Whistleblowing Vital to Nation's Security
"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." -- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
Today, Americans face unique dangers to our national and economic security, to our nation's reputation, to our environmental safety and to our justice system. Truth has been in short supply on issues most vital to the nation's cherished ideals and to our shared future hopes.
The Intenational Association of Whistleblowers (IAW) met May 11-18 highlighted the extraordinary dangers of domestic surveillance, programs that were designed to protect citizens, but which in fact have had the opposite effect and made America less secure. The program was initiated and organized by the whistleblowers themselves. Hundreds of participated.
Linda Lewis, an organizer of the conference , formerly an emergency planning specialist with the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), spoke about an FSIS training program that urged agency employees to spy on activists, even going in person to the homes and offices where activists live and work. The training labeled peaceful protest groups and even pie-throwers as "terrorists." Groups like Greenpeace and PETA were lumped in the same category as Al Qaeda, said Lewis, who objected to the agency. The agency ignored Lewis' objection and instead directed employees to instal computer software provided for sharing surveillance information on home, not office, computers. Lewis noted that the policy sidestepped transparency and accountability.
Lewis was part of the kick-off panel for the whistleblower week,a panel on domestic intelligence, including the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program and a USDA program that authorized spying on activists. Jesselyn Radack, Government Accountability (GAP) Homeland Security Director moderated the panel. Radack is the noted author of "The Canary in the Coalmine".
Radack's book was described by the New York Times as "riveting -- and chilling -- account of how far the Bush Administration's Justice Department will go to destroy a critic."
Daniel Ehlsberg, of the Pentagon Papers, described Radack as " the person on duty when John Walker Lindh was taken in. With all this talk about torture you should know that the first person tortured was an American citizen and he was tortured mercilessly for the first few days of his internment and denied medical care. She raised holy hell. She was tossed out of the Justice Department and blacklisted. That's the kind of guts Jesselyn had. Jesselyn had tremendous guts and now she's written a really terrific book.
Radack's convened panel discussed the implications of the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program on the First Amendment. It will also address warrant-less wiretapping in the context of attorney-client communications, terrorism investigations, the "state secrets privilege," and consider the implications for pending congressional showdowns such as telecom immunity in FISA legislation. In addition to Radack and Lewis, other panelists include:
o Babak Pasdar, telecommunications whistleblower whose disclosure is credited with turning the tide in the House of Representatives denying corporate immunity in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
o Eric Lichtblau, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist who broke the government's secret surveillance program.
Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU helped to design the presentation. Coleen Rowley was not present on this panel, but acted as advisor to the IAW in designing the week's events. Rowley exposed FBI negligence preceding the September 11 terrorist attack, was named as one of Time Magazine's Persons of the Year, along with Enron-whistleblower Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom.
Republican Senator Charles Grassley received a lifetime achievement award at the original whistleblower conference for fighting waste, fraud and corruption. The award, like the conference, is completely bipartisan, and warmly endorsed by blue-chip conservatives and liberals.
There are too many patriotic truth tellers to name, so we invite you to visit: http://makeitsafecampaign.org/www/.
Scores of committed volunteers worked relentlessly on this conference as volunteer soldiers for truth.
IAW secretary Betsy Combier declared the event was a "Win for all of us." Ms. Combier, Editor of Parentadvocates.org and a paralegal, is an advocate for open government, equal opportunity in education for all kids, and putting children first.
What do all these people have in common? The commitment to oppose hazardous, illegal and unsafe conditions, to decrease waste, fraud and abuse of authority in United States government operations, to support the fundamental concepts embedded in our Open Society, to support our troops and our veterans, and to protect the rights of U.S. citizens to speak without reprisal on matters securing the general welfare and defense of our nation.
Simply stated, America's truth-tellers want to make America's promise work. They present gripping human, personal stories, and ask for protections that would make our nation safer. WWW promises an opportunity to explore the deep and searching questions as a society that cannot afford to lose important freedoms.
Sunlight really is the best disinfectant. These soldiers for the truth are asking for clean hands in medicine, in government, and in corporations. To protect our security, we need the best policeman of all: the truth.