I follow with interest the predictable fortunes of whistle-blowers from Assange to Manning to Snowden. Having lacked the courage to blow the whistle myself, I know what pressure they come under. Did they know ahead of time what they were in for?
Some seem a bit naïve, (in a good way) like the FBI’s Sibel Edmonds. She followed “proper channels” to report foreign agents working at the FBI, which got her harassed and fired. When her illegal termination case came up, the entire weight of the U.S. Justice Department came against her. Anything she knew was retroactively classified as top secret. Her testimony to the 9/11 Commission was ignored. She was personally attacked, but that is always part of the deal. In 2004, she started the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.
Whistleblowers are disgruntled, the stories always say, want revenge, were bad employees, or are mentally ill. The news media cooperates fully with these attacks. It usually works and the whistleblower is discredited, while their information quickly fades from the collective memory.
Susan Lindauer is an idealist and anti-war activist. As a “back channel” CIA asset working supposedly for peace in Iraq, she thought she was doing good deeds. She claims that details of an impending terrorist attack via hijacked planes was well-known for months at the CIA before they took place. She was arrested under the provisions of the Patriot Act and spent a year in jail. Lindauer was supposedly mentally unfit to stand trial (she had no such history or symptoms,) but won the right to refuse forced antipsychotic medication which the Department of Justice claimed would render her competent to stand trial. Who would believe a crazy person? She was released in 2006 and all charges dropped in 2009.
Compared to these people, my whistle-blowing would have been small potatoes. I observed corruption at two non-profits. I reported it to the IRS on their anonymous tips website, but I was scared even to do that. The people involved were rich and powerful and could eat me for lunch. When I met a government contractor who was discriminating racially and bragged about it, I thought I should correct this injustice. But as a divorced mom trying to raise a little girl by myself in a KKK-infested community, I simply did not have the courage.
I ran into an apparently organized crime-related scheme that I did report-to the bigwigs in town and to the sheriff. When I got no response and found out to my horror the bigwigs were in on it, I backed down quickly. This is one reason I laugh when I hear advocates for “smaller government.” Some municipalities are so corrupt they put 1900 mafia-run Sicily to shame. It’s not the size of the government, it’s the level of secrecy and back room deals.
Finally, I discovered corruption in fairly high places for which I could be held personally responsible. As soon as I confirmed it, I gathered up all the documentation, tried to correct it through “proper” channels and when I was outmaneuvered, I resigned, taking my papers with me. Why? So they wouldn’t destroy my reputation as I had seen them do to others. It worked.
So although I lacked the courage to lay down my life for truth and justice, I have compassion for those who do. Unless you have that kind of courage, the least you could do is refrain from parroting the powers-that-be who label whistleblowers as traitors.