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Rough Times for Whistleblowers

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I'm attending three days of whistleblower conferences and activities. Why? Because a few years ago, when I was naive about the state of whistle blowing in the U.S., Opednews.com received a flurry of article submissions by whistleblower Jim Murtagh, M.D.. 

I checked in with him and ended up inviting him to become the Opednews.com whistleblower editor. Since then, Opednews has become the go-to place for whistleblowers. That started ME on a road to learning a lot more about whistleblowers. 

i learned what it takes to become a whistleblower. You see something wrong, dishonest, corrupt, criminal, unjust. You go to your supervisor. He or she ignores you. Maybe one out of two or four would do that. After you are ignored you go back a second time. Maybe one out of five would do that. You're still ignored, or worse, are told to mind your own business, that you could lose  your job. 

Maybe one out of a hundred, by then, will go to a higher level supervisor. The same process happens again-- ignored, rebuffed, threatened. Maybe one in a thousand, maybe 10,000 finally go all the way down the road of the whistleblower to blow the whistle to a level where waves are really made. 

Becoming a whistleblower is often, perhaps usually a life devastating decision and experience. Once you take the big step, the powers that be align their forces against you. They try to ruin your life, threaten you and your family, do all they can to destroy you, your future ability to work, to hold a job, to have credit. I have heard accounts of this experience again and again from the whistleblowers I've met. 

Yesterday, a panel at the International Whistleblowers Association meeting (one of the few organizations run and operated by whistleblowers,) had four empty chairs. They represented whistleblowers who were dead or jailed, who could not appear themselves. 

Four Empty Chairs, with whistleblower Martin Salazar, under House arrest, on Skype.


One chair had a computer screen with a skyped in speaker, Department of Energy former employee, Martin Salazar, who is under house arrest. He told his story, which he alleged, as so often happens to whistleblowers, involved betrayal, (by the federal government) witness perjury, breaking deals. 

Salazar told the story of discovering that the US had equipment used for manufacturing of nuclear weapons that was on loan to other countries... and it was unaccounted for, missing. 

He reported that he was asked to retire, was given an offer to stay on the books for a year and a half so he could retire with full benefits.  The week after he received his first retirement check, he was arrested. The government used perjured testimony, withheld vital evidence, he claimed. 

Salazar cited fellow whistleblower Don Soekken, in bodily attendance at the meeting (remember Salazar was skyped in)  who said that he was a "political prisoner. "

Salazar also gave his take on judges: " We all think the constituents are the people of the US but they really are the people who help them get jobs after they leave their positions in the court."

The next empty chair was dedicated to Bradley Birkenhead. He was represented in the meeting by Richard Renner, legal director for the National Whistleblower Center.  He told the story:

Brad Birkenfeld-- was working for UBS--  and he became aware bank managers were helping people in the US evade taxes.  He discovered top UBS managers wanted the program to continue because they were making money on it.  Brad became the first international banker to break the secrets of Swiss banking. His whistle blowing brought an end to UBS tax fraud scheme. Some tax evaders were put in jail for a few months. But Brad was sentenced to over 40 months in jail and he's now spent more time than all the people who were convicted based on his whistle blowing."

The next empty chair represented Mordechai Vanunu. There was no-one to speak for him so I stood up. I've gotten to know about his story since opednews.com writer Eileen Fleming has been writing about and advocating for Vanunu for at least four years. Vanunu was the whistleblower who exposed the fact that the Israelis had build nuclear weapons. He's been jailed or under house arrest for at least two decades. I'm sure Eileen will add more about him in the comments. 

The final empty chair represented Karen Silkwood, made famous by a movie starring Meryl Streep. Silkwood blew the whistle on dangers in a nuclear energy facility. She paid with her life. T om Devine, legal director, Government Accountability Project (GAP) talked about Silkwood, observing " She paid the price (death) that is common for whistleblowers in other nations. They have their houses burned down, people attacking them, members of their families threatened, many of them are people who are killed."

I was on the next panel, on social media, with one of Opednews' managing editors Joan Brunwasser, who has interviewed many whistleblowers, Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower who is also a blogger, and Shanna Devine, communications director for GAP.  We discussed how to use blogging, twitter, the new media to get the word out--  a great challenge to whistleblowers who are often ignored by the mainstream media, or worse, maligned and mistreated because the MSM only tells the side of the organizations they are blowing the whistle against. 

One whistleblower told me that he discovered, through review of records that came out in court, that millions had been spent to defame his reputation and destroy his ability to get a job. Apparently, this is not an uncommon tactic. 

