After reading the WaPo article on the YouTube Whistleblower, I hope this statement from the Project on Government Oversight gets the widest dissemination possible:
The formal systems that whistle-blowers are expected to use have failed. That’s why you’re seeing people be creative like this…This is a tremendous way for someone brave enough to do it to say something directly and not have to go through a filter.
In my humble opinion, “filter” is not a strong enough word: perhaps “impregnable barricade” would be more accurate.
If anyone hasn’t seen it, the whistleblower video is here. He lays out his case very well, and he will probably be luckier than most whistleblowers in getting a hearing.
This is a Homeland Security whistleblower who is addressing problems with coastguard ships. Here’s a summary of the issues from Slashdot:
- Not enough security cameras (big blind spots)
- Bad (unshielded) communications cables
- Equipment won’t survive the extreme temperatures
- No one cares, billions of dollars and national security at risk.
(The video especially points out how the unshielded communications cables leads to all sorts of eavesdropping.)
As many have pointed out, whistleblowers ruin their career when they speak out, and this has consequences for their friends and family. Corporations are increasingly resorting to preemptory retaliation on people who just have the potential to become whistleblowers (i.e. by raising a complaint) – just so they will be able to call the whistleblower “disgruntled” and distract the public from corporate misconduct.
Our current civic infrastructure is unfortunately tilting toward enabling corporations to hide the evidence. Employees have every incentive to look the other way – to leave security flaws in place, to leave safety problems for post-disaster investigation, to let fraudsters confiscate the retirement savings of thousands of people, and to let the “next poor slob” suffer by abandoning a bad situation instead of addressing it. Subordinate employees are pressured to be bystanders and to enable the worst behavior through lies of omission. Sure there are people willing to be martyrs…but are their enough?
It’s not enough to refrain from abetting the corporate PR machine and refusing to attack the whistleblower. There need to be positive, concrete measures to protect whistleblowers: advocacy and active legal reinforcement, employment assistance, and community support.
I’ve seen some mockery of the poor guy’s plea for a lawyer at the end of the video. The people who think this is lame probably don’t understand just how difficult it is to get a lawyer in these situations. Moreover, government enforcement agencies are no help at all in arranging for legal protection even when their are whistleblower provisions in place. The whistleblower has probably been looking for many months.
Even if you can’t hook the whistleblower up with a lawyer or a potential employer, the least people can do is to let the guy know you understand and support what he’s doing – that you know how corporations block and tackle, that you know government agencies are ineffective, that you know lawyers are scarce and he will have to bare the burden of mounting legal costs, and that you know the media is plagued by corporate PR and shady “experts” determined to malign the character of whistleblowers. This guy is being besieged by “balanced” media coverage right now, which will eternally question his motives and approach. He would probably welcome the opportunity to address any questions raised by the media coverage, especially if there’s no lawyer involved yet. You can send him a comment via his YouTube profile or his slashdot account, and if I find a better means of contacting him, I’ll put the information here.
Note: I have not mentioned the whistleblower’s name, which is now all over the media, because he’s going to be haunted for the rest of his life about what people will turn up when they Google him. I don’t want to add to his problems, and I hope other people will keep this in mind for their comments here and elsewhere.