Parking garages still safer than email

There are reasons good and bad to want anonymity

Journalists use anonymous sources, but as a rule we like things on the record. Often, people really have no need to worry about their safety or job but want to push an opinion or issue without their name attached. This won’t cut it.

This matter of anonymity crept up at the regional district recently over questions about certain SRD directors receiving communications from the public while others were left out of the loop. One reason some elected officials prefer not to turn over all correspondence is to protect the confidentiality of people contacting them.

As I stated, there can be reasons for this, and journalists take this seriously. In one case about 10 years ago, I wrote a feature on a woman who had been beaten into a coma by her ex. She was suffering trauma and wanted her story told but was trying to put her life back together, so we agreed to use a pseudonym.

There are also the whistleblowers – people with inside knowledge of some wrongdoing. Mark Felt is probably the best example. For a time he was the second highest-ranking FBI official, but lived a double life as “Deep Throat,” the unnamed source for the Washington Post in its investigation of Watergate that usually met reporter Bob Woodward in a parking garage. Only decades later, at the urging of his daughter, did Felt confirm he’d been the source.

I’ve also been watching a couple of things on Netflix of late. One was Wormwood, the docudrama series directed by filmmaker Errol Morris concerning the death of U.S. army scientist Frank Olson in November 1953. After the CIA’s experimental LSD program became public in the mid-1970s, the accepted story was Olson jumped out a window after he’d been given acid. This story begins to fall apart though. Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the initial story in the ’70s, admits he has a source that knows what really happened to Olson but will not confirm it. Hersh has used anonymous sources before, so considering he can’t use this person, even anonymously, it’s pretty clear the confidant knows something crucial only a few living people would know. I can guess who, but that’s all I can do.

I also finally watched the 2014 documentary Citizenfour about Edward Snowden’s meeting with filmmaker Laura Poitras and investigative journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill. This was to leak information about the extent the National Security Agency was spying on U.S. citizens in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks. At one point, Greenwald asks if Snowden doesn’t want to stay anonymous longer, but Snowden concedes they will know who the leak is, sooner rather than later, and he wishes to come clean. He did and is now living in exile in Russia. If anyone had a good reason to remain in the shadows, it was Snowden, yet he knew this was futile, especially in an age when everyone communicates online – and leaves traces. He sets the bar pretty high, especially for those demanding anonymity with much less to lose.

So, I’m thinking if you wish to remain confidential when communicating with an elected official – or a journalist – you might want to reconsider sending out too much info via the Internet. Might I instead suggest a meeting in the nearest parking garage.

Just Posted

Penstocks coming out at old John Hart Generating Station

Work is part of decommissioning of old power station in Campbell River

Campbell River takes steps to plan for long-term sea level rise

Event at Maritim Heritage Centre was second of three public input events

Cougar on Island might have been shot with bow-and-arrow

Conservation officer service looking for animal near Port Alice

Storm could close out semi-finals Wednesday after 3-1 win Monday night

Team would then have to wait for Victoria/Nanaimo series to wrap up on the weekend

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Canucks hang on for 7-4 win over Senators

Horvat nets 2 for Vancouver

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Most Read