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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/14/16

Ethics of Whistleblowing

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Revenge - Joe Darby, the soldier who's whistle-blowing only consisted of handing over to authorities the photographs that were given to him (depicting abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib), is in my opinion and experience, a perfect example of someone intending to do harm for personal reasons (like a disgruntled employee).

According to his first interview after being discharged with GQ magazine, he expressed resentment for his fellow military police soldiers, long before he ever knew of their taking candid pictures of themselves with detainees. When he viewed some of them, I suspect he knew what an impact they might have to someone outside the scope of the operation--as well as their not knowing the context of the photo snaps (many of them were gags or souvenirs--posed for and not in the act as perceived and reported by the media).

He knew what kind of trouble this could cause these soldiers he admittedly despised, regardless of their actions with detainees.

Darby conspired to anonymously submit the photos to CID (Criminal Investigate Division - a military type internal affairs), then watch the drama unfold from the stealth of anonymity. But the drama immediately went out of his control, beyond anything he could have imagined. He didn't realize what he was inadvertently stumbling upon and really threatening to expose--the role of the interrogators, their actions, and the policies that instructed them.

Attention - One of the most popular accusations directed at me was that I did it for the attention--that I was a "media hound" and this was my Andy Warholic "15 minutes of fame". Though I admit it is very exciting to see yourself on prime time television or profiled in national newspapers, that attention soon becomes a burden too great to individually withstand. I ended up in a paranoid and exhausted state where I couldn't eat or sleep.

Some no doubt "speak out" for the benefits of attention. Like when I was to speak at a peace activist event in New Jersey, October 2006. There I met an Iraq War veteran and political activist. During our conversation, he boasted how being a traveling and outspoken activist had often gotten him a lot of women. I sat absolutely stunned, knowing how such a sentiment and vice stands to discredit everything such a person works for.

Joe Darby didn't expect to be known for his role at Abu Ghraib, but he did quickly assume the attention role provided him by the media. He went on to receive several outlandish accolades for his supposed "courage", which in my opinion, was really for playing his part in the melodrama as it was being suggestively scripted for him.


"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." - Bill Clinton

Consequences - Regardless of intent, there are certain consequences inherent in calling attention to the wrongdoings of others. There is the loss of friends in the work place, immediately. They scatter in fear for their own lives. Then comes the paranoia about those friends who remain or that you later befriend in the developing cloak and dagger.

The worry over your future employment then sinks in.

The bridge back to the normal daily life you knew is effectively burned, with anxiety filling your thoughts and emotions as you move into the now unpredictable future.

Family is often the next thing to go, as your spouse and children cannot relate--and sometimes consider you the source of your own problems and theirs, even disagreeing with your motives and actions.

Disillusionment - Some of the darkest moments come when you realize that everything you had once believed in ideally and aligned your life's interest in--were and are now all wrong, and worse, now actually set against you.

The temptation is then to go to the opposite side of what you formerly supported, and is often the respite of most whistle-blowers. Having never been involved in politics, I know I was quickly inundated with support from the Democratic Party almost immediately (such as former Vice President Al Gore quoting me in a political speech just days after my ABC News interview). I embraced this support, which saved me on many levels.


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Sam Provance was a military intelligence sergeant known for disobeying orders from his commanders by discussing with the media his experiences at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. He eventually brought his case to the US Government in February 2006, resulting in a Congressional subpoena of the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. For his sworn testimony to (more...)

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