As a Truth Teller, I have witnessed people who have totally had their lives destroyed by being a “Whistle Blower.” What do you think of when you hear the term “Whistle Blower?” I have had students answer that question with snitch, traitor, trouble maker, narcissist, media hound, ego maniac and many other negative terms.
I even witnessed some obscure news program that I will not give credit to say “traitor” then quickly retract to Whistleblower.
The people who are labeled with this term at the very least saved a ton of money, your money, in exposing waste in areas such as Government and Banking. In more severe cases they have given up everything and saved others lives from law enforcement to the food you eat. In either event, we may call some of them a hero, we call some the other names mentioned above, but they are labeled with “Whistleblower” on their forehead and will likely never have their life back again. A VERY small group of Truth Tellers have been fortunate enough to sell a book, or start a career in the legal field, and I applaud them for it, but remember this is an extremely small percentage of people.
So back to the original question, why can we not get the term Truth Teller used instead?
The evening news would not have a “sexy” lead story with “Truth Teller exposes” but has a great headline with “Whistleblower exposes” forever giving them a label that will turn their lives upside down. After all, if “Honest Person” or Ethical” were tattooed on someone’s forehead an employer might have a hard time explaining why they do not want to hire them, Government entities included. I came to realize this when I was at a job interview, at a place I had interviewed with before, and was told that I was not hired because I was a Whistleblower, at least they were honest about it. How would it sound if they had said, “we did not hire you because you are a Truth Teller, or a person of conscious?” It is a little harder to justify that decision. I even had the pleasure of being on the local news, telling the story of retaliation and not one single caller called the news station for an inquiry on hiring a Whistleblower. (This ran on the six and ten o’clock news as the lead story on two stations reaching well over 300,000 people. Would the results have been different if another term had been used? I recently got word a student told his professor that I took the glamour out of Whistle blowing. I am glad the student got the message, try not to be sucked into that situation in the 1st place, but be ready to be a Truth Teller when the time comes, not for glory, money, or fame, but because it is the right thing to do.
I am proud to be a Whistleblower, but understand that society uses that term with a horribly negative connotation. I hope that the media and society in general, will come to call us Truth Tellers, People of Conscious, or an Ethical Persons, as sadly right now Whistleblower is getting as negative as some racial slurs.
Edward Snowden took the world by storm when he released confidential information about the US government’s mass surveillance programs. Since then he has been called a traitor, a hero and a whistleblower. He isn’t the first. From Daniel Ellsberg to Bradley Manning, a handful of individuals also share the title of whistle-blower. The consequences since the release of the confidential information have all differed.
Click on the image below to launch interactive graphic
Additional research by AJ Libunao
Australia Takes a Step in the Right Direction
Whistleblowers stand to receive more protection when reporting wrongdoing under new laws passed in Parliament today.
The Public Interest Disclosure Bill, tabled by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, gives public officials immunity from criminal, civil and administrative liability if they make a report to an authorised body.
It also makes it an offence for a person or organisation to retaliate against an official as a result of them making a public disclosure.
While advocates welcomed the landmark bill, they said whistleblowers were still at risk of having their concerns ignored by organisations.
‘It is absolutely essential that whistleblowers are given immunity from prosecution for breach of confidence,’’ said Whistleblowers Australia national president Cynthia Kardell. ‘‘This is a huge step … but the legislation is still failing because there are still ways that employers can stifle disclosure.’’
The law only applies to officials working in the Commonwealth public sector and federal agencies, not people in the private sector.
It will be overseen by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS).
Greens Senator Christine Milne amended the bill to allow people to disclose wrongdoing or regulatory failures relating to the environment immediately.
She said the bill was a significant step in protecting people reporting wrongdoing and called on protections to extend to the private sector.
“Currently, brave public servants who come forward to expose corruption or maladministration usually do so at great personal, emotional and financial cost,’’ Senator Milne said.
The bill is a response to a 2010 House of Representatives standing committee report into whistleblower protection.
It contains provisions to ensure Commonwealth agencies properly investigate and respond to public interest disclosures.
