April 18, 2006
PEN American Center’s 2006 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award
By Sibel Edmonds
I would like to thank the PEN American Center for giving me this award, and thank the National Coalition against Censorship for nominating me. This is such a great honor; and this honor is shared by all national security whistleblowers who have faced gag orders and retaliation for speaking the truth; for choosing to do the right thing.
Even Harry Truman said: “When even one American -- who has done nothing wrong -- is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth, then all Americans are in peril.”
Standing up to despotism and tyranny has always been considered illegal by those in power, and dangerous to those who would expose them. Today we are facing despots who use ‘national security’ to push everything under a blanket of secrecy; to gag and call it a privilege; to detain without having to show a cause; and to torture yet believe it’s fully justified.
We must be vigilant & fight back, for our freedom is under assault – not from terrorists – for they only attack us, not our freedom, and they can never prevail. No, the attacks on our freedom are from within, from our very own government; and unless we recognize these attacks for what they are, and stand up, and speak out – no shout out – against those in government who are attempting to silence the brave few who are warning us; then we are doomed to wake up one sad morning and wonder when and where our freedom died.
You, all of you here in this room, recognize that this is not just about one case or one whistleblower.
You realize that this attack is also directed against what is known as "the public's right to know" in our essential oversight responsibility over our government.
You understand that this is an attack against our First Amendment; our freedom of speech; thus our democracy. And, I want to thank you for that. Thank You.