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:
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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