December 18, 2017 Blog
(C) Futurescapes 2017 All rights reserved
Whistleblowing: The disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or
private enterprise, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing. (The Free Dictionary by Farlex)
Whoever walks in integrity walks in security, but whoever walks in crooked paths will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9).
Today, December 16, is an especially good day. I say this in part because I have learned that at least one courageous individual and possibly more whistleblowers are reported to have revealed what really transpired during the stand off between the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Cliven Bundy ranch protestors. The whistleblower is Special Agent, Larry Wooten, lead investigator for the BLM's investigation into the operation at the Bundy Ranch in April 2014. Wooten has documented numerous unethical and possibly illegal activities on the part of Special Agent in Charge, Daniel P. Love. Unfortunately, when Wooten reported these things to his supervisor, his supervisor was dismissive and indifferent.
Wooten's whistleblowing complaint alleges suppression of evidence, excessive use of force civil rights violations policy violations, cover ups and gross misconduct on the part of BLM management. Wooten also indicates that BLM Special Agent Dan Love had a "kill book" containing the names of protestors targeted for shooting. The whistleblower adds that he was the victim of whistleblower retaliation by the BLM. His report also implicates the US Attorney's office in a cover up.
If this information proves correct, Agent Wooten's actions will be an encouragement to those who value justice and serve as an inspiration on multiple fronts. First, they give hope to every US citizen seeking fair treatment under the law in the face of government corruption and over-reach. Second, Wooten's actions should also serve as inspiration to every employee committed to serving with integrity and hesitant to speak up regarding wrong-doing.
In our Post-Truth Era, the value of truth, trustworthiness and correspondingly, whistleblowing has risen dramatically. The post-truth context, replete with its corruption, deception, and compromised group think is the cauldron in which the courage of the whistleblower rises to the surface. Those individuals who are bold enough to take action should know (as Wooten now knows) that their future career prospects are uncertain. Sure most government and many private sector corporations boast a commitment to encouraging whistleblowing and protecting whistleblowers. But that's PR paint. How they really handle things at the critical moment when a whistleblower comes forward is another matter.
In reality, "going public" is fraught with dangers. First, there's the difficulty of navigating the doublespeak of cowardly or complicit supervisors. And as Wooten found, they may be multiple layers of management complicity. Then there's the prospect of harassment and ostrazisation from colleagues. Add to this the stigmatization that haunts whistleblowers and their careers.
The hardships whistleblowers and truth tellers often face prompted me to coin my personal bumpersticker message and motivational slogan on the subject. I often find myself saying: "God bless the whistleblower, because few else will." I used to share an exhortation with former colleagues facing workplace pressures to conform to: "Act like your mortgage is paid." You see, if management really valued whistleblowers, then more of employees would feel confident in reporting wrong-doing rather than "going along to get along." They would expect management to review and address reported misdeeds and protect them from backlash. If whistleblowers were admired and valued, why are Assange and Snowden living in exile? Why were there shouts of "traitor" and calls for the killing of Assange? And why are some many investigative reporters killed each year?
The many risks inherent in whistleblowing explain why so few rise to the challenge. Most of us choose to look the other way and carry on. It's not hard to rationalize and opt for "see no evil, hear no evil" silence when the risks are weighed. What if I lost my job? And without a job, how could I provide for my family? What if colleagues became so hostile and the atmosphere so toxic, that I couldn't cope? In some professions, "going public" is considered to be an unpardonable violation of "the code." In some cases, there are ethical considerations associated with sworn oath's of confidentiality and security clearances. What does one do when going through official channels fails? This explains why some in the military and security agencies postpone whistleblowing until retirement. Some have waited until they were near death before disclosing things they felt the public had a right to know.
For some, the freedom to voice their opinion doesn't even come with advanced careers. As recently as last week, an acquaintance spoke of his hesitation to speak out on political matters out of a concern there could be repercussions for his children's careers. It's not surprising. We inhabit a world where every key stroke, every word, and every movement is tracked and analyzed. The obscene intrusions of Big Brother in our lives today exceeds even the extremes portrayed in Orwell's dystopian Nineteen Eighty Four.
