Able Seaman William McNeilly has leaked a long list of allegedly catastrophic security failings involving the UK’s controversial Trident nuclear weapons programme.
McNeilly paints a pretty scary and even farcical picture of life onboard Britain’s nuclear submarines. Some tout them as the most advanced submarines on the planet, though according to McNeilly's leak, the most basic onboard security and safety checks are disregarded, floods and fires are commonplace, sewage runs freely in a missile storage compartment that double as a gym, and worse. It’s a “disaster waiting to happen,” according to McNeilly.
McNeilly’s been on the run for the past week, and is now preparing to hand himself over to police; he faces a substantial prison term if he is prosecuted and convicted under the Official Secrets Act 1989 - a rather draconian act that makes no provision for a public interest defence. In other words, even if someone leaks classified information because it is clearly in the interest of the public that this information be known (e.g. details of serious abuses of power by the government), it doesn’t matter - they will be convicted all the same.
I have great admiration for the likes of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning - those who have sacrificed their own careers, safety, and freedom in the name of exposing the truth and earnestly trying to serve the greater good. Our world is a better place because of them. And I think it is a shame that many in the UK - including, perhaps, the government, though that remains to be seen - are quick to downplay McNeilly’s claims, and to decry him as a traitor rather than considering that he might well be a brave, selfless hero.
McNeilly said he raised these and other concerns through the chain of command on multiple occasions, but that “not once did someone even attempt to make a change”.