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The suits behind the whistleblower: How Frances Haugen is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and media strategists as she exposes Facebook’s secrets
- Haugen is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and media strategists
- As she gave evidence to MPs yesterday, Haugen was flanked by two lawyers
- Ex-CIA officer Andrew Backaj was involved in Donald Trump impeachment
- Next to him was Matthew Jury, who works for London solicitors McCue Law
- PR advisor Bill Burton was deputy press secretary to President Barack Obama
- Another major is tech billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who founded eBay
Frances Haugen’s evidence to Parliament and the US Congress has made headlines around the world.
But MailOnline can reveal the Facebook whistleblower’s campaign against the company’s alleged online failings is far from a one-woman affair.
The 37-year-old former tech executive at the company is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and media strategists.
Most are connected to Whitstleblower Aid, a free-speech organisation founded in 2017 helping those who wish to call out big business and government.
As she gave evidence to British MPs at the Commons Online Safety Bill committee she was flanked by two of the charity’s leading human rights lawyers from each side of the Atlantic.
Former Facebook executive Frances Haugen is backed by a high-powered team of lawyers and media strategists. As she gave evidence to MPs in Parliament yesterday, Haugen was flanked by two lawyers. Seen just to the left behind her was Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer who was closely involved in the impeachment action against former President Donald Trump. Next to him was London-based Matthew Jury, who works for solicitors McCue Law
Bakaj (left) was closely involved in the impeachment action against former President Donald Trump
On one side was London-based Matthew Jury who works for solicitors McCue Law, who are retained by Whistleblower Aid in the UK.
Unusually, Mr Jury is licensed to practise both as a solicitor in England and Wales and also as an attorney in New York.
He has various specialties including human rights and counter-terrorism law and has acted for the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, as well as for the families of British soldiers killed during the Iraq war.
On Haugen’s other side, dapperly dressed with a red silk tie and wearing an expensive watch, was Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer who was closely involved in the impeachment action against former President Donald Trump.
Who is Pierre Omidyar, the tech billionaire bankrolling Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen?
Billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who has an estimated net worth of $21.4 billion and is a critic of big tech, founded the online marketplace eBay in 1995.
He has spent years funding the fight against big tech companies, which he criticizes for being overly powerful and having a destructive effect on democracy.
Omidyar has provided financial backing for non-profit news organization The Intercept, and for the open internet advocacy group Public Knowledge.
Last month, the Omidyar Network posted a 39-page document last year titled the ‘Roadmap for an Antitrust Case Against Facebook’.
Haugen’s representatives did not say how much support Omidyar had offered to her directly or indirectly.
Politico reported that Omidyar’s network only became involved in the case after Haugen went public.
The source stressed that the organization had not been involved or working behind the scenes in the months leading up to her early October bombshell, and only asked what it could do to help once they learned of her public disclosures.
The eBay founder is currently 83rd on the world billionaires list.
He filed the initial complaint leading to the launch of various US Congress investigations into the Trump-Ukraine scandal.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S. are more heavyweight lawyers and wealthy patrons who have financed the trip to the UK and Europe (they are set to visit Belgium and Germany next).
Her chief PR advisor, Bill Burton, was deputy press secretary to President Barack Obama.
He now works for LA-to-Washington PR giant Bryson Gillette, which has helped run a massive media campaign in the United States based on Ms Haugen’s tranche of leaked papers from Facebook.
He has helped run a massive media campaign in the United States based on Ms Haugen’s tranche of leaked papers from Facebook.
Another major backer in her war of words against Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is in fact a tech billionaire himself – eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, whose philanthropic company Luminate is said to be handling the European side of her press and government relations.
And the man who co-founded Whistleblower Aid is American attorney Mark Zaid.
He once acted for former Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed against the CIA in the controversial 2001 case in which he unsuccessfully claimed on behalf of his client that the US spy agency was carrying out surveillance on Princess Diana shortly before her death in Paris in 1997.
The other co-founder, John Tye, was himself a former State Department official who blew the whistle on government electronic surveillance.
Whistleblower Aid describes itself as ‘A pioneering, non-profit legal organization that helps patriotic government employees and brave, private-sector workers report and publicize their concerns — safely, lawfully, and responsibly.
‘Our professional legal advice is confidential, but never ideological or partisan. Unless we recover a monetary award, everything we do for clients is free.’
Their website adds: ‘We help government employees and private-sector workers uphold their obligations and protect the public.
Whistleblower Aid provides lawful alternatives to illicit leaking.
‘No one should have to risk their career or their freedom to follow their conscience.’
To cover its expenses, the organisation solicits donations from foundations and crowdsourced funding and in the case of Ms Haugen, a separate ‘go fund me’ page was set up earlier this month which was well on its way to $64,000 today, with a target of $100,000.
Whistleblower Aid, which set up Ms Haugen’s funding page, said the money raised would help ‘make sure she’s got the backup she needs as she stands up to speak the truth.’
Mr Jury was asked by MailOnline about Ms Haugen’s supporters, but declined to answer who had specifically funded her trip to London and other European capitals, or where the team stayed.
The most likely source of the lion’s share of the funding is Mr Omidyar, a well-known critic of Big Tech whose foundation donated $150,000 to Whistleblower Aid last year.
Luminate, is also providing Haugen’s PR operations in Europe, Politico’s Emily Birnbaum wrote.
Another major backer in her war of words against Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is in fact a tech billionaire himself – eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, whose philanthropic company Luminate is said to be handling the European side of her press and government relations
Burton comes from the Center for Humane Technology, a group which Omidyar also funds.
‘When Frances Haugen went public Luminate decided to step forward and directly support her efforts to promote a broad public debate about the issues that the disclosures raise,’ a Luminate spokesperson told Insider.
The varied interests arrayed behind Ms Haugen have been attacked as being partisan by former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of Edward Snowden’s revelations about US state surveillance.
He wrote on Mediaite.com: ‘None of the swooning over this new Facebook heroine nor any of the other media assaults on Facebook have anything remotely to do with a concern over those genuine dangers.
‘Congress has taken no steps to curb the influence of these Silicon Valley giants because Facebook and Google drown the establishment wings of both parties with enormous amounts of cash and pay well-connected lobbyists who are friends and former colleagues of key lawmakers to use their D.C. influence to block reform.
Her chief PR advisor, Bill Burton, was deputy press secretary to President Barack Obama
The man who co-founded Whistleblower Aid is American attorney Mark Zaid
Mr Jury (file photo) was asked by MailOnline about Ms Haugen’s supporters, but declined to answer who had specifically funded her trip to London and other European capitals, or where the team stayed
‘With the exception of a few stalwarts, neither party’s ruling wing really has any objection to this monopolistic power as long as it is exercised to advance their own interests.’
Jury represented former British Army soldier Dennis Hutchings before his death last week. He also represented Sarah Jane Young, whose father was killed in an IRA bombing in Hyde Park in 1982.
A spokesperson for Luminate told Mailonline: ‘Luminate is funding her travel expenses.
‘When Frances Haugen went public Luminate decided to step forward and directly support her efforts to promote a broad public debate about the issues that the disclosures raise.
‘We announced this support in a blog post on the 19th of October.
‘We are the only organisation from The Omidyar Group that is directly supporting the work of Frances Haugen and her team.
‘Our support will help cover the travel, logistics and communications costs of Frances’ team.
‘We encourage all those organisations who want to tackle these digital threats to democracy to join us in these efforts.
‘Whistleblower Aid and Larry Lessig are her pro bono legal counsel. And Bryson Gillette has been hired by her legal counsel to advise on PR strategy.’
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