Sam Adams was a CIA intelligence analyst during the Vietnam war who discovered in 1967 that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms – roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to. U.S. military leaders such as Gen. William Westmoreland had forbidden Army intelligence to report actual enemy numbers, fearing the effect would weaken American public support for the war. A SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Westmoreland’s deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams on August 20, 1967 stated: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion” about the prospects for a U.S. victory in the war against the North Vietnamese. The CIA and the military collaborated on the coverup, and Adams responded with an internal memorandum calling the agreement a monument of deceit. The Communist countrywide “Tet offensive” during January/February 1968 made it clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’ higher figures were correct. Sam Adams tried to work within the system by making senior intelligence officials aware of the deception, but these officials lacked the courage to stand up to General Westmoreland. Despite this, Sam remained reluctant to go outside of official channels. Several weeks after the Tet offensive, however, a U.S. military analyst name Daniel Ellsberg learned that Gen. Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to expand the war into Cambodia, Laos, and North Vietnam – right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond. Somebody else promptly leaked to the New York Times Westmoreland’s request for additional troops, emboldening Ellsberg to do likewise with Sam Adams’ story. Dan had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” It was his first unauthorized disclosure. On March 19, 1968 the New York Times published a stinging article based on Sam Adams’ true figures. On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us…We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks…I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.” On March 31, 1968 Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November. Sam Adams later testified for the defense in the 1973 espionage trial of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony J. Russo, accused in connection with the 1971 illegal transmission of the Pentagon Papers, a secret Government-sponsored history of the Vietnam War. Citing Government misconduct, a Federal judge dismissed all charges against the two. After Adams resigned from the CIA in 1973, he sought the support of other intelligence officials to prove that there was a Saigon cover-up. From the massive chronologies Mr. Adams compiled, he detailed his allegations in a Harper’s Magazine article in 1975. He also testified before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, which reached conclusions similar to his own. In 1982 Adams provided critical evidence to CBS News reporters who made the documentary “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception”. General Westmoreland subsequently sued both Adams and CBS News for libel, but the case was settled privately. Sam Adams regretted his years of staying “inside channels” in his bid to reveal the truth about the Vietnam deception, and died at 55 of a heart attack, nagged by the thought that many more lives might have been saved had he taken stronger measures. His story is told in his book War of Numbers, published posthumously. The annual Sam Adams Award has been given in previous years to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI; Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; Sam Provance, former US Army Sgt; Maj. Frank Grevil of Danish Army Intelligence; Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Colin Powell at State; Julian Assange, of WikiLeaks; Thomas Drake, of NSA; Jesselyn Radack, formerly of Dept. of Justice; Thomas Fingar, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Director, National Intelligence Council, and Edward Snowden, former contractor for the National Security Agency.
Stanley Adams discovered evidence of price fixing. He passed the evidence to the European Economic Community, who erroneously leaked Adams’ name back to Hoffman-LaRoche. Adams was arrested for industrial espionage by the Swiss government and spent six months in jail. He fought for ten years to clear his name and receive compensation from the EEC.
Philip Agee is a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, who spent nearly 40 years exposing CIA’s questionable actions and tactics. Deprived of his U.S. passport and expelled from several countries at the request of American government officials, Agee had lived for the most part in Germany and Cuba. Philip Agee’s book, “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” was published in 1975, infuriating U.S. officials. Agee’s exposés prompted Congress to pass the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which made it a crime to intentionally reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer. Valerie Wilson being publicly identified as a C.I.A. officer led to the perjury conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff. Philip Agee was the first CIA whistleblower to expose the agency’s covert operations on such a grand scale. Agee’s friend and co-author Wolf wrote, “He really, truly did not want to see anyone hurt… He wanted to neutralize what they [CIA] were doing — the whole gamut, from fixing elections and hiring local journalists to plant stories all the way up to creating foreign intelligence services that became agencies of oppression.” Agee worked undercover for eight years in Mexico, Uruguay and Ecuador. Agee’s decision to expose CIA’s methods (including inhumane torture) was impacted by the case, of Angela Camargo Seixas, a Brazilian leftist who had been arrested and tortured by Brazilian security forces. In his book, “Inside the Company: CIA Diary,” Agee wrote, “After 12 years with the agency I finally understood how much suffering it was causing, that millions of people all over the world had been killed or had their lives destroyed by the C.I.A. and the institutions it supports.” Despite its political viewpoint, Agee’s book was acknowledged by CIA veterans as an accurate account of a case officer’s day-to-day activities.
Gary J. Aguirre blew the whistle on the SEC’s failure to pursue an investigation of John Mack for an insider trading case involving Pequot Capital Management and Arthur J. Samburg. Aguirre was fired for complaining about special treatment for Mack, which prompted investigations by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee, culminating in a joint report vindicating Aguirre. Through his FOIA request filed to learn more about his wrongful termination, he uncovered the “smoking gun” that forced the SEC to re-open its case against Pequot, leading to a settlement of $28 million in 2009. A month later, the SEC settled Aguirre’s lawsuit for wrongful termination and paid him $755,000 dollars. Aguirre also won a lawsuit against the SEC filed in District Court.
Jim Alderson worked as an accountant for Quorum Health Services in Montana and a Chief Financial Officer at the Whitefish hospital. In 1992, he blew the whistle on the hospital’s fraudulent bookkeeping practices, wherein reimbursements were routinely sought after filing fraudulent cost reports with Medicare. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, Alderson was fired. He filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his former employer, Quorum Health Services, and its former owner, Hospital Corp. of America. Five years after Alderson filed the lawsuit, the federal government joined the case. In October 2000, Quorum settled the case. Under the False Claims law, Alderson received $11.6 million dollars and Quorum paid a fine of $77.5 million dollars.