Today, however, we can draw fresh inspiration from the example of Mr. Wooten and the whistleblowers and truth tellers who proceeded him. A few were ultimately rewarded for their efforts. Many endured real hardship. Some lost their careers and reputations, and some lost their lives. I can recall being inspired in my youth by the story of Frank Serpico, the former New York City Police Department officer who exposed police corruption in the late sixties and early seventies. Remarkably, Wikipedia states Serpico who prefers the term "lamp lighters," was "the first police officer in the history of the department to report and testify openly about widespread systemic corruption... ." Self-imposed blindness must have been rampant in the department until that point.
Many will have heard of Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who, while employed by Rand Corporation, released the secret Pentagon Papers in 1971. The documents, which revealed US government decision-making regarding the War in Vietnam, were released to the New York Times and other papers. Ellsberg's charges carried a total sentence of 115 years. Due to an effective legal defence and governmental misconduct and illegal evidence gathering, all charges were dismissed in June of 1973.
Karen Silkwood was an American chemical technician and labour union activist who raised concerns about corporate practices related to worker health and safety in a nuclear facility. In 1974, she testified about her concerns to the Atomic Energy Commission. Her death in a car accident on November 13, 1974 is described as "mysterious." She was 28 years of age.
Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning), a former US army soldier, handed 750,000 classified and, unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents over to Wikileaks. Manning's 22 charges included aiding the enemy which could have resulted in a death sentence. She was convicted of violating the Espionage Act and other offences in July of 2013. Ultimately, Manning's sentence was commuted by Barack Obama to nearly seven years of confinement dating from her arrest in May of 2010.
A soul-deep commitment to whistleblowing and truth telling in journalism is essential. Serna Shim was a naturalized American citizen working as a reporter for Press TV. In October 2014, an assignment took her to the border between Syria and Turkey to report on the conflict between Iraqi Kurdish fighters and ISIS. Shim reported the ISIS-affiliated Al Qaeda militants were being smuggled over the Turkish border into Syria by hiding in the back of food aid vehicles owned by non-governmental organizations. Some of the vehicles bore the emblem of the UN's World Food Organization. It seems Shim hit a political nerve within Turkey's government. Turkey's intelligence agency accused her of being a foreign spy, and two days later a large cement truck collided with her rental car.
Then there's the case of journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia. As an investigative reporter in Malta, Galizia had been reporting links between the island nation and offshore tax havens through the leaked Panama Papers. Over the course of her career, Galizia didn't play favourites when it came to exposing corruption. She turned up the heat on the leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the PM's wife, the governments chief of staff and energy minister, among others. In early October, Galizia filed a police report indicating that she was receiving threats. Shortly after driving away from her home on October 16, 2017, Galizia was killed when a bomb exploded in her car. While the details are still under investigation, it's fair to say that Galizia's death was most likely linked to her work.
This is a just a small sample of the men and women who have broken through the barriers of indifference, intimidation and their own fears to call attention to wrong-doing. We could use many more of them as we live in an age of deception. While the word, "hero" is often used gratuitously today, whistleblowers and truth tellers of this variety are genuinely worthy of the accolade.
Much of my research and writing of late amounts to an exploration of the darker side of human activity, our society and its governance. The whistleblower and truth teller, or "lamp lighter" as Serpico prefers, are shedding much needed light into that darkness. May God bless them.
Bombshell: Washington State Rep, Matt Shea on sealed hearings in Bundy Ranch Trial and why this could get the Bundy case tossed, The Washington Standard, December 15, 2017, http://thewashingtonstandard.com/bombshell-washington-state-rep-matt-shea-sealed-hearings-bundy-ranch-trial-get-bundy-case-tossed/
Summary of BLM whistleblower -- re Bundy, YouTube, December 14, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0QAT4grJYM
The government has screwed up the Bundy case even worse than we realized, Mother Jones, December 20, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/12/the-government-has-screwed-up-the-bundy-case-even-worse-than-we-realized/
The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life, Ralph Keyes, 2004, https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-312-30648-9
Wikipedia (extracts of Serpico, Silkwood, Ellsberg and Manning stories)
10 suspicious deaths of whistleblowers, Listverse, December 2, 2015, https://listverse.com/2015/12/02/10-suspicious-deaths-of-whistle-blowers/
Bomb kills reported who covered Malta's "Panama Papers" link, Chicago Tribune, October 16, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-malta-journalist-killed-panama-papers-link-20171016-story.html
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