Think of it as a Kickstarter for whistleblowers.
In a unique effort to get access to the highly-secret draft Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the international government-transparency organization WikiLeaks has set aside appeals to public-spiritedness and gone straight to greed. The group is attempting to crowdsource a $100,000 “bounty” for anyone willing to turn over the draft agreement.
The project was disclosed on Tuesday, and as of noon had received pledges equal to nearly 25 percent of the $100,000 total.
Screengrab of WikiLeaks pledge page
The TPP, a 12-nation trade deal that would change the rules governing trade between the United States, Australia, Vietnam and nine other Pacific nations, has been negotiated in secret, much to the dismay of many, including labor and environmental groups, who worry that big businesses have more influence over the negotiations than other stakeholders.
Echoing the complaints of many, WikiLeaks in its announcement of the proposed bounty said: “The treaty aims to create a new international legal regime that will allow transnational corporations to bypass domestic courts, evade environmental protections, police the internet on behalf of the content industry, limit the availability of affordable generic medicines, and drastically curtail each country's legislative sovereignty.”
The deal has 27 different chapters, three of which have already been delivered to WikiLeaks and published online. The crowdfunded bounty is meant to tempt someone with access to the information to turn over the remaining 24.
However, according to Scott Miller, who holds the Scholl Chair in International Business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the odds of $100,000 being a sufficient inducement to a member of the small group with access to the document are long.
Miller, the former director of international trade policy at Procter & Gamble, said that there are a number of “cleared advisors” representing various parties involved in the discussions who have access to the agreement’s text online.
“Once you are a cleared advisor, you would have access to view the text. But if you do something other than view it and then close your browser – if you tried to print it – you’d be kicked off the committee,” he said.
And then, he said, things would probably get worse in a hurry.
Past suspected leaks of international trade negotiation drafts have been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution, Miller said. “Violating your security clearance is non-trivial,” he added. “There are considerable deterrents to doing that, particularly if you ever want to work in this field again.”
So, would the lure of $100,000 be sufficient to get a cleared advisor to take the risk – especially considering that the ranks of the cleared advisors are made up of high-powered lawyers, consultants and business executives?
“Probably not,” said Miller.
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