Whistleblowers V-Z

Dennis Vaccato blew the whistle on Diagnostic Professionals Inc. for improper and unsanitary procedures, whereby Vaccato and other technicians were required to use only sanitary wipes to clean off ultrasound probes after transvaginal examinations. Using wipes to clean equipment inserted into a body cavity is a violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines, which require that such equipment be sanitized with a chemical solution and filtration system. Failure to properly sterilize the equipment potentially exposed thousands of female patients to serious and life-threatening illnesses. Vaccato filed a whistleblower lawsuit in Broward County Circuit Court, wherein he states that Diagnostic Professionals Inc. fired him in December 2011 in retaliation for his complaints about health violations.

Peter Van Buren worked for the U.S. State Department for over 23 years. In 2009 and 2010, he headed two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq. In 2011 he became a whistleblower by writing a book, “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People”. It detailed how billions of dollars were wasted, because of corruption, incompetence and unnecessary programs. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, Van Buren was placed under investigation for alleged wrongdoings. He filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). In March of 2012 he was fired.

Donald Vance is a Navy veteran, who blew the whistle on illegal arms sales in Iraq. He worked for Shield Group Security Co. Vance told the FBI about the company selling guns, land mines and rocket-launchers for cash, without receipts to Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, as well as Iraqi embassy and ministry employees. As the result, weapons ended up in the hands of militant groups and death squads. Vance provided photos and other evidence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago, because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq. For daring to expose the corruption, he was imprisoned by the American military for 97 days in Camp Cropper, a security compound outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein. Vance was subjected to torture methods, usually reserved for terrorists and enemy combatants. He was held in solitary confinement, with loud heavy metal music blaring dawn to dusk, slammed into walls, deprived of sleep, subjected to extreme temperatures and faced with interrogators repeatedly yelling the same questions. Vance was classified as a security detainee. He was never charged with any crimes. In November 2012, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled 8-3 that Vance cannot proceed with his lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The court reasoned that high ranking officials in the chain of command cannot be held responsible for lower-ranking troops who break the law, even if they authorize torture methods used against the Plaintiff. The court’s ruling states, “People able to exert domination over others often abuse that power; it is a part of human nature that is very difficult to control.” U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton dissented, pointing out that someone tortured by foreign forces has more legal recourse in the U.S. than Americans tortured by their own military. He wrote, “That disparity attributes to our government and to our legal system a degree of hypocrisy that is breathtaking.”

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld is a Bronze Star recipient and a former prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Vandeveld served in the US Army Reserve’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. During his tenure from May 2007, to September 2007, at the infamous detention center he resigned when he determined he could not legally or ethically prosecute detainee, alleged terrorist Mohammad Jawad. Vandeveld’s stand opposed a ruling by Judge A. Howard Matz from the Federal Central District court of California, who ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainee’s had no constitutional rights. Matz’ ruling was later overturned.

John Paul Vann is an American Army Colonel. During the Vietnam war, Vann reported to his superiors that American war policy and tactics were seriously flawed. When his reports were ignored, Vann went to the media with his concerns. In retaliation for his whistleblowing disclosure, Vann was asked to resign his commission and proceeded to do so. Vann later returned to Vietnam. He became a USAID senior official. Vann was effective in influencing the war, until his death in a helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1972.

Mordechai Vanunu revealed Israel’s clandestine nuclear program to the British press. He spent seventeen and a half years in prison as a result, the first eleven of these in solitary confinement. After his release, sanctions were placed on him: among others, he was not allowed to leave Israel or speak to foreigners. The sanctions have been renewed every twelve months. At present, he is appealing a further six-month prison sentence imposed by an Israeli court for having spoken to foreigners and foreign press.

