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Interview: Whistleblower Don Soeken, author, "Don't Kill the Messenger!"

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DS: The price patriotic whistleblowers pay is incredible. There are ancient taboos against tattling. Companies exploit this to isolate patriotic whistleblowers. No; the guys in the white hats don't always win.

My wife and I have published a comprehensive list of retaliation. You can look at our statistics at: file:///Users/donsoeken/Documents/Soeken.pdf by Don and Karen Soeken.

What did our statistics show?

  1. Whistleblowers are not misfits. The average whistleblower is a 47-year-old family man employed seven years before exposing wrongdoing. Most were driven by conscience. And virtually all would do it again.

  2. The whistleblowers are ethical and half were religious. They tended to assume that the best could be achieved by following universal moral codes, which guided their judgments.

  3. Whistleblowers put their jobs on the line to protect the public. One out of every five of those in the survey reported they were without a job, and 25 percent mentioned increased financial burdens on the family as the most negative result of their action.

  4. Whistleblower families suffer tremendously. My wife and I got replies on the survey like "People made fun of me" or "People who I thought were my best friends stopped associating with me".

  5. Despite hardship, whistleblowers would do it again. A truck driver said: ''I went through hell emotionally. The insults from management and fellow workers were extreme. It made me a colder, callused person, and yes, I would do it again.''

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  6. Effects are long lasting. A government worker said, ''Don't do it unless you're willing to spend many years, ruin your career and sacrifice your personal life.''

  7. Whistleblowers find that doing right is its own reward. An engineer in private industry put it more positively: ''Do what is right. Lost income can be replaced. Lost self-esteem is more difficult to retrieve.'' Another federal employee confided, ''Finding honesty within myself was more powerful than I expected".

  8. Eighty percent reported physical deterioration, with loss of sleep and added weight as the most common symptoms. Eighty-six percent reported negative emotional consequences, including feelings of depression, powerlessness, isolation, anxiety and anger.

There are seven stages of life for the whistleblower: discovery of the abuse; reflection on what action to take; confrontation with superiors; retaliation; the long haul of legal or other action involved; termination of the case, and going on to a new life.

The last stage is the most difficult to reach, and most of them don't reach it.

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Don Soeken
(image by courtesy of Don Soeken)

JB: In your book, you zeroed in on a handful of whistle blowers. You've worked with hundreds. How did you choose?

DS: I chose the best examples of how government agencies and one private corporation treated whistleblowers. Some of my clients are under gag orders. Some of the best stories remain untold because they are sealed.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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Another great Brunwasser coup here at OEN!Thank yo... by Charles Roll on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 1:08:03 PM
Thanks for your kind words, Charles. I'm just repo... by Joan Brunwasser on Friday, May 23, 2014 at 1:25:12 PM
Whistle blowers are our real National Heroes and t... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 6:35:36 AM
You are quite right, Shirley. Soon, I hope to fini... by Joan Brunwasser on Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 7:56:41 AM