Marta Andreasen is a Spanish accountant, employed by the European Commission as Chief Accountant. She raised serious concerns about potential fraud within EU, neglected by the Commission. Andreasen leaked top-secret information to the press, revealing alleged illegal activities by the United States and the United Kingdom in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Mackie Bailey is a miner, who blew the whistle about dangerous practices at an underground coal mine in Harlan County, Kentucky where another miner was crushed to death in June 2011. The company and three supervisors pleaded guilty in federal court. State authorities proceeded to charge the whistleblower himself, for taking part in the dangerous activities he reported to state and federal regulators. This course of action is especially outlandish, not only because Bailey was ordered by his superiors to work in unsafe conditions, but also because his testimony helped to convict the responsible parties.
William Baldwin filed a whistleblower suit against his former employer, contractor Custer Battles in 2004. Baldwin said that the company bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars by filing fake invoices and padding bills for reconstruction work in Iraq. A federal jury ruled in favor of Baldwin and his co-plaintiff, former FBI Agent Robert Isakson, awarding a $10 million dollar judgment against the now-defunct firm. It was the first ever civil verdict for Iraq reconstruction fraud. In 2006, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned the jury award. He said Isakson and Baldwin failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government.
Alexander Barankov served as a policeman in Minsk, Belarus. He worked in a financial crimes unit in Minsk’s police force. In 2009, Barankov blew the whistle on an illegal oil-smuggling network connected to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, as well as rampant corruption within the ranks of Belarusian police. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosures, Barankov was charged with bribery and fraud in his home country, shortly after he blew the whistle. To escape retaliatory persecution, Barankov escaped to Ecuador. He was twice detained by Ecuadorian authorities, but was granted a political refugee status in 2012, which shields Barankov from pending extradition to Belarus.
Leon Bard served as an inspector in the quality assurance department of Bath Iron Works (BIW) from 1979 to 1986. BIW is one of the premier shipbuilders in the United States, constructing destroyers for the U.S. Navy. Bard was responsible for inspecting shipping documents and test reports for the incoming steel that was purchased by BIW from various steel mills. Bard uncovered serious flaws in BIW’s quality assurance process, in contravention with provisions of BIW’s contracts with the United States Navy. Since 1984, Bard repeatedly brought these issues to the attention of his supervisors and Navy inspectors on-site at BIW. After his whistleblowing disclosures, Bard stopped receiving salary increases. The management also retaliated by intentionally lowering Bard’s performance evaluations, although they were always positive before he spoke out about the company’s violations. On September 12, 1986, BIW fired Bard, citing “creating a nuisance” and “deliberately restricting output” as their frivolous reasons for his termination. Bard filed a complaint against BIW for wrongful discharge and reprisal, in violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The court summarily dismissed Bard’s complaint, on all counts except for the whistleblower retaliation. On March 12, 1987, CBS Evening News with Dan Rather aired a program about Leon Bard’s disclosures, entitled “Uninspected Steel At Bath Iron Works”. BIW fired back, claiming that its own internal investigations have cleared the company of any wrongdoing. Scared off by the blowback from BIW’ management and supporters, CBS dropped its upcoming “60 Minutes” report. It’s not uncommon for CBS to drop their coverage of a whistleblower’s story, under pressure from the perpetrators. An investigation by Supervisor of Shipbuilding at BIW confirmed Bard’s report on March 19, 1987, having found specific violations of BIW’s Federal Contracts. The report’s final conclusion urged BIW not to use the non-conforming steel for installation aboard Navy ships. In 1988, Bard was awarded the Cavallo Prize for Moral Courage in Business and Government. Shortly thereafter, the court ruled that Bard’s whistleblower claim does not qualify for a jury trial. After Bard filed his lawsuit, the Legislature had amended the WPA, eliminating the statutory right to a trial by jury. This amendment was retroactively applied to Bard’s case, in spite of his formal objections. The case was tried without a jury in 1990. In spite of Bard’s assertion that BIW’s actions amounted to a violation of a specific federal regulation dealing with government procurement contracts, the court claimed that the evidence of law-breaking by BIW was “insufficient” and therefore Bard was not protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act. The courts also ruled that employees had no recourse against the company for being fired, even if they were “terminated at will,” “without reason and even negligently and in bad faith.” As most whistleblowers, Bard was unable to obtain justice in courts. Those responsible for the shortcomings he exposed have been promoted, which is a recurring theme throughout many whistleblower cases. Bath Iron Works continues to benefit from its relationship with the federal government and the US Navy, being regularly awarded federal contracts. The company’s inspection practices remained the same. Frustrated with the indifference of the U.S. judiciary to the plight of whistleblowers, Leon Bard installed a sign outside of his home in Lisbon Falls, Maine. It is addressed “To the People of Maine” and states, “Did you know that on April 26, 1991 the Maine Supreme Court determined that fraud and abuse of the government is not against the law?”
Christophe Bassons blew the whistle in the Lance Armstrong scandal, exposing his use of performance-enhancing drugs to win high-level cycling competitions. Christophe was the only member of the notorious Festina team who was not implicated in drug-taking. Bassons complained that the sport had “two speeds”, one for the drug-takers and one for people like who him, who refused to cheat. During the 1999 Tour de France, he was asked to write a column for the newspaper, Le Parisen, where Basson wrote that the riders were shocked by Armstrong’s speed. Armstrong retaliated and repeatedly encouraged Bassons to leave the Tour. Armstrong later admitted on French TV that the said conversation did take place. “His accusations aren’t good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he’s wrong and he would be better off going home,” he said. Other riders threatened Bassons and many ostracized him, until he left the Tour. He now works for the French ministry of sports and youth, with responsibility for drug testing. As the result of doping revelations, Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been banned from professional cycling for life. The US Anti-Doping Agency considers this one of the greatest, most sophisticated doping conspiracies in the history of sport. After years of denying the charges and character assassination of the whistleblowers, in January 2013 Armstrong finally admitted that the allegations of doping were in fact true.
