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Courage launches with a message from Edward Snowden

Courage – the organisation that runs Edward Snowden’s official defence fund and this website – held its launch event in Berlin on 11 June 2014.

Edward Snowden sent a message to the event, in which he recognised the importance of “a new and growing level of solidarity among civil liberties groups” in generating momentum against mass surveillance and for the prorection of truthtellers.

If the government won’t protect whistleblowers, if government will not pass necessary and vital reforms to say that citizens who witness crimes or who witness waste, fraud, and abuse, or who witness extraordinary abuse in government programs and authorities, we will protect them as a global society. That’s what the Courage Foundation means to me.

In addition to fundraising for Edward Snowden’s legal and public defence, Courage will support others in the future who risk life or liberty to make significant contributions to the historical record. Courage also campaigns for the protection of truthtellers and the public’s right to know generally.

A full transcript follows below.

Hello. If we learned anything from last year, it’s that the difference between success and failure can be determined by the level of solidarity amongst those campaigning for reform. And there is a lot of work still to be done in pushing back against mass surveillance, against over-classification, against the abuse of government authorities and programmes to do things that we, the public, never authorised and would never authorise and in fact in the past explicitly rejected authorisation for.
 
And if we are going to get the information we need to participate in our democracy, if we’re going to get the information we need as a public, around the world, to vote for representatives who will champion not corporate interests, not military interests and not official interests but the public interest, we have to have this kind of information about what our government is doing against us and what our government is doing in our name.
 
Now, we don’t need to know the details of absolutely every operation, but we need to know the broad outline of our government’s behaviour and its activities. Because if we don’t, the government becomes a force unto itself – not a public servant, but a public master.
 
And, I used to worry that that was what the future would look like. That over time, we as the public would see more and more of our authorities, officials who were no longer accountable, who no longer face any sort of retaliation, no longer face any justice when they cross the line, when they overreach, or when they simply break the law.
 
But over the last year I have been encouraged that we have reached a turning point and we can finally begin to push back and reclaim our governments.
 
A big reason for this confidence is the fact that we have these new organisations, that we have a new and growing level of solidarity among civil liberties groups, press organisations around the world that say, “enough is enough”.
 
If the government won’t protect whistleblowers, if government will not pass necessary and vital reforms to say that citizens who witness crimes or who witness waste, fraud, and abuse, or who witness extraordinary abuse in government programs and authorities, we will protect them as a global society. That’s what the Courage Foundation means to me.
 
It means we, the public, have a new rapid response team for global democracy – that when they see someone facing unjustified retaliation for performing a public service we can stand up, raise the alert and, together, rally to their defence to say that sometimes the only way to push back against unconstitutional programs is to open the doors and let in the sunlight.
 
So once again, I’d like to thank everyone here for joining us in congratulating the Courage Foundation, and wishing them the best of success in the future.