Maria do Rosàrio Veiga is a former internal auditor of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO is a UN specialized agency headquartered in Geneva, and is the co-founder and sponsor of the UN’s global warming body, UNIPCC. As an experienced professional auditor, Veiga had worked for WMO for 4 years. Prior to that, she worked for another UN agency for 5 years. In November 2006, Veiga was suddenly fired after she refused to participate in a cover-up of an internal embezzlement scheme. Approximately $3.5 million dollars was misappropriated by senior WMO officials. These funds were reportedly used to rig the outcome of the 2003 election of the WMO’s chief executive, resulting in the appointment of its current Secretary General, Michel Jarraud, a French national, who at the time served as the WMO’s Deputy Secretary-General. In April 2007, 9 U.S. Congressmen wrote a letter to the U.S. Comptroller General, demanding that he conduct an investigation into Veiga’s whistleblower claims and her wrongful termination. The letter cited the U.S. government’s contribution of over $10 million dollars to the WMO during the prior decade. This request was ignored by the former UN Comptroller General. There was no investigation into Veiga’s termination or her whistleblowing disclosures. None of the responsible senior WMO officials have been held accountable. Despite the commencement of a criminal corruption investigation by the Geneva Attorney General, in early 2007 Jarraud was elected to another term by the WMO Congress. In 2009 the International Labor Office Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT) ordered the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to pay Veiga over $550,000 in exemplary, material and moral damages, lost salary and allowances. The Tribunal found that she was harassed, defamed and wrongfully terminated by the WMO’s Secretary-General Michel Jarraud and other WMO officials, in the course of performing her statutory audit duties.The ILOAT did not order Veiga’s reinstatement or any compensation for lost future earnings. She intends to pursue her rights to be made whole through several companion claims, including a criminal complaint pending against her harassers in Geneva, an alien Tort Claims Act pending before the U.S. Federal Appeals Court of the 2nd Circuit, and a claim before the European Court of Human Rights, challenging the WMO’s immunity from Swiss law.

Jaydeen Vincente is a former sales representative for Eli Lilly, who filed a Qui Tam lawsuit against the company, alleging that Eli Lilly was illegally marketing the drug Zyprexa for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Eli Lilly pled guilty to actively promoting Zyprexa for off-label uses, particularly for the treatment of dementia in the elderly. The $1.415 billion penalty included an $800 million civil settlement and a $515 million criminal fine—the largest criminal fine for an individual corporation in United States history. The four whistleblowers (Robert Rudolph, Joseph Faltaous, Steven Woodward and Jaydeen Vincente) shared 18%, or $78,870,877, of the federal share of the civil settlement.

Tanya Ward Jordan exposed widespread systemic racism and retaliation within the Department of Commerce against African-American employees.

Sherron Watkins was Vice President of Corporate Development at the Enron Corporation, who helped to uncover the Enron scandal. In August of 2001, Watkins blew the whistle internally by writing a letter to the former CEO of Enron, Kenneth Lay regarding accounting irregularities in financial reports. Watkins testified before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate at the beginning of 2002. She was named as a Time’s Person Of The Year in 2002, along with Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower from Minneapolis, and Cynthia Cooper, the WorldCom whistleblower.

Douglas Watt, who served on the EU’s court of auditors, blew the whistle on systematic fraud he claims is being covered up by powerful figures in Brussels, as well as the Court of Auditors itself. Watt’s suspicions were first aroused when he was assigned the job of investigating controversial tobacco subsidies paid by Brussels to mainly Mediterranean growers in the early 1990s. In 1993, an Italian commission official, Dr. Antonio Quatraro, fell to his death from an EU office block in Brussels. At the time, Dr.Quatraro was under investigation, as he was suspected of taking bribes. The police have never established whether he jumped or was pushed. It was widely believed that a major Mafia figure visited Brussels the previous evening and might have been in contact with Dr.Quatraro. The case in question led to widespread concerns about how tobacco subsidies were targeted by lobbyists and distributed by the commission, including allegations of Mafia involvement. Two years later, Watt joined the Court of Auditors and started to uncover a series of scandals. In April 2002, he made a formal complaint to the European ombudsman, Euro-MPs, and court staff, reporting “systematic corruption and abuse in the European court of auditors”. Watt produced a dossier to back his claims of nepotism and individuals turning a blind eye to wrongdoing, and was supported by 40% of the Court’s staff in a secret ballot, calling for the resignation of 15 corrupt members of the Court. The call for resignation was ignored. Watt claims that corruption is “permitted to flourish to the benefit of all the institutions’ elites”, in spite of the actions of whistleblowers, including himself. Watt stated that the EU accounting system is “so degraded it cannot police itself”.