Charles Bates is a former employee of spinal medical equipment giant Kyphon. Patrick blew the whistle on Rex Healthcare for improperly billing Medicare for out-patient surgeries as in-patient procedures. Raleigh, N.C. based Rex Healthcare settled for $1.9 million dollars to resolve allegations that between 2004 and 2007 it submitted false claims for minimally-invasive procedures, which the hospital classified as inpatient admissions in order to increase its reimbursement from Medicare. Kyphon has been accused of forcing osteoporosis patients to stay overnight in hospitals for a simple one-hour procedure, in order to inflate Medicare reimbursements.
Eric Ben-Artzi is a former quantitative risk analyst for Deutsche Bank. He blew the whistle on an alleged multibillion-dollar securities violations by Europe’s biggest financial lender. In his SEC complaint, Ben-Artzi stated that from 2007 to 2010 Deutsche Bank misrepresented the value of its portfolio with a notional value of as much as $130 billion dollars. When he raised those concerns internally, Ben-Artzi was met with severe hostility, denied access to records and was subsequently fired, in spite of favorable job performance reviews.
Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek, also known as Laurie Bembenek, was a former Milwaukee police officer who blew the whistle on the Police Department, claiming that it engaged in sexual discrimination and other illegal activities. She was fired and filed a lawsuit against the PD. Bembenek was convicted of murdering her husband’s ex-wife in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 28, 1981, in spite of conflicting witness statements and evidence that cleared her. Bembenek, a former Playboy bunny, garnered national attention after she escaped from Taycheedah Correctional Institution. These events inspired the slogan “Run, Bambi, Run,” as the public became aware of her wrongful conviction. Bembenek succeeded in getting a new trial, pled no contest to second-degree murder and was sentenced to time served and ten years probation. She later sought to have the sentence overturned. Bembenek died on November 20, 2010 at the age of 52.
Bill Bergman worked at the Chicago Federal Reserve for over 13 years as an economist and financial markets policy analyst. In August 2001 the Federal Reserve Board of Governors issued a warning to federal banks, urging them to be especially vigilant in monitoring Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs). At the same time, the economy of the United States was experiencing its largest spike in money supply since 1947. Over $5 billion dollars was added to the currency in circulation between June and August of 2001. Two years later, Bergman started to piece this information together at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He suspected that the sudden infusion of currency might have been an indicator of foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Bergman deduced that those in danger of having their assets frozen in the wake of a massive attack would attempt to liquidate their holdings beforehand. Bergman requested a clarification from the Board of Governors, inquiring as to the reason for the issuance of their SARs directive. In response, he was scolded for taking the initiative to make such an inquiry. Bergman was accused of committing “an egregious breach of protocol in calling the Board staff and asking the question.” Shortly thereafter, Bergman was informed that his position was no longer needed.
William Binney is a former NSA crypto-mathematician, who worked within the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC). In his position as a Technical Director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, Binney mentored some 6,000 technical analysts that eavesdropped on foreign nations, collecting private phone calls and e-mails for NSA databases. The explosive growth of the Internet during the 1990s created a vulnerability for the NSA, as the agency was unable to timely process and analyze massive amounts of data it was collecting. Binney and his colleagues created a program (ThinThread) that could appropriately isolate relevant data. ThinThread also had a built-in capability for ensuring the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to privacy. This program was ready to deploy eight months prior to the attacks of 9/11. However, NSA leadership elected to abandon ThinThread in favor of a multi-billion dollar program, Trailblazer, which was still in its planning stages. The culture of NSA profiteering and cronyism caused the agency to prefer expensive projects like Trailblazer that would benefit private contractors, instead of smaller internal projects, like ThinThread, which was developed with existing NSA resources. In early 2000, Binney and his colleague J. Kirk Wiebe blew the whistle on the NSA’s mismanagement and waste of funds in connection with Trailblazer. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, Binney was demoted and stymied from further access to the Congressional oversight committees. Binney is confident that the implementation of ThinThread in January 2001 would have detected the movements of al-Qaeda in the days leading up to the attacks of 9/11 and important warning signs would not have been missed by the NSA. After the terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush approved new domestic surveillance programs, including Stellar Wind. This program was unconstitutional and did not contain any of the necessary built-in privacy protections. Stellar Wind enabled the NSA to target any American by their name, telephone number, or other attributes. The program collected information on domestic phone calls, recording 320 million calls a day. Stellar Wind also allowed the inspection of domestic e-mail communications. The program allowed the NSA to engage in massive warrantless surveillance. The agency also made deals with the biggest telecommunications companies, who agreed to facilitate the surveillance for the NSA. AT&T gave the agency complete access to its domestic and international billing records. Verizon turned over its data for “over a billion and a half calls per day.” Millions of communications were intercepted by the NSA on a daily basis. Disheartened by the agency’s blatant disregard for the constitutional rights of American citizens, Binney retired from the NSA on October 31, 2001. Even after his retirement Binney was subjected to continued whistleblower retaliation, as the NSA interfered with his right to work and income-earning ability. In an attempt to prompt much-needed changes at the NSA, Binney filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General, along with his former NSA colleagues J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis, as well as House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staffer Diane Roark (an NSA budget expert on the House Intelligence Committee). Their report exposed the NSA’s expansive fraud, waste, and mismanagement, with respect to the agency’s arbitrary rejection of ThinThread in favor of the overpriced and ineffective Trailblazer. Years later, the DoD Inspector General substantiated the allegations made by NSA whistleblowers. In December 2005, the New York Times published a story that contained stunning revelations about the NSA’s secret domestic spying program. In a manner consistent with most whistleblowing cases, the government did not concern itself with the substance of whistleblowing disclosures. Instead, it threw all of its might towards identifying and prosecuting the source of embarrassing information. The FBI launched an expansive investigation that involved five full-time prosecutors and 25 FBI agents. Binney, Wiebe and Roark were named as official suspects. In July 2007, the FBI raided the homes of the whistleblowers. FBI agents held a gun to Binney’s head as he stepped out of the shower, naked and obviously unarmed. The FBI seized Binney’s private computer, which was never returned, even though he was never charged with a crime. The day after the raid, the NSA informed Binney that his security clearance, which he held since 1965, was suspended. Binney continues his advocacy to further the ongoing debate about the scope of the ever-expanding surveillance in the United States, which was propelled to the forefront of public attention by Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013.
