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Where will Namaleaks lead us? The answer depends on you

Julien Mercille is a member of the Namaleaks team. He explains why the site was set up.

Julien Mercille Associate professor, UCD

AS REPORTED THIS this week, Mick Wallace TD and Clare Daly TD have launched a new whistleblower website called Namaleaks.

Namaleaks seeks to uncover poor practice within Nama as well as in domestic and foreign financial institutions.

This form of digital journalism offers anonymity and confidentiality to sources.

As David McWilliams put it, Ireland has become “a carcass over which vulture funds are feeding”. Properties controlled by Nama are being auctioned off to foreign funds which now control a significant number of Irish assets.

But those funds are not planning to stay in Ireland for too long. When the economic conditions are right, they will sell back those properties to Irish people at a hefty profit. This great fire sale was enabled by our government.

In addition, ordinary people run the risk of getting evicted from their houses where they have been paying their rent. This is what happened in Tyrrelstown, for example.

There has been some reporting on those issues, but the Namaleaks team (of which I am a part) believes that there is much more to reveal.

The goal is to get to the bottom of cases and bring more transparency to the way government and the private financial sector operate. Their actions affect us all.

Insiders

Relying on insiders is often the only way for journalists to lift the lid on what’s going on inside opaque institutions. We’ve seen the positive impact that individuals like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning have had on exposing the secret and immoral actions of the United States government around the world.

They have, at great personal cost, acted as catalysts for significant social change.

Earlier, during the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg did the same. He was an insider with access to secret intelligence documents in the United States.

He saw that the Vietnam War was wrong and that the US government was lying to its citizens. He then leaked the infamous Pentagon Papers to the media, and today is rightly recognised as a hero of the anti-war movement and beyond.

More recently, the Panama Papers and the Luxembourg Leaks exposed the workings of financial tax havens and shed light on global tax avoidance.

Courageous whistleblowers have thus played a major role in keeping power in account for decades.

A confidential and private whistleblowing system

Namaleaks was developed with experts in online whistleblowing systems who work closely with Edward Snowden.

They helped him leak his national security documents in the first place and analyse them after that. They are at the top of their game.

Online journalism has become increasingly important in recent years thanks to the development of new technologies underpinned by the internet.

Namaleaks is a product of those advances. It allows us to do more than traditional journalism, by collecting information in an anonymous and confidential manner. This provides sources with more protection than if they were talking to journalists in person.

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Indeed, those who want to contact Namaleaks can do so via Signal, which is an app working on mobile phones in a very similar way as Whatsapp, but offering more protection and confidentiality.

Alternatively, Namaleaks provides instructions on how to send encrypted emails and documents. Encrypted emails can only be read by their intended recipient. Those whose anonymity is critical don’t even have to reveal their identity to Namaleaks. It is set up to make it impossible for us to find out who the sources are.

Of course, there are always risks with any system to collect leaks—anybody who pretends to have found an entirely bulletproof methodology is lying. Even Edward Snowden is not invincible.

Yet, Namaleaks offers potential whistleblowers a good layer of security and confidentiality.

We need readers and whistleblowers

One last innovative thing about Namaleaks is that it involves readers and citizens in the making of the news.

Indeed, it is entirely reliant on sources providing insights and documents to us as material to investigate and report on. If nobody sends any of this, there won’t be any stories written, and we will all remain in the dark about important financial and housing issues and practices.

Where will Namaleaks lead us?

The answer is simple: it depends on you, readers and whistleblowers.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin.

Read: Mick Wallace and Clare Daly launch Nama whistleblowing website

Read: Ex-Nama worker accused of leaking confidential information

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About the author:

Julien Mercille  / Associate professor, UCD

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