Gary Webb created “Dark Alliance”, a 20,000 word, three-part investigative series, alleging that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold and distributed crack cocaine in Los Angeles during the 1980s, and that drug profits were used to fund the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras. Webb never asserted that the CIA directly aided drug dealers to raise money for the Contras, but he did document that the CIA was aware of the cocaine transactions and the large shipments of cocaine into the U.S. by the Contra personnel. In 2004, Webb was found dead from two gunshot wounds to the head, which the Coroner’s Office judged a suicide.

Roger Wensil is the first nationally recognized whistleblower at a U.S. nuclear weapons facility. Wensil was fired by the Dupont BF Shaw Company for exposing safety violations. He was later reinstated by the Department of Energy. Wensil’s case sparked successful efforts to protect nuclear weaponry whistleblowers under federal law.

Mark Whitacre served as a corporate Vice President of an Illinois food production company, Archer Daniels Midland. He was the leading candidate to become the next company president. Whitacre is the highest-ranked executive of any Fortune 500 company to become a whistleblower in U.S. history. He blew the whistle on the ADM’s price-fixing scheme with respect to lysine, an animal feed additive. Whitacre became an FBI informant and proceeded to record his exchanges with the company’s bosses for 3 years. Having been caught red-handed, ADM was eventually forced to pay approximately $500 million dollars in fines and entered into class-action settlements. In retaliation for Whitacre’s whistleblowing activities, ADM convinced the FBI to investigate their own informant for allegedly stealing from the company. The FBI determined that Whitacre embezzled $9.5 million by engaging in various fraudulent activities, which resulted in the loss of his whistleblower immunity. He served nearly nine years in prison and was released in 2006. Matt Damon portrayed Mark Whitacre in the 2009 comedy “The Informant!”     

Frederic Whitehurst worked as a chemist at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was the FBI Laboratory’s foremost expert on explosives residue in the 1990s and became the first modern-day FBI whistleblower. Whitehurst reported a lack of scientific standards and serious flaws in the FBI Lab, including in the first World Trade Center bombing cases and the Oklahoma City bombing case. Whitehurst’s whistleblower disclosures triggered an overhaul of the FBI’s crime lab following a report by the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General in 1997. Dr. Whitehust filed a federal lawsuit claiming whistleblower retaliation, and he reached a settlement with the FBI worth more than $1.16 million.  Whitehurst now directs the FBI Oversight Project of the National Whistleblower Center.

Anne Whiteman worked as an air traffic controller at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) for over 18 years. She blew the whistle about air traffic controllers and management at the DFW Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) who routinely covered up serious operational errors or blamed them on pilot errors. Whiteman has been speaking out about these problems for more than a decade, to no avail. In retaliation for her safety complaints, her career suffered, she has lost promotions and was transferred out of the TRACON center. Whiteman filed a whistleblower complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Subsequent investigation by the Department of Transportation Inspector General (DOT IG) substantiated Whiteman’s whistleblower complaint, concluding that the cover-ups jeopardized air safety. Whiteman has filed an $1 million dollar whisteblower claim against the Federal Aviation Administration.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a former NSA analyst, who was employed by the agency for over thirty years. 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. Wiebe 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, Wiebe and his colleague William Binney blew the whistle on the NSA’s mismanagement and waste of funds in connection with Trailblazer. Wiebe 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, Wiebe retired from the NSA on October 31, 2001. Even after his retirement Wiebe 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, Wiebe filed a complaint with the Department of Defense Inspector General, along with his former NSA colleagues William Binney 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. Wiebe, Binney and Roark were named as official suspects. In July 2007, the FBI raided the homes of the whistleblowers. Wiebe and his family were subjected to a day-long armed raid, during which FBI agents ransacked their home, seizing computers, phone books, business and personal records. In November 2011, Wiebe was forced to file a lawsuit, in an attempt to retrieve his property from the government. The day after the raid, the NSA informed Wiebe that his security clearance, which he held since 1964, was suspended. Wiebe 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.