Bradley Birkenfeld is a former banker at UBS, Switzerland’s largest banking entity. He reported banking irregularities that showcased the internal workings of secret Swiss bank accounts. Birkenfeld revealed the names of thousands of Americans maintaining illegal offshore bank accounts for the purpose of tax evasion, including elected officials, judges and corporate moguls. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was to pay Birkenfeld ten (10%) percent of the total findings in his protected disclosures, based on the amount of $780 million dollars in fines. None of the perpetrators were prosecuted – only the whistleblower himself. After spending two and one half years in prison, Birkenfeld finally received $104 million dollars owed to him by the IRS as his whistleblowing disclosure award.
Paul Bishop blew the whistle about his employer, World Savings of Oakland, California, taking on unstable loans. In his former capacity as a loan consultant, Bishop warned his supervisors that many of the mortgages granted by the company were misleading and predatory. Bishop believed that the company’s dangerous predicament could be “compared to Enron” and warned one manager about his intent to report the situation to the CFO of what was at that time the prospective buyer, Wachovia. In retaliation for reporting improper practices and violations of state and federal laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the whistleblower was fired. In his lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Bishop states that he warned World Savings managers, prior to the company’s sale to Wachovia, about improper and illegal practices, such as “predatory lending, fraud and the deceptive nature of stated income loans”. In his complaint, Bishop expressed his belief that World Savings was “committing fraud, violating its fiduciary duties and its obligations under the Sarbanes-Oxley act.” He said that World Savings “preyed upon” desperate borrowers who were “enticed into bad/predatory loans…without being told the complete truth about the loans”.
Eileen Blagden served as a school principal, blowing the whistle on sexual misconduct by a teacher. In 2008, Kevin Kirby was arrested for indecent exposure, lewd and lascivious behavior, which prompted his suspension from teaching at Leal Elementary School in Cerritos, CA. In 2009, Kirby pleaded guilty to an unrelated trespassing charge. A jury found him not guilty on the sex-related charges, but Kirby was required to “stay at least 100 yards away” from schools in Long Beach. In September 2009, the ABC Unified School District transferred Kirby to Stowers Elementary school in Cerritos, assigning him to be a kindergarten teacher. As a principal, Eileen Blagden started to notice Kirby’s instability and highly irresponsible behavior. Fellow kindergarten teachers called him a “ticking time bomb,” while Kirby openly discussed suicide and his desire to kill other two kindergarten teachers. Blagden reported this behavior to district officials, who assured her that appropriate action would be taken. When nothing was done, Blagden informed Carol Hansen, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of human resources, that she was going to make a police report about Kirby’s threats. Hansen responded with a warning: “if you report this, you’ll be sorry.” Concerned about the safety of the children and her staff, Blagden called the police. Three days later, she was punished by being placed on three months’ administrative leave, allegedly for “poor performance.” Later, she was demoted. As a last resort, Blagden sued the ABC Unified School District In October 2010 for whistleblower retaliation. The Judge noted that the evidence “supports the argument that [Blagden] was really punished because . . . [Blagden] actually did involve the police against Hansen’s directive not to do so.” The judge pointed out that Blagden “was placed on administrative leave within 72 hours of her reporting to the police that another teacher had made death threats” and even suggested that the district had fabricated evidence against her. The school district decided to settle the case. Eileen Blagden has resigned from her school and left the district. Those involved in whistleblower retaliation against her continue to work for the same district and have been promoted.
Archer Blood was the Consul General who sent a famous 1971 dissent cable, prompted by the Pakistani military’s operations during the bloody Bangladesh massacre. The cable charged: “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pakistan-dominated government.” The Nixon administration was determined to keep this genocide out of the media. In retaliation for speaking out, Archer Blood was transferred from his position and placed into virtual exile within the State Department.
James Bobreski made a protected disclosure and exposed chlorine gas contamination in the Washington DC area. This caused him to be the target of retaliation by federal management. Bobreski’s report created bias and prejudice in the workplace. He was essentially blacklisted from career advancement, which compromised his income earning ability. Bobreski’s case is ongoing.
