The annual award ceremony was as instructive and as warm as usual, even though held virtually. The honor was given to former MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon who, together with a MI5 colleague, did their best to expose serious misdeeds of British intelligence.
In addition, an honorary award was given posthumously to Russian scholar Stephen Cohen, husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel, who added poignant remarks to her reading of the citation honoring Steve.
The awards were presented on March 17 at the World Ethical Data Forum.
Here is the video of the Sam Adams Award ceremony; the texts of the two citations follow below the video:
Citation for Annie Machon
Know all ye by these presents that Annie Machon is hereby honored with the traditional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Candlestick Holder, in symbolic recognition of her courage in shining light into dark places.
“If you see something, say something.” Long before that saying came into vogue, Annie Machon took its essence to heart.
MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, recognized how bright, enterprising, and unflappable Annie was and recruited her as soon as she completed her studies at Cambridge.
The good old boys in MI5 apparently thought she would have a malleable conscience, as well — such that she would have no qualms about secret monitoring of the very government officials overseeing MI5 itself, for example.
Annie would not be quiet about this secret abuse. Her partner, David Shayler, an MI5 colleague and — like Annie — a person of integrity and respect for law, became aware of an MI6 plan to assassinate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
They decided to blow the whistle and fled to France. (Many years later, a woman of high station but more flexible integrity openly gloated over Gaddafi’s brutal assassination.)
After three years on the lam, hiding mostly in France, they returned to the UK, where Annie was arrested (but never charged with a crime). The powers-that-be, however, chose to make an example of Shayler (not unlike what they are now doing to Julian Assange).
Shayler’s whistleblowing case dragged on for seven years, during which he did a brief stint in the infamous high-security prison where Julian Assange still rots (having been denied bail, yet again). A strong mitigation plea by Annie helped reduce Shayler’s remaining prison time. All in all, though, what he was forced to endure took a hard toll on him.
More broadly, the issues that surfaced around whistleblowing at the time remain largely the same two decades later. Annie Machon has been a very prominent and strong supporter of Julian. She has also been a much admired mentor to less experienced women and men as they seek to become better informed on issues of integrity and courage, and take Annie up on her offer to “help them meet interesting people”, as she puts it.
We would be remiss today were we not to call to mind the courageous example of our first two awardees, Coleen Rowley (FBI) and Katharine Gun (GCHQ), who took great risks in exposing malfeasance and in trying to head off the attack on Iraq. And, as Julian Assange did when he won this award, we again honor his treasured source, Chelsea Manning, for her continuing courage and scarcely believable integrity.
Ed Snowden, our Sam Adams awardee in 2013, noted that we tend to ignore some degree of evil in our daily life, but, as Ed put it, “We also have a breaking point and when people find that, they act.”
Annie is still acting, as one can see as this World Ethical Data Forum unfolds.
Presented this 17th day of March at the World Ethical Data Forum by admirers of the example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
Citation for Posthumous Award to Stephen F. Cohen
Know all ye by these presents that Sam Adams Associates honors Professor Stephen F. Cohen with a posthumous tribute for his exemplary scholarship, integrity, and courage.
Stephen Cohen is still with us — in the hearts of those who knew him and try to emulate his courage. The word comes from cor – Latin for heart. It means “to speak one’s mind AND heart”. Aristotle saw courage as the sine qua non for all other virtue. In plain-speak, it doesn’t matter how much you know, if you lack courage.
Steve knew a lot about Russia. But at his courageous core, he was also a Mensch — influencing hearts as well as minds — whether the hearts of kids playing schoolyard basketball on the Upper West Side, or the hearts of presidents in Washington and Moscow. And it was Steve’s courageous commitment to historical truth that set him apart from self-styled specialists on Russia bowing to prevailing Russophobic winds.
Though Steve often was an outlier, his scholarship and advice were valued by top U.S. and Russian leaders alike. Three weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, Steve and his wife Katrina vanden Heuvel were with President George H. W. Bush at the summit in Malta at which Bush reassured Mikhail Gorbachev that the U.S. would not take advantage of the ferment in Eastern Europe. Under Bush’s successors NATO crept east — right up to Russia’s border, despite George Kennan’s warning that this “would restore the atmosphere of the cold war”.
Ever the historian, Steve put both Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin in context, showing that Putin assumed power in a country on the verge of collapse, Yeltsin having allowed the plundering of Russia’s wealth. After the February 2014 coup on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine, Steve quickly explained — with a candor unwelcome in Washington — why Russia reacted the way it did. Steve was “controversialized” and put in “Putin’s pocket”.
We veteran Russia-watchers took encouragement in knowing that Steve’s analysis was congruent with our own. Particularly welcome was the seal of approval given by Steve and Katrina to a newly coined acronym enumerating the main forces behind the campaign to portray Russia as enemy: MICIMATT — the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank complex.
Fortunately, Steve did not have to resort to samizdat. He had a close friend at a highly respected periodical — one known for its hospitality to serious scholarship and to views shunned elsewhere. The Nation. Our deepest thanks go out to its publisher, who faced into the prevailing winds and gave Steve a platform for his uniquely astute views on Russia, the country he and Katrina had come to know so well.
Presented this 17th day of March 2021 at the World Ethical Data Forum by admirers of the courageous example set by the late CIA analyst, Sam Adams.
(See: Sam Adams Associates website samadamsaward.ch for full listing and citations.)