Jeffrey Wigand was terminated from the tobacco giant Brown & Williamson as VP of Research and Development on February 4, 1996. During a “60 Minutes” interview, Wigand revealed that the corporate empire intentionally concealed and influenced the nicotine level in cigarettes to addict smokers. CBS did not air the interview, until a feature film about Wigand’s disclosure and subsequent retaliation, “The Insider” was produced, starring Academy Award winners Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer and director Michael Mann. Jeffrey Wigand was harassed, stalked and received death threats for exposing the corruption and insider information.

Joseph Wilson is a former U.S. Ambassador. He authored an editorial in the New York Times, entitled “What I Didn’t Find In Africa”, examining true reasons behind the 2003 War in Iraq. Wilson’s op-ed column was an indictment of the Bush administration for having misled the American public about Saddam Hussein allegedly attempting to buy uranium from Niger. This information was based on a British intelligence report. When Bush made it clear that he wanted Saddam Hussein gone, the federal bureaucracies were expected to arrange their collective analysis to arrive to the predetermined conclusion. The CIA reportedly had sent Wilson to Niger to confirm British intelligence report, which he was unable to do. Wilson reported his findings to the CIA, which were to be relayed to Dick Cheney, since he had direct interest in that mission. Wilson was astonished to see his name being used as an American authority, whose secret assignment supposedly had confirmed the information provided by British intelligence about Hussein’s activities. Wilson discussed his dismay about being misquoted in his NY Times column. White House political advisor Karl Rove and the Vice President’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby were enraged at Wilson’s disclosure. In retaliation against Wilson, the administration leaks to several journalists that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working on counterproliferation, thereby ruining her career. Plame is barred by the CIA from re-entering her office. Wilson’s business career was also destroyed. Scooter Libby was disbarred. The jury convicted him on four of the five counts in the indictment: one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of making false statements. George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence before he even began to serve it.  Joseph and Valerie Wilson filed a civil lawsuit against Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage and other unnamed senior White House officials. Their lawsuits and subsequent appeals have been dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. Agreeing with the Bush administration, the Obama Justice Department argued that the Wilsons have no legitimate grounds to sue. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.

Capt. Joshua Wilson is an elite pilot with the Virginia Air National Guard, based at Langley Air Force Base near Norfolk. He blew the whistle on questionable safety of Air Force’s most sophisticated, stealthy, and expensive fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor. He’s one of only 200 pilots qualified to fly the F-22. Wilson refused to continue flying F-22, because during some flights himself and other pilots have experienced oxygen deprivation and disorientation. He expressed his concerns about flight safety, as well as the long-term health consequences. The F-22 Raptor is the most expensive fighter ever, but it has been plagued by a mysterious flaw that causes a lack of oxygen, leading its pilots to become disoriented while at the controls. Wilson risked his career, by appearing on “60 Minutes” in uniform, without the permission of the Air Force, and stating that the jet is endangering the lives of pilots, as well as the communities they fly over. Wilson flew combat missions in the Iraq War. In Air Force evaluations, he was called “a superb officer with intense warrior spirit.” At the Senate hearing in May of 2012, lawmakers learned that the top brass of the Air Force has issued a directive that Wilson was considered a whistleblower and will not be punished for his disclosure, even though disciplinary proceedings against him were already underway.