Roger Boisjoly was an engineer who blew the whistle on the failure to prevent the Challenger disaster. Bowing to the political pressure to expedite the launch of the shuttle, Morton Thiokol and NASA ignored internal warnings about safety concerns and went forward, in spite of their express knowledge that the O-ring joint was flawed. A redesign was in progress, but flights were to continue even while the repair was underway. Leaders who had successfully managed the lunar program were replaced with government bureaucrats, such as Robert C. Bonner, who played the political game at the expense of human lives. Six months before the Challenger disaster, Boisjoly sent a memo to the heads of Morton Thiokol, warning that the seals connecting the sections of the boosters could fail, saying that “the result could be a catastrophe of the highest order, loss of human life.” On January 28, 1986, a little more than a minute after Challenger was launched at the Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle broke to pieces when an O-ring joint in one of the solid rocket boosters failed due to a burnthrough. The seven Challenger astronauts suffered horrific deaths, as some of them may have survived until the crew cabin struck the ocean surface after plummeting 60,000 feet. This was the greatest tragedy in the history of the space age that could have been prevented, if NASA and Morton Thiokol were to heed the warnings from whistleblowers. Boisjoly took disability leave to recover from depression over the Challenger disaster. He later died of cancer.
Kathryn Bolkovac blew the whistle on sex trafficking, rape and murders of women and children, committed by humanitarian workers, soldiers and police officers, trained by DynCorp, the company that hired Bolkovac and later fired her for making a protected disclosure. Typically for many whistleblower cases, the whistleblower was accused of having filed erroneous time-sheets to justify her retaliatory dismissal. Many police officers involved in the illicit activities and crimes reported by Bolkovac were forced to resign, but none of them have been prosecuted, as they enjoy immunity from prosecution in Bosnia. Bolkovac was portrayed by Rachel Weisz in an award-winning film entitled “The Whistleblower”, directed by Larysa Kondracki. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was obliged to stage a special screening of the film, pledging action to prevent recurrence. It was later revealed that senior UN officials tried to belittle and play down the film. The UN has also shut down effective anti-trafficking initiatives by its own gender affairs chief in Bosnia.
Ingvar Bratt is an engineer who revealed himself as the anonymous source in the Bofors Scandal – a major corruption scandal in India in the 1980s. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. The scale of the corruption surpassed anything India had seen before, leading to the defeat of Gandhi’s ruling Indian National Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. The scandal led to a new Swedish law (SFS 1990:409) concerning company secrets, which commonly is referred to as Lex Bratt.
Dale G. Bridenbaugh is a nuclear power whistleblower. On February 2, 1976, Gregory C. Minor, Richard B. Hubbard, and Dale G. Bridenbaugh (known as the GE Three) “blew the whistle” on safety problems at nuclear power plants, and their action has been called “an exemplary instance of whistleblowing”. The three engineers gained the attention of journalists and their disclosures about the threats of nuclear power had a significant impact. They timed their statements to coincide with their resignations from responsible positions in GE’s’s nuclear energy division, and later established themselves as consultants on the nuclear power industry for state governments, federal agencies, and overseas governments. The consulting firm they formed, MHB Technical Associates, was technical advisor for the movie, “The China Syndrome.” The three engineers participated in Congressional hearings which their disclosures precipitated.
Erin Brockovich worked as a law clerk and was instrumental in blowing the whistle on the contamination of the groundwater in and around Hinkley, CA with toxic Chromium 6, when she uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the water in the area for over 30 years. Brockovich became very proactive in researching the case and contacting victims of toxic exposure. These persistent efforts, spearheaded by Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry, resulted in one of the largest lawsuits of its kind, wherein PG & E paid $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents – the largest toxic tort injury settlement in American history. Brockovich was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the Oscar-winning film “Erin Brockovich”. To date, Erin Brockovich continues her advocacy efforts. As President of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is involved in a number of environmental projects.
Gerald W. Brown is a former firestop contractor and consultant who uncovered serious problems involving the Thermo-Lag 330-1 circuit integrity and silicone foam in US and Canadian nuclear power plants. His revelations led to Congressional proceedings as well as Provincial proceedings in the Canadian Province of Ontario concerning deficiencies in passive fire protection. Thermo-Lag was used to protect circuit integrity in the wiring between nuclear reactors and control rooms within the power stations. In the event of a fire, the wiring was to remain operable, enabling operators to shut down the reactors in order to prevent a nuclear meltdown. Brown informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that the fire testing used to qualify Thermo-Lag was not adequate. The NRC confirmed these allegations and fined Thermal Science Inc. Brown founded the Fire Protection Defense League – an organization for whistleblowers concerned with fire protection issues.
Paul Van Buitenen accused European Commission members of corruption. In 1999, he went public with details of corruption, cronyism and abuse of power in the commission. The entire team of 20 commissioners, headed by then president Jacques Santer, resigned in a symbolic gesture to demonstrate their commitment to cleaning up the commission’s act. In 2002, Buitenen quit, declaring that nothing has changed.
Peter Buxtun revealed one of the most horrific and exploitive methods in utilizing
human being as guinea pigs in medical research exposed in the infamous Tuskegee
Dammen Campbell worked as a delivery order manager for Kellogg Brown & Root, a Houston subsidiary of the multinational energy services corporation Halliburton. Campbell filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that the company submitted false claims and made false statements in connection with 224 delivery orders between April 1994 and September 1998. Halliburton was also accused of inflating contract prices for maintenance and repairs at Fort Ord, a military base that was formerly located near Monterey, California. Halliburton agreed to pay the government $2 million dollars to settle allegations that it defrauded the military. The settlement precludes further investigations and penalties and Halliburton continues to operate as a major military contractor.
Shawn Carpenter is an American Navy veteran, who worked for Sandia National Laboratories and blew the whistle on a Chinese cyberespionage ring, dubbed “Titan Rain” by the FBI. Carpenter uncovered that a sophisticated group of hackers was systematically penetrating hundreds of computer networks at major U.S. defense contractors, military installations and government agencies to access sensitive information. After informing his superiors at Sandia, he was directed not to share the information with anyone. Carpenter went on to voluntarily work with the U.S. Army and FBI to address the problem. When Sandia discovered his actions, they terminated his employment and revoked his security clearance. On February 13, 2007, a New Mexico State Court awarded Carpenter $4.7 million dollars in damages from Sandia Corporation for being wrongfully fired. The jury found that Sandia Corporation’s handling of Mr. Carpenter’s firing was “malicious, willful, reckless, wanton, fraudulent, or in bad faith.”
