Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest

Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest

The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures

Ashley Savage

This book is the first of its kind to provide an in-depth treatment of the law of unauthorised disclosures in the United Kingdom. Drawing upon extensive data obtained using freedom of information as a methodology and examples from comparative jurisdictions, the book considers the position of civil servants, employees of the security and intelligence services and service personnel in the armed forces. It considers the protections available, the consequences of leaking and a full assessment of the authorised alternatives.

Chapter 6: Whistleblowing in the security and intelligence services

Ashley Savage

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, law - academic, corporate law and governance, corruption and economic crime, labour, employment law, politics and public policy, public policy


The Snowden revelations identified the extent to which the security and intelligence services are actively engaged in the interception of communications to counter a multitude of threats against the United Kingdom. They also appear to identify that the agencies are operating on the very edges of what is necessary and proportionate to achieve this aim. Following the disclosures, Snowden was accused of causing significant damage to the capability of intelligence agencies to counter the threat posed by terrorism. However, findings of subsequent inquiries by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Independent Reviewer on Counter-terrorism Legislation have contributed to the drafting of a comprehensive new Investigatory Powers Bill. Executive control of the security and intelligence services must rest with the executive and therefore it is essential that these services are under democratic control by elected politicians, who are the ‘viable custodians of public office in a democracy’. Ministers cannot be held to account without an effective oversight regime. Whistleblowers can play a valuable role in supporting oversight bodies in this work. Another consequence of the Snowden disclosures is that the directors of the agencies are now increasingly required to justify their activities in an open media forum and are more actively drawn into the political sphere. Whilst the increase in externally facing activities can be seen as beneficial, contributing to a new era of openness, it can also lead to negative consequences.

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