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Announcements / Blog

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive

This post is in response to the International Association of Atheists statement published on February 22, 2021. Read it here.

We thank IAA for this statement on the breach of our confidential subscriber data and will take it as IAA’s willingness to resolve this matter fully and finally. Accordingly, we will reach out to IAA in a cordial manner and hope to achieve a satisfactory solution in the very near future. And we will not report this incident to the police for the time being.

However, there are so many diversions, deceptions and untruths in IAA’s statement, that we feel it needs to be clarified with hard facts.

Was the data breach accidental?

Gail and Courtney have both said our data was accidentally imported to their mailing list. Technical people we speak to raise their eyebrows and shake their heads that such a thing could happen accidentally and it leaves us with five questions IAA must answer:

  1. Why did Courtney not delete the SQL files from her PC once the migration was complete on February 11? This was highly confidential, personal data that should only be kept in a secure online database and never on a person’s PC.
  2. Why did Courtney not delete all AAI data from her PC when she resigned from AAI on February 22?
  3. Why did IAA not reach out to us and tell us about this mistake as soon as they discovered it in early August so we could put it right together?
  4. Why did IAA insist that we sign a binding legal agreement that demanded total secrecy before they would take any steps to put things right? Read more about the secrecy clauses here.
  5. Why would IAA insist on total secrecy if, as they claim, they had already admitted their “mistake” publicly?

Did IAA try to put things right?

IAA said, “Realizing our mistake, we quickly deleted the imported emails”. 

This is categorically not true. IAA say they discovered the “mistake” in Mid-August yet IAA’s solicitor told us on October 16 that his client had the file in three locations: on a PC, in backup and on Google Drive. Furthermore, in a recent complaint, one of our subscribers was sent IAA’s December 15 mailshot.

IAA said, “The goal [of the proposed settlement agreement] is to make things right and to put the matter to bed.” 

This is categorically not true. The goal for such strict confidentiality was intended solely to protect IAA’s reputation by limiting public knowledge of the breach and by presenting it as accidental. This is why IAA’s proposed agreement allowed only IAA to make public statements about it. AAI were given no editorial rights over IAA’s public statements and were not permitted to discuss the breach publicly.

Why did IAA withdraw the compensation offered?

IAA said, “We offered a compensatory package after AAI had requested a donation to settle the matter. AAI then declined this offer. They are now claiming that this offer was a bribe when we were only responding to their President Howard Burman’s request for a donation to put an end to this issue.”

It’s true, we asked for compensation, in any amount that IAA saw fit, to be paid into the legal fund to save Yahaya Sharif-Aminu from being hanged for blasphemy. We did not want to benefit as an organization but we did want IAA to recognise their behaviour had created significant expense for us.

IAA freely offered us $5,000 as compensation but withdrew their offer because we could not agree to the extremely strict confidentiality terms of their settlement agreement which would have prevented us from answering legitimate questions from our subscribers. (The agreement  went beyond gagging AAI, it also required AAI to indemnify IAA for any future claims that may be made against them!) 

But AAI has incurred expenses. So, if the $5,000 really was compensation, then IAA should pay it whether or not we agreed over the terms of the confidentiality clauses. Will IAA honor this pledge now to compensate us for the costs we incurred by contributing to Yahaya’s legal fund and making restitution for a data breach they fully and publicly admit happened?

Was IAA happy for this to be public?

IAA said, “Clearly, we have no issue with AAI bringing this to the public’s attention”

This is beyond laughable, and is a statement which is entirely contradicted by the onerous confidentiality terms in IAA’s proposed settlement agreement which sought to bind AAI to silence in perpetuity.

Did AAI threaten IAA?

IAA said, “For nearly a year, there has been a series of threats from AAI regarding legal action”. 

This is not true. We have not threatened legal action. We have only said, we will be obliged to report this incident to the police if IAA fails to put it right. We have negotiated in good faith since September 14 to put this right (that’s five months, not a year). The hard truth is IAA refused to agree to any settlement without the cover of total secrecy and indemnification for their own wrong-doing. Further, IAA terminated negotiations, not us. We have all the correspondence, from IAA’s own lawyer, which undermines every false claim made by IAA in their statement. 

IAA said. “IAA will agree to discuss with AAI the terms of arbitration, as we did previously, regarding deletion of the file and proof thereof, if AAI will cease and desist with accusations and threats in a situation that did not warrant such hostility.”

We have only accused IAA of wrongdoing it is guilty of, and which IAA’s own legal documents, and Courtney’s public tweets, admit. The only threats have been to report the incident for the police to investigate.

Who was unjustifiably harassed on social media?

IAA said, “There has sprung from this situation a campaign of social media harassment of Courtney Heard who has been repeatedly threatened and her character defamed in the most juvenile terms”

It’s true social media is not kind. But remember, the ugliest thing we have seen is Courtney’s friends siding with the perpetrator and shaming AAI—the victims of this wrong-doing. Furthermore, if IAA had not insisted on total secrecy, this whole affair would have been amicably resolved in September-October last year. We did not set out to harm IAA, we set out to resolve this matter for the benefit of our subscribers.

What next?

We hope we can sort this matter out now—it is very easy to do and we hope the next public statement from us will be a joint statement that will be both amicable and completely true.

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