Barbara Casey blew the whistle on alleged animal abuse by the American Humane Association and HBO by filing lawsuits against both entities. Casey worked as the director of production in the AHA’s film and television unit. She was employed by AHA for 13 years and is suing them for wrongful termination. She’s also suing HBO and Stewart Productions for aiding and abetting an alleged animal abuse cover-up. Casey’s complaint states that the AHA observed drugged, underweight and/or sick horses routinely being used for work on the show “Luck” and looked the other way when horses were intentionally misidentified by producers, to prevent animal safety reps from tracking their medical histories. Casey states that HBO and Stewart Productions pressured the AHA to allow them to violate the AHA’s animal safety standards simply to save time and money. The American Humane Association holds a trademark on the phrase “No animals were harmed”, but it allegedly went along with the producers over Casey’s objections and against her wishes to contact law enforcement authorities.
Richard Ceballos is a former Los Angeles County Deputy DA. He discovered that several Deputy Sheriffs, working in concert, have falsified an affidavit submitted to a court to establish the “probable cause” necessary to obtain a search warrant in a particular criminal case. Ceballos reported the wrongdoing to his superiors. He also recommended that the county drop its case. His report was ignored. The perpetrators at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were informed of his disclosure, branded Ceballos a “traitor” and demanded he be removed from the case. The prosecution, based on a fraudulent search warrant, continued. As required by law, Ceballos informed the defense of his findings. At the time of his report, Ceballos had a stellar record and received numerous “outstanding” performance evaluations. Subsequent to his disclosure, Ceballos was removed from the case, demoted and transferred. Ceballos asserted his obligation to uphold the law, as well as his First Amendment right to blow the whistle at the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Garcetti v. Ceballos,126 S. Ct. 1951 (2006). In a typical anti-whistleblower fashion, frequently exhibited by the legal establishment, the Court ruled that Ceballos had no First Amendment right to speak out about improper conduct he discovered in the normal course of his duties. The court also declined to protect Ceballos from retaliation by his employer.
Vince Cefalu served as a Special Agent for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for more than 25 years. He reported to Congress, exposing failed Fast and Furious gun running operation and revealing that the ill-conceived program put thousands of automatic weapons into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. This operation led to hundreds of deaths and the murder of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Throughout his long and successful career, Cefalu has received promotions and consistently positive evaluations. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, he was placed on administrative leave for a year and a half. Later, Cefalu was asked to meet Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division Joseph Riehl at a Denny’s Restaurant near Lake Tahoe. Upon arrival, in the parking lot of the restaurant Cefalu was unceremoniously served with his termination papers.
Shiv Chopra is a microbiologist and an activist, who was involved in one of the first major whistleblowing incidents in the Canadian public service. Doctors Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert went public with their concerns that bovine growth hormones might be a risk to human health. In the end, the hormone was never approved for use in Canada. Shiv Chopra and Margaret Haydon also warned that Canada’s measures to prevent mad cow disease were inadequate. Health Canada called their actions insubordinate and fired them in 2004. After a lengthy appeal, Gerard Lambert got his job back; the other two scientists are appealing. In 2011, all three were received the Integrity Award by the advocacy group, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
Stephen Clements blew the whistle on flawed IT systems at Lloyds Banking Group, where he formerly served as the head of business continuity. Clements filed a lawsuit against the bank, stating that Lloyds deliberately covered up serious problems that left the bank and the UK economy vulnerable, to avoid spending millions of dollars on fixing the issues at hand. In his filing before the Central London Employment Tribunal, Clements stated that two-thirds of the bank’s systems were not subject to resiliency tests, leaving “very serious gaps in our ability to recover critical IT systems”. in retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, the banking group forced Clements out of a job.
William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Wild West legend was America’s first whistleblower, when he spoke up against government corruption and abuse of Native Americans during President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration. Subsequently, Cody was alienated politically and financially, in an attempt to discredit the hero as a non-military combatant. He was ordered to return his Medal of Honor that he received for heroic hand-to-hand combat with Cheyenne War Chief Yellow Hand while serving with the 3rd Calvary Regiment in 1872. On February 5, 1917, 24 days after his death, Congress implemented new guidelines that would exclude Buffalo Bill from the Hall of Heroes and his medal was retroactively rescinded. Buffalo Bill Cody’s Medal of Honor was restored in 1989 by an act of Congress.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo served as a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She blew the whistle on the EPA for racial and gender discrimination in violation of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which began after she was removed from her position in South Africa where her “job was to essentially help the South African government to work on issues that impact public health”. Coleman-Adebayo reported the dangerous conditions to which an American company was exposing African workers, who were mining vanadium, a dangerous substance. Her case eventually led to the passing of the No-FEAR Act in 2002. The No-FEAR Act is supposed to “make federal agencies accountable for employee complaints. New hires must be informed of their rights against retaliation and discrimination for whistle-blowing within 90 days of joining a federal agency, and reminded again annually. Every two years, employees should have training about rights and remedies. All federal agencies must openly report on data including employee complaints, court cases, and the amount of money the agency was required to reimburse for violations, and Congress must review the reports biannually.” Many federal agencies are not complying with the No-FEAR Act, in spite of the Congressional mandate.