“For the government to exempt themselves from the standards, rights and obligations it is seeking to impose upon all other public officials is wrong,’’ Senator Milne said.
WE the PEOPLE are Bradley Manning
After three years of incarceration by the United States Government, Bradley Manning is being tried for 22 crimes against our country and “Aiding the Enemy” this week. In 2010, the young soldier was arrested for leaking documents to the now infamous organization WikiLeaks whose founder, Julian Assange currently resides in political refuge himself via the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. This landmark case puts whistle-blowing and freedom of information on trial. Freedom of Speech is one of the pillars of American life, written and set forth by the Founding Fathers. Organizations like WikiLeaks exist to expose the public eye and provide the transparency and freedom of information which are supposed to be available to facilitate an open Government. Today, more whistleblowers and informants have come forward to expose the truth of such things as the wars in the Middle East than ever before in history. Likewise, more American citizens have been put on trial and prosecuted for such actions than ever before.
Are Hedge funds managers responsible for the current financial woes and should they be punished. Up to to you to make up your own mind
If a new report about hedge fund corruption is to be believed, the industry is overrun with unethical and illegal activity. Some 46% of people at hedge funds believe their competitors break the law or act unethically and 30% say they’ve seen wrongdoing themselves. Less than a week after F.B.I. agents handcuffed SAC Capital portfolio manager Michael Steinberg and escorted him from his Park Avenue apartment, the report, released yesterday, says that more than a third of hedge fund professionals believe they have to break the rules to get ahead.
The report was released by New York law firm Labaton Sucharow, which specializes in representing plaintiffs in securities class action cases and whistleblower actions, together with HedgeWorld, a news and research service, and the Hedge Fund Association, a trade group. They commissioned an anonymous online survey of 127 hedge fund professionals conducted between Feb. 25 and March 17.
According to Jordan Thomas, chair of the whistleblower practice at Labaton Sucharow, the survey was an attempt to gauge the extent of wrongdoing inside of hedge funds and the likelihood that hedge fund professionals would report illegal activity to the authorities.
A portion of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which passed in 2010, was intended to make it easier for people in the securities industry to report wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can remain anonymous, their jobs are protected by law and they are entitled to 10%-30% of the monetary sanctions the SEC gets in such cases.
Despite those protections the survey found that 29% of respondents still think they could experience retaliation if they report wrongdoing at their fund.
In addition, 28% said that if leaders of their firm learned that a top performer had engaged in insider trading, the leaders would be unlikely to report the misconduct. Thirteen percent said they believe firm leaders who find out about wrongdoing would just ignore the problem. Another 13% said that people who work at hedge funds may need to do unethical or illegal things to be successful and the same number admitted they would commit a crime–insider trading–if they could make a guaranteed $10 million and get away with it.
More than half of the respondents, 54%, said they though the SEC was ineffective in detecting, investigating and prosecuting securities violations.
Thomas, who worked as the assistant chief litigation counsel in the SEC’s enforcement division until July 2011, says there is a silver lining to the new survey. It asked whether respondents would report wrongdoing if they were protected by the provisions of the Dodd-Frank whistleblower law. Eighty-seven percent said they would. Eighty-three percent said they were already aware of the program. But seriously? They say corruption is rampant, and the vast majority would report it—when few actually do.
“The 87% represents hope,” says Thomas. “It is likely that the law will lead to more reporting in the industry.”
Still, there is obviously a disconnect between that hope and the reality that nearly a third of respondents say they believe that they would be retaliated against if they reported wrongdoing at their firm. It also could be that the protections and potential monetary awards just aren’t enough to motivate people to come forward. Or cheating in the hedge fund industry simply remains, far too much, business as usual.
New Film Explores Obama’s War on Whistleblowers and the Free Press
Four cases reveal the administration’s extraordinary crackdown on national-security whistleblowers.
