"John Doe," the mysterious whistleblower who released the largest-ever leak of confidential documents in world history — papers from the Panamanian law firm Mossack-Fonseca, a key player in the offshore dark money industry — has published their first-ever public statement.
The first thing you'll notice in reading the 1,400 word manifesto is that Doe is eloquent. Like Snowden and a few others from the society of modern whistleblowing, Doe writes beautifully, passionately, and intelligently about their motives. They have clearly spent a lot of time thinking about the information they had access to, and what it meant for the world, and what it would mean for them to come forward with it, risking everything.
Doe offers a general critique of secretive finance capitalism, and cites specifics from the Panama Papers showing that Mossack-Fonseca wasn't just involved in helping the wealthy avoid taxes and starve countries of the treasure they needed to provide the most basic services — they also knowingly laundered money used by rich paedophiles to traffick in 13 year old sex slaves.
Doe isn't content to discuss their general grievances with corruption: in laser-focused specific detail, they cite policies and actions from specific governments and politicians (the UK Conservative party, David Cameron, NZ Prime Minister John Key, a few others) and how their hypocrisy motivated them to act.
He also discusses the role of whistleblowing in modern society. Running through the punishments visited upon leakers like Snowden (but also Luxleaks' Antoine Deltour and UBS leaker Bradley Birkenfeld), Doe says that they chose not to go public specifically because they believed that the same leaders who'd made the moral compromises that enabled the corruption of offshore finance were also committed to destroying the lives of those who came forward with information about the most urgent, terrible crimes.
Doe cheers on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists for refusing to share the raw Panama Papers with law enforcement, as is fitting for independent journalists, and goes on to offer to turn over those documents to law enforcement independently, but with the caveats about the risks to their own freedom.
Doe also disavows being a spy of any kind, saying that they never worked or contracted for any spy agency or government.
And while it's one thing to extol the virtues of government transparency at summits and in sound bites, it's quite another to actually implement it. It is an open secret that in the United States, elected representatives spend the majority of their time fundraising. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes relative to any other segment of the population. These unsavoury political practices have come full circle and they are irreconcilable. Reform of America's broken campaign finance system cannot wait.
Of course, those are hardly the only issues that need fixing. Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand has been curiously quiet about his country's role in enabling the financial fraud Mecca that is the Cook Islands. In Britain, the Tories have been shameless about concealing their own practices involving offshore companies, while Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at the United States Treasury, just announced her resignation to work instead for HSBC, one of the most notorious banks on the planet (not coincidentally headquartered in London). And so the familiar swish of America's revolving door echoes amidst deafening global silence from thousands of yet-to-be-discovered ultimate beneficial owners who are likely praying that her replacement is equally spineless. In the face of political cowardice, it's tempting to yield to defeatism, to argue that the status quo remains fundamentally unchanged, while the Panama Papers are, if nothing else, a glaring symptom of our society's progressively diseased and decaying moral fabric.
But the issue is finally on the table, and that change takes time is no surprise. For fifty years, executive, legislative, and judicial branches around the globe have utterly failed to address the metastasizing tax havens spotting Earth's surface. Even today, Panama says it wants to be known for more than papers, but its government has conveniently examined only one of the horses on its offshore merry-go-round.