Richard Convertino, a former federal prosecutor who obtained the first conviction of a defendant in a terrorism case after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In September 2003 Convertino testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee about the lack of Bush Administration support of anti-terrorism prosecutions. In retaliation for his testimony, Convertino alleges the Justice Department leaked information and violated a court order to publicly smear him in retaliation for his whistleblowing. Additionally, the Justice Department indicted Convertino for obstruction of justice and lying, which Convertino alleges is further whistleblower retaliation.
Cynthia Cooper blew the whistle on a $9 billion dollar corporate financial scandal involving WorldCom, which eventually led to the imprisonment of the company’s five executives. Cooper had never intended to go public, but a member of Congress had released her internal audit memos to the press. She was named as a Time’s Person Of The Year in 2002, along with Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower from Minneapolis, and Sherron Watkins, the Enron whistleblower.
Allan Cutler was the first whistleblower on the Canadian “AdScam” or Sponsorship. Without legal protection, he was fired by the Canadian government. As the case developed, federal legislation was passed to protect future whistleblowers in the Canadian civil service. Several convictions have been recorded to date with the case, with proceedings still in progress.
Joe Darby blew the whistle by alerting the U.S. military command of prisoner abuse in the Abu Ghraib prison. In January 2004, Darby provided a CD that contained a number of incriminating photos to the Army Criminal Investigation Division. The images exposed abhorrent, inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. Army prison guards, including beatings, torture, and the sexual humiliation. Fearing retaliation, Darby asked Army investigators to protect his identity. His cover was subsequently blown by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who mentioned Darby’s name during a congressional hearing. Darby suffered personal and professional fallout and lives in exile.
BJ Davis is an American filmmaker, who reported a multimillion dollar stock scam involving the Bonanno crime family that targeted his corporation (one of fifteen victim companies) to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service. After learning that Davis is married to the Department of Homeland Security whistleblower, Julia Davis, the FBI abandoned its investigation and the IRS started to investigate BJ and Julia Davis, instead of the mob. Davis’ report to the Securities Exchange Commission eventually resulted in a prosecution of numerous participants in a massive fraudulent scheme that was estimated to exceed $52 million dollars.
Julia Davis served as a Customs and Border Protection Officer with the Department of Homeland Security’s elite unit, known as the Port Enforcement Team (PET), responsible for processing entries of aliens from Other Than Mexican (OTM) countries, asylum applications, deferred prosecutions and entries of aliens from Special Interest Countries (SIC – countries with known links to terrorist activities). She worked at the San Ysidro Port of Entry – the largest and busiest land border crossing in the United States and in the world. Davis reported improper processing of 23 subjects from Special Interest Countries into the United States via the U.S./Mexico border on 4th of July, 2004. Intelligence alerts identified Independence Day as a “Date To Watch” of special importance, as Al Qaeda members were reportedly planning to penetrate the borders via the land border with Mexico. The same date later surfaced in writings retrieved during the raid of Bin Laden’s compound. Boston Marathon Bombers (Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev) also referred to 4th of July as the original date of their planned terrorist attack. DHS personnel failed to fingerprint any of the 23 SIC subjects in question, or to run requisite checks in law enforcement databases. None of the SIC applicants for admission were enrolled in NSEERS (the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System). After reporting these glaring improprieties and a suspicious entry of such a large number of SIC applicants on a “Date To Watch” of special importance to the Port Director on duty, Davis was told to take the files to Intel. However, Intel Unit at the Port was closed for the holidays. She was discouraged from reporting these events to anyone outside the Agency, to avoid embarrassing the DHS. Davis took it upon herself to follow the directives in the CBP Officer’s manual and reported improper processing of 23 Special Interest Country applicants to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). San Ysidro Port of Entry would see on average 5 to 15 SIC applicants for admission per month. 23 SIC applicants on 4th of July, 2004, within a short 10-hour period, was an unusually high number. Davis reported that in spite of specific Intelligence alerts as to the Al Qaeda’s plans to enter the U.S. via the land border on national holidays, proper procedures were not followed during the admission of 23 SIC persons. In retaliation for her report to the FBI that embarrassed the DHS, she became the subject of 16 investigations in a matter of 2 weeks (the number later climbed to 54 known investigations). Davis involuntarily resigned in protest and filed an administrative claim against the DHS. An EEOC court order declared that the agency engaged in “illegal conduct” against Davis and agreed that her resignation was involuntary, since no one would have been able to continue working for the DHS in light of their “betrayal” of Davis. Shortly after this court order was issued, the DHS raided the Davis’ residence with a Blackhawk helicopter and a Special Response Team. Julia Davis was falsely declared a “Domestic Terrorist” and the DHS attempted to have her denaturalized and deported. Her parents were terrorized, which resulted in an untimely death of her father. 27 agents, armed with assault weapons, conducted a warrantless search of the Davis’ residence. The DHS admitted to conducting years of warrantless surveillance against the Davises (including aerial surveillance with a fixed-wing airplane, Blackhawk helicopters, vehicular surveillance with as many as 8 agents at a time, OnStar tracking and monitoring and wiretaps). Davis and her spouse were subjected to two malicious prosecutions and two false imprisonments. Both of them were eventually cleared of all criminal charges brought against them by the government. Julia Davis and her husband were found factually innocent by the court. The government was ordered to return all property seized in two warrantless searches and to “seal and destroy” arrest records. The Davises sued the DHS and prevailed. The agency settled the lawsuit two weeks before the trial. BJ and Julia Davis produced a documentary film about their plight, entitled “Top Priority: The Terror Within”.