The meeting, organized by James Murtagh, was aimed at establishing an organization of, by and for whistleblowers.  At the end of the meeting several motions to plan future meetings and related plans were voted on. 

Today, I'll be attending a meeting organized by GAP. 

One last thing. Back before I got to know the whistleblower community I assumed that whistleblowers were waiting to report on the corruption of the Bush administration. Eventually I learned that thousands of whistleblowers had indeed filed reports with the Department of Justice but the DOJ had sandbagged them, failing to act on almost all of them. 

Since Obama has taken office, most whistleblowers say his administration and his DOJ treat whistleblowers worse than any previous president. I mentioned this in a diary I posted yesterday and reasonably, one commenter, Fannie, challenged me on  it. 

I asked two OEN writers to respond-- Jesselyn Raddack happened to be sitting next to me at the conference when I saw the comment, so I asked her to respond. Here's what she wrote; " Obama has brought more prosecutions against whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president and ALL PRESIDENTS combined."

And Jerry Policoff, the person who'd given me that statistic in the first place, commented, titling his comment, Obama's War on Whistleblowers:

 Hi Fannie;


I am Rob's "source" for his statement that "Obama administration has been harder on whistleblowers than all the previous presidents combined."

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more...)
 

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The Catholic Church is truth-y.Their Crusades neve... by . . on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 10:48:16 AM
designed to keep the lucrative holocaust industry ... by larry payne on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:20:54 AM
contained the word "Zionist." I got a warning from... by larry payne on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:40:07 AM
I too got that warning from OpEdNews when I used t... by Stewart Wechsler on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:33:15 PM
..So, while it will likely be problematic to use t... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 1:13:13 PM
include all Jews. If I used Nazis as the video abo... by larry payne on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 1:33:27 PM
Larry and Mark, I would argue that many Jews have ... by Stewart Wechsler on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 4:40:56 PM
attacks on Zionism they should stop being Zionists... by larry payne on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 8:21:56 PM
if both Larry and Mr Wechsler read my 'Monologue o... by Mark Sashine on Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011 at 1:56:31 PM
Jewish attorney Samuel Untermeyer led American Jew... by larry payne on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 9:34:07 AM
I am tryting to explain ( if that is possible) tha... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 10:08:35 AM
They prefer to be anonymous but it is not difficul... by larry payne on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 12:35:38 PM
what I mentioned in my monologue: instead of lamen... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 12:48:00 PM
the government's use of mainstream media to contro... by larry payne on Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011 at 2:20:59 PM
"Once you take the big step, the powers that be al... by Rixar13 on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 10:52:13 AM
Rixar, I have tried to live my life by similar rul... by Martha Bruno on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:03:22 PM
While progressives are scared from failing to supp... by Stewart Wechsler on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:18:12 AM
President Obama's mom, Stanley Ann Dunham, worked ... by Stewart Wechsler on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:04:43 PM
I met Vanunu in 2005 while I was in Israel Pales... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:27:28 AM
Vanunu's Message to Hillary Clinton http://yo... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:33:09 AM
Thank you so much for your work with whistleblower... by Martha Bruno on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:43:03 AM
Was there any mention of Julian Assange and Wikile... by Stuart Sheridan on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 11:55:13 AM
On March 2, 2011, The Army announced it had fil... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:06:05 PM
There was Vanunu Mordechai Read more...  ht... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:11:45 PM
maybe you can partake of the Capitol Hill Peace Da... by Meryl Ann Butler on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:09:18 PM
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:27:27 PM
To get in the house it requires a huge bribe and/o... by M Omell on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:42:35 PM
It's not my revolution unless I can laugh and I am... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 1:54:35 PM
I knew our system was corrupt and rotten to the co... by M Omell on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 12:50:01 PM
You seem to have only started on OEN and I have be... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 1:36:19 PM
I agree with everything you say.  Yet, I wond... by Burl Hall on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 1:05:32 PM
And all that is required is an open mind and heart... by eileen fleming on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 2:02:57 PM
Whistleblowers are the change; we have placed our ... by Martha Bruno on Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 3:55:36 PM
Not criminals but whistleblowers are target. I lik... by John Smith on Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011 at 12:28:31 AM
Thanks for going.  I would have loved to show... by Kevin Anthony Stoda on Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011 at 12:55:21 PM
"Later that month, without any recorded dissent, C... by Stephen Zimmett on Tuesday, Sep 20, 2011 at 5:19:05 PM