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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Asheville Citizen-Times: National Security Heroes Here at Home

May 19, 2008
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By GAP President Louis Clark.

President Bush has joked about wanting to torture whistleblowers, stating he would like to string them “up by their thumbs. The same way we do with prisoners in Guantanamo!” Now that whistleblowers have exposed the torture that his administration essentially condoned at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other places, Bush’s joke now seems ironic. But a greater irony exists surrounding the president’s core position that his national security practices have kept America safe. Whistleblower disclosures have steadily eroded this assertion.

Despite bad jokes and rhetoric, he has failed to shut national security whistleblowers up. Veto threats for Congressional bills that would protect whistleblowers, and “signing statements” pledging to ignore similar provisions of enacted legislation have not succeeded in imposing the kind of massive secrecy he sought. In fact, one whistleblower after another has torn holes in the fabric of his legitimacy and legacy, exposing incompetence, illegality, and massive privacy violations.

Society is fortunate that these whistleblowing patriots with national security concerns refuse to remain silent despite threats of retribution. Such courageous individuals are responding positively to their own inner voices of conscience and personal sense of justice. They will not be complicit in allowing unchecked abuses of authority and illegality to triumph. Consider the cases:

Babak Pasdar, a computer expert who worked for a telecommunications giant, discovered a mysterious “Quantico Circuit” within a major telecommunications system that provided a government agency unfettered access to all customer communications connected directly or indirectly to mobile phones. He also revealed that his company had structured its system so it would be impossible to know what had been transmitted through the Circuit.

Late last year, civilian Marine Corps official and whistleblower Franz Gayl wrote a study analyzing the Department of Defense’s (DoD) delays in securing Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), which are better able to protect troops from IED blasts than armored Humvees, the most common protective vehicle in service. Had they been available to troops, Gayl maintained, they could have prevented an unknown number of troop deaths, especially since 40 percent of all American troop deaths during the Iraq War have been the result of Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs - homemade roadside bombs. Instead of approving funding for MRAPs, DoD simply added more armor to the inferior Humvees and provided “inaccurate and incomplete” information about MRAPs to Congress.

Those who follow the path of justice and truth find the trek thorny and treacherous because powerful forces are allied against them. At great personal risk and sacrifice many such individuals are stepping forward. In doing so, they are changing the course of history, but they need help from all of us. It must act on pending legislation to protect national security whistleblowers. It must also see that all revelations about corruption are examined and reforms pursued so that those who risked their livelihood and career have not done so in vain.

Just as we need whistleblowers to keep our government, corporate and their institutions honest, whistleblowers need us for protection against he forces whose political and financial interests are harmed by truth. Until we recognize as a civil society that it is our obligation to protect and listen to these patriots, all jokes about “stringing them up” will continue to fall flat and reflect poorly on those who tell them.

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