The Code Red project is launched as whistleblowers warn of unprecedented threats to privacy

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BERLIN The whistleblower community turned out in force last night in Berlin for the launch of the long-awaited Code Red security accountability project.

The Code Red initiative was created by veteran privacy activist Simon Davies in response to mounting concerns that government surveillance and intrusion has escalated – despite the Snowden national security disclosures in 2013. The project will work to accelerate reform of secret institutions and will provide support and strategic advice for whistleblowers in those domains.

The Berlin event was attended by numerous high-profile whistleblowers, including former senior NSA officials William Binney and Thomas Drake along with former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon. On the previous day, Binney had received the Sam Adams Award for integrity in intelligence.

The Code Red launch in Berlin was attended by numerous whistleblowers and activists, including former senor NSA executives William Binney (left), Thomas Drake and MI5 officer Annie Machon

The Code Red launch in Berlin was attended by numerous whistleblowers and activists, including former senor NSA executives William Binney (left) and Thomas Drake and MI5 officer Annie Machon

Code Red’s steering group includes many influential figures in civil society, among them former US Congress member and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, former Wikimedia General Counsel Mike Godwin, Sunil Abraham, head of CIS India, OpenMedia’s David Christopher, Access Now’s Raegan McDonald, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s International Rights Director Katitza Rodriguez and the former editor of Index on Censorship Judith Vidal-Hall.

The group also includes respected figures in the tech sector, including Jacob Appelbaum, the celebrated hacker who works at the core of Wikileaks, the Tor project and the Snowden disclosures, Whitfield Diffie, one of the pioneers of public key cryptography and Bruce Schneier, possibly the world’s most influential security expert.

The Berlin event was also an opportunity to launch Code Red’s mandate, which sets out the group’s foundation beliefs:

“Security and law enforcement officials who are entrusted with responsibility to protect public safety have a duty to embrace the highest standards of accountability and integrity in all their actions. This duty is even more pressing in times of heightened security.

“Investigatory agencies – whether police, security or revenue authorities – cannot build public trust if they operate outside a rigorous framework of accountability. And in an environment of institutional secrecy, those agencies will inevitably become dysfunctional and unlawful. Agencies that operate improperly – or outside their mandate – are inimical to the public good.

“Citizens who seek – through measures that are necessary, proportionate and non-violent – to bring openness and honesty to such agencies, are serving the highest public duty. Where agencies fail to respect this public duty, it is the responsibility of the public to take swift and effective action to bring reform. Such actions ensure that standards of decency, lawfulness, and fairness are maintained throughout the conduct of security and law enforcement organisations.

“Code Red aims to support and promote initiatives that bring agencies to account. It will provide advice and resources to assist people who are committed to the goal of protecting individual freedoms, privacy and the integrity of agencies. It will seek out and share information, build dynamic networks and coalitions, create strategic resources and provide bridges between communities in civil society, technical domains and the legal and policy worlds. Above all, Code Red will take innovative and uncompromising action to ensure that society is protected against agencies that threaten privacy and liberty.

Davies told attendees that Code Red was being launched at a critically important moment in history. With global tensions spiraling because of terrorist alerts, security and law enforcement agencies needed to be brought to account over their surveillance activities.

Code Red will host a larger public event later this year to outline its programme of activities for the coming year.