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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Daily Nebraskan: American Whistleblower Tour brings four speakers to UNL’s Lied Center

September 27, 2011
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By CODY ELMORE

A clash of applause echoed off the dimly lit walls of the Lied Center as The American Whistleblower Tour speakers took their seats on three white couches in front of a collection of artificial foliage.

A whistleblower is someone who takes great professional and personal risk to reveal the truth.

Gary Aguirre, a former investigator for the Securities and Exchange Commission, had accused John Mack, the chairman of the board at Morgan Stanley Investment Company, of insider trading, drawing the attention of not only Mack, but also the SEC.

"When I asked my advisers if I should investigate the problem I'd found, they told me to let it go because the man John Mack held too much political power," Aguirre said. "I knew I had three options. I could fight it. I could leave the SEC or I just go along with it. I knew that I had to fight it. If I'd done it different, I don't think I'd be the person I am today."

Thomas Drake, a former senior executive at the National Security Agency, recognized an attempt by the federal government to wiretap citizens illegally. Drake lost his position at the NSA as well as his job at Strayer University.

"When I took my oath, I didn't take it to the NSA or the federal government or anybody," Drake said. "I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and, when I saw it being violated, I couldn't stand by and watch."

Mike McGraw, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, works for the Kansas City Star as an investigative reporter, aiding whistleblowers who want their stories brought to the public.

"I can't tip my hat enough to those who have the courage to step out against the workplace culture," McGraw said. "I want to live long enough to see a time when people are celebrated for that courage."

Jesselyn Radack, the moderator of the presentation, unveiled a plethora of falsifications concerning the treatment of an American Taliban prisoner under the George W. Bush administration.

"I had to think a lot about how I was going to bring people's attention to the problem," Radack said. "If it weren't for the media and people like Mike (McGraw), I wouldn't have gotten anywhere."

Junior actuarial science major Jeremy Mills said he appreciates the opportunity to hear first person accounts of whistleblowing, relating the experiences of Aguirre, Drake, McGraw and Radack to those of his own.

"I was really surprised by how severe the repercussions were toward them," Mills said. "The amount of retaliation that each person had went through was pretty alarming."

Aguirre recognizes the impact that the generation of students present at the event will have during the next decade, urging students to take action against things they think are wrong.

"The public is so apathetic to the functions of our government," Aguirre said. "Students need to look at parts of the government that aren't transparent and have operations going on behind closed doors with criticism. College students are going to inherit the world sooner than they think. We want them to be motivated enough to change it."

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