative, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA.

Media partners: ExBerliner, Furtherfield.