Michael Woodford is the British chief executive, who served as the corporate President of the Japanese electronics giant, Olympus Corporation. He blew the whistle on a $1.7bn (£1bn) corporate fraud at the company, wherein losses were concealed and written off via excessive fee payments. Regulators confirmed his reports and uncovered an accounting fraud that went on for over a decade. The scandal prompted the resignation of Olympus’ board and led to the arrests of several of its most senior former executives, including its chairman. In retaliation for his report, the whistleblower was fired. The company later settled his lawsuit just before the trial, in what was said to be an eight-figure settlement.

Steven Woodward is a former sales representative for Eli Lilly, who filed a Qui Tam lawsuit against the company, alleging that Eli Lilly was illegally marketing the drug Zyprexa for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Eli Lilly pled guilty to actively promoting Zyprexa for off-label uses, particularly for the treatment of dementia in the elderly. The $1.415 billion penalty included an $800 million civil settlement and a $515 million criminal fine—the largest criminal fine for an individual corporation in United States history. The four whistleblowers (Robert Rudolph, Joseph Faltaous, Steven Woodward and Jaydeen Vincente) shared 18%, or $78,870,877, of the federal share of the civil settlement.

Robert Wright served as a Special Agent in the FBI’s counterterrorism unit from 1993-1999. In the 1990s, while serving in the FBI’s Chicago field office, he spearheaded an investigation into terrorist financing, codenamed “Vulgar Betrayal”. The investigation uncovered terror-funding activities of Yassin Al-Qadi, who was later designated a global terrorist financier by the U.S. Treasury in the wake of 9/11. “Vulgar Betrayal” led to new revelations about the African embassy bombings in 1998 and resulted in the seizure of $1.4 million of terrorist financing. Despite the remarkable success of his investigation, Wright was removed from the investigation of “Vulgar Betrayal” in 1999 and reduced to being a paper pusher. In 2002, Wright blew the whistle, publicly revealing that his investigations had been systematically starved for funds, hindered and obstructed by FBI management. Wright also spoke out about his belief that 9/11 could have been prevented if he had been allowed to continue his investigation. The Bureau prevented Wright from releasing a book about his experience. He was threatened with legal action to prevent him from revealing any details about his investigations.

Terrence Yeakey is an Oklahoma City bombing whistleblower, who spoke out about inconsistencies between the official story and actual events. Yeakey served as a Police Officer and was among the first to arrive to the site of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19th, 1995. As the first responding officer, he plunged into the ravaged building and rescued eight people out of the building. Yeakey witnessed the internal damage to the Murrah Federal Courthouse. When Yeakey tried to return to normal duties, he was plagued by nagging doubts about the commitment of his superiors to finding out the truth about the bombing. After having his first report on the bombing censored, Yeakey began to talk to other officers and witnesses, whose sightings conflicted with the official story that was being presented to the public. On May 11, 1996, Terry Yeakey was going to be honored and awarded the Medal of Valor, the department’s highest decoration, for his actions at the Murrah building. The eyes and ears of the media would be turned on him once again. Instead, only 3 days before the event, on May 8, 1996 Terrence Yeakey was found dead under highly suspicious circumstances. His mysterious death was ruled a suicide.

William Zwicharowski blew the whistle on the mishandling of war remains at the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where he served as a Chief Mortician. Zwicharowski and two other civilian mortuary employees exposed problems in the handling of human remains, including fallen soldiers and victims of 9/11. He had called for an independent probe of the mortuary with regard to the incinerated remains of the victims of 9/11, as well as the remains of 274 service members that were classified as “medical waste”, placed in sealed containers, provided to a biomedical waste disposal contractor and were disposed of in a Virginia landfill. In retaliation that continued for over 17 months, the whistleblower was maligned, labeled “mentally unstable,” placed on administrative leave and came close to being fired. He was later vindicated by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, whose investigators have concluded that whistleblower retaliation by Air Force officials was illegal. Defense Department investigation confirmed whistleblower reports and cited “gross mismanagement” and “insufficient” training as reasons for the improper disposal of the remains.

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