Thomas Day is a former Coast Guard employee, who challenged illegal reimbursement payments to a contractor. Day reported these violations to his chain-of-command Supervisors. Day faced whistleblower retaliation, wherein his duties were reduced and Day was partially reassigned from handling contract oversight for the Coast Guard. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) ruled against Day, noting that his disclosures have been made as part of his normal duties, through normal channels, and to an alleged wrongdoer. Therefore, the MSPB concluded that Day’s disclosure was not protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the MSPB’s decision and returned the appeal to the MSPB for further adjudication.
Pascal Diethelm is a Swiss tobacco control advocate and alumni from the University of Geneva. Along with his colleague, Jean Charles Rielle, Diethelm revealed the secret ties of Ragnar Rylander, professor of environmental health, to the tobacco industry. In a public statement made in 2001, Pascal Diethelm and Jean-Charles Rielle accused Rylander of being “secretly employed by Philip Morris” and qualified of “scientific fraud without precedent” the concealment of his links with the tobacco industry for a period of 30 years, during which he publicly presented himself as an independent scientist, while at the same time covertly obeying orders given by Philip Morris executives and lawyers, publishing articles and organizing symposia which denied or trivialized the toxicity of secondhand smoke. After a long trial, which went all the way up to the Supreme court of Switzerland, all accusations were found to be true. Following this judgment, the University of Geneva prohibited its members from soliciting research subsidies or direct or indirect consultancies with the tobacco industry.
Christopher Jordan Dorner is a former LAPD officer, who blew the whistle when he accused his training officer (Sgt. Teresa Evans) of kicking a mentally ill man (Christopher Gettler) in the face and chest. In spite of the videotape of the incident, as well as the statements of the victim and his father, all of which corroborated Dorner’s report, he was accused of fabricating his complaint, then targeted and terminated for “the delay in reporting the alleged misconduct.” Three civilian witnesses and a Harbor policeman claimed that they “didn’t see Evans kick the man, who had a quarter-inch scratch on his cheek consistent with his fall into a bush.” In addition to police work, Dorner served in the Naval Reserves, as a Commanding Officer of a Naval Security Forces Reserve Unit at NAS Fallon. Dorner earned a rifle marksman ribbon and pistol expert medal. He served in a Naval Undersea Warfare Unit and various aviation training units. In 2006-2007, he took leave from the LAPD and deployed to Bahrain. Dorner unsuccessfully appealed his termination from the LAPD through various legal venues. He described himself as “a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me.” In February of 2013, Dorner commenced a murderous spree and declared that it will continue until the LAPD clears his name from the charges that prompted his termination.
Thomas Drake is a former NSA employee. Drake was one of several sources for a Baltimore Sun article about a $1.2 billion dollar NSA experimental program called “Trailblazer”, designed to sift through electronic communications for national security threats. NSA scientists created a program (ThinThread) that could appropriately isolate relevant data. ThinThread also had a built-in capability for ensuring the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to privacy. This program was ready to deploy eight months prior to the attacks of 9/11. However, NSA leadership elected to abandon ThinThread in favor of a multi-billion dollar program, Trailblazer, which was still in its planning stages. The culture of NSA profiteering and cronyism caused the agency to prefer expensive projects like Trailblazer that would benefit private contractors, instead of smaller internal projects, like ThinThread, which was developed with existing NSA resources. Several NSA whistleblowers are confident that the implementation of ThinThread in January 2001 would have detected the movements of al-Qaeda in the days leading up to the attacks of 9/11 and important warning signs would not have been missed by the NSA. After the terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush approved new domestic surveillance programs, including Stellar Wind. This program was unconstitutional and did not contain any of the necessary built-in privacy protections. Stellar Wind enabled the NSA to target any American by their name, telephone number, or other attributes. The program collected information on domestic phone calls, recording 320 million calls a day. Stellar Wind also allowed the inspection of domestic e-mail communications. The program allowed the NSA to engage in massive warrantless surveillance. The agency also made deals with the biggest telecommunications companies, who agreed to facilitate the surveillance for the NSA. AT&T gave the agency complete access to its domestic and international billing records. Verizon turned over its data for “over a billion and a half calls per day.” Millions of communications were intercepted by the NSA on a daily basis. In retaliation for his disclosures, Drake was criminally charged with willful retention of “national defense” or classified information, obstruction of justice and making a false statement. In a ten-count indictment delivered against him in April, 2010, Drake was charged with violating the Espionage Act. He accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of exceeding authorized use of a computer. The ongoing debate about the scope of the ever-expanding surveillance in the United States was propelled to the forefront of public attention by Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013.
Satyendra Dubey accused his employer NHAI of corruption in highway construction projects in India, by writing a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Dubey was assassinated on November 27, 2003. Enormous media coverage following his death raised concerns about nonexistent whistleblower protection in India.
Bogdan Dzakovic is a national security whistleblower, who served as a leader for the FAA’s Red Team prior to the 9/11 attacks. The purpose of the Red Team is to conduct mock raids on various airports, to test airline preparedness in the event of an actual hijacking or other terrorist actions. The Red Team was able to penetrate the airports with great ease 90% of the time. Dzakovic and his team members have issued urgent warnings that American airports were not sufficiently protected from terrorists. One of the gates they’ve pointed out as a weak point of entry at Boston’s Logan Airport, was used by the highjackers several months later on September 11, 2001. The FAA ordered Dzakovic and other members of the Red Team not to write such reports, nor were they allowed to retest the airports to determine whether security flaws have been resolved. In fact, FAA started to warn airlines that the Red Team exercises would take place, to ensure that they were not caught by surprise and would pass the security test. After 9/11, Dzakovic exposed these safety violations. He was grounded, removed from the Red Team and reassigned to perform menial duties. Dzakovic was later vindicated and his reports were confirmed.