—By Dana Liebelson
Americans love the idea of the whistleblower: one brave person willing to stick their neck out for the greater good, even in the face of severe blowback. Many American high school students read On Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau‘s classic treatise that urges Americans to take a stand against government’s ills. But more than 160 years later, legal protections for whistleblowers haven’t caught up with Thoreau’s ideals. Americans who disclose government misconduct risk losing their jobs and their homes—and some are prosecuted under the Espionage Act, a 1917 law originally intended for dealing with foreign spies. That’s life for national-security whistleblowers under the Obama Administration, according to a new documentary premiering next week titled War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State.
The film, a project of the Brave New Foundation, focuses on four whistleblowers: Michael DeKort, a former project manager for Lockheed Martin; Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency; Franz Gayl, an adviser for the Marine Corps; and Thomas Tamm, a former attorney to the Department of Justice. Each exposed grave misconduct, and each faced severe reprisals from their employers and the government. The film also includes commentary from one of the most famous whistleblowers of all time: Daniel Ellsberg, a Vietnam War analyist for the military who released the “Pentagon Papers,” which detailed US mistakes in Vietnam.
“It’s extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong,” says Drake, who was charged under the Espionage Act for disclosing secret warrantless surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency (the major felony charges were eventually dropped after an outpouring of public support for Drake.) “Speaking truth to power is now a criminal act.” Jane Mayer, a staff writer for The New Yorker who won the George Polk Award for her coverage of the Drake case, explains the unusual measures she had to take during the course of reporting the story. She and Drake couldn’t talk on the phone because he was being charged with leaking and there was concern of eavesdropping, so she had to meet sources in unmarked hotel rooms. “It does not feel like America, land of the free press,” she says in the film.
Michael DeKort was a lead systems engineer at Lockheed Martin, in charge of the Deepwater program for the Coast Guard. He became aware of serious problems with Lockheed’s execution of the contract. “The waterproof radios weren’t waterproof, the communications equipment could compromise national security, the electronics equipment installed outside of the boats wouldn’t survive harsh weather, and the camera surveillance system had major blind spots,” he tells Mother Jones. After his supervisors refused to listen to his complaints, he made a YouTube video exposing the problems and was dismissed by Lockheed, a move that led to a congressional hearing, the boats being taken out of service, and quite possibly, a life-saving deterrent against disaster. DeKort says he is still assisting the Department of Justice with its case against the subcontractor that performed the hull design services, but the US government “has no apparent intention to compensate me for bringing the problem to attention.”
The filmmakers take great care to emphasize the difference between leakers and whistleblowers, framing their subjects as the latter. As Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, explains, whistleblowers are employees that disclose information they “reasonably believe evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety” while leakers simply make secret information public (in many cases, whistleblowers take extreme care not to divulge classified information).
It’s a distinction the Obama Administration hasn’t always made, mounting an aggressive campaign against Drake and spearheading a multiyear investigation against Thomas Tamm, who went to the New York Times with information about George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
In November 2012, Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), a law that improves protections for federal employees and makes it easier for the government to discipline employees who retaliate against whistleblowers—a crucial provision, given that many whistleblowers lose their jobs. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 also includes a section that strengthens protections for government contractors—a law that would have greatly helped DeKort’s case.
“We’ve never had a president more supportive of federal workers who blow the whistle—except when it comes to national security,” Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight, where I used to work, tells Mother Jones. National security and intelligence employees were left out of the WPEA, and even though the president issued a policy directive extending protections to these employees, Canterbury says that the directive has inherent problems. For one thing, it protects only whistleblowers who report wrongdoing internally—which can be self-defeating when your employer is behind the wrongdoing. Tom Devine, legal director at the Government Accountability Project, also notes that Obama is seeking new rules that would allow the government to fire thousands of employees without appeal if they work in the national-security arena. “We’ve warned the White House many times, if you put whistleblowers in jail your legacy will be defined for prosecuting them for exercising free speech rights,” says Devine.
DeKort, who blew the whistle on Lockheed, adds that the government needs to understand that “if people did the right thing, whistleblowers wouldn’t exist. When was the last time a whistleblower raised an issue that wasn’t correct? Do you know how insane you’d have to be to go through all this crap if you were wrong?”