Whistleblowers Focus On Solutions At 2018 'Summit'

 

senate dirksen building architect of capitol

 

The annual 2 1/2-day Whistleblowers Summit for Civil and Human Rights began on July 30 with a preview tailored to showcase the vital contributions that courageous, expert informants are making under difficult conditions to solve the nation's problems. 

chuck grassley officialThe first session of the free conference started at 9 a.m. Monday in the Senate Dirksen Building, in Washington, DC, shown above.

Among other highlights of the first day was a luncheon featuring Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, right, an Iowa Republican who has voiced strong support through the years for government whistleblowers helping to expose waste, fraud and abuse that hurts taxpayers. The ticketed lunch was organized on a complimentary basis as in previous years by the National Whistleblower Center.

Its Executive Director Stephen Kohn had discovered in 2013 a long-forgotten law passed in 1778 by the U.S. Continental Congress on July 30 (now "National Whistleblower Day"). This was because the Founders had received reports that two whistleblowers were being prosecuted in Rhode Island after reporting misconduct by the highest-ranking U.S. naval official at the time.

As Grassley noted in his remarks, the law enacted by the Continental Congress called on all U.S. inhabitants or officials to report "any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors." C-SPAN broadcast and archived here the 140-minute luncheon, which included as a featured segment at the end the first public remarks in 15 years by former Clinton White House staffer Linda Tripp.

The overall program is shown on the next page of this column, with details available also on the conference website at Whistleblowers Summit at a Glance. Sessions are in varied but nearby locations on Capitol Hill that are identified in the program.

This editor, a member of the event's overall host committee, joined the opening panel and moderated a session on July 31 about the challenging role of the news media in working with whistleblowers. The term has been defined as persons who expose any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The word has been linked to the long ago police and citizen practice of using a whistle to alert the public to wrongdoing.

In my brief segment on the opening panel, I argued that the nation's problems are so serious right now that it is no longer enough to identify problems and use traditional (and often extremely difficult) methods of reform. I challenged participants to use the conference to brainstorm and collaborate for solutions on whatever issues they find most important.

My media panel on Tuesday at the Stewart Mott House next to the Hart Senate Office Building features longtime health journalist Kathryn Foxhall and USA TODAY Washington Enterprise Editor Ray Locker.

Foxhall, an active member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club's Freedom of Information Committee, has been a leader in organizing media opposition to the increasing practice by Executive Branch officials of both parties to steer media coverage through Public Information Officers (PIOS).

These restrictions block the public from learning via the news media the views of knowledgeable federal employees who work on the substance of issues, as illustrated by a Foxhall talk ‘Censorship by PIO earlier this month to an annual conference of American university professors. PIOs and other public relations officials now far outnumber reporters in Washington and help maintain barriers between the public and whistleblowers and other sources of non-official information.

Locker, author of the bold and important 2016 book Nixon's Gamble: How a President's Own Secret Government Destroyed His Administration, provided expert tips on how whistleblowers and other concerned citizens can approach the major media during an era of huge staff cutbacks and many other pressures on news organizations.

rfk ambassador hotelMy focus, standing in for scheduled panelist Dr. William F. Pepper, a late cancellation on Friday because of a painful back condition preventing his travel, will be on Pepper's and others' breakthrough reporting and litigation casting doubt on the official accounts of the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy is shown at left giving his California primary victory speech for the Democratic presidential nomination, shortly before his murder in a hotel pantry.

Pepper, a friend of both slain men, reinvestigated the slayings and concluded that the convicted killers, James Earl Ray for MLK and Sirhan Sirhan for RFK, were each patsies set up to take the fall for the real killers.

Pepper, an attorney, represented King's convicted killer Ray in his appeals and also the King family as the latter won a civil verdict in 1999 showing that the killing was a conspiracy.

Pepper currently represents the still-imprisoned Sirhan, who is seeking the first-ever evidentiary hearing introducing forensic ballistics and audio evidence to show that he could not have killed Kennedy, who was shot in the back three times according to the little-known autopsy of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who is still alive in his 90s and is available as a witness.

The Washington Post and its experienced law enforcement reporter Tom Jackson published separate Sunday front-page articles this spring quoting family members as stating that they did not believe official accounts. The stories, based in part on scientific evidence, represented a breakthrough for such coverage — 50 years after each of the killings.

Program

whistleblowers summit 2018 schedule Medium

Award Winners and "Whistleblowers" World Premier July 30

william pepper mlkPepper, shown conferring with Dr. King on the dais of the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) in Chicago in 1967 before King's keynote speech, is among the honorees for public service at an awards ceremony the evening of July 31. This editor is shown below at left receiving his award, with conference co-hosts Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, each of whom has been a whistleblower.

Other award winners included the late Playboy Magazine founder and free speech advocate Hugh Hefner, "Panama Papers" documentarians Hamish Boland-william pepper whistleblower pillar award andrew kreig mccray reid cropped 2018 CustomRudder, Carrie Ching, Arthur Jones, Will Fitzgibbon, and Eleanor Bell, who explored "the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions"; Fox News host Shepard Smith for courageous commentary; and former FBI Director James R. Comey for resisting presidential pressures.

Others honored with awards were: editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers for courageous (and job-ending) commentary; the late civil rights trailblazer Diane Williams; Dr. Aaron Westrick, a former police office who became a whistleblower against defective body armor; a group award to "The Parkland Survivors, as reported by The New Yorker Magazine in its account by Emily Witt "How The Parkland Survivors Started The Never Again Movement," based on the gun massacre killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida; and "Whistleblowers" documentary film producers Kathy Cole, Michael Reichenberg, Sola Adenekan and Mark Baldwin.

The world premier of "Whistleblowers" was Monday evening at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets. NW, beginning at 6 p.m.. The film's producers gave this overview of their work:

Our documentary "Whistleblowers" will take you on a journey that no American citizen should have to go on. Seven New York State and New York City Whistleblowers have united to expose the corruption and the abuse of power and the conflicts of interest that plague this state, ultimately this Nation.

These seven Whistleblowers saw something WRONG in the Government agency that they worked for and had the audacity to say something about it. The issues of fraud, abuse and neglect inflicted on the children and tax payers are staggering. The intentional infliction of harm on the Whistleblower for exposing the agencies is unthinkable. These agencies receive both state and federal funding so this is a National crisis. The protections put in place for Whistleblowers are either non existent or not enforced.

These Whistleblowers are the voice for our most vulnerable population — our children — your children. Six of the seven Whistleblowers are exposing the New York State and New York City Departments of Education and one is from the New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities. The abuse of our tax dollars is one thing, the abuse of our children and the disabled is another.

dianne andrews kathy coleOur greatest hope is that what you hear from these Whistleblowers in this documentary will forever change you. Our vision is for you to watch their journey, understand the pain and devastation that they and their families have endured for reporting these massive violations of law and then rally with them in their effort for true change. For JUSTICE and ACCOUNTABILITY.

Baton Rouge-based television host Dianne Andrews, shown on the left of Cole at the photo at right, interviewed Cole as one of 10 whistleblowers for the Andrews show "In Black and White," to be broadcast on dates to be announced (TBA).

Another prolific interviewer and publisher of whistleblower accounts during the conference was OpEdNews Senior Editor Marta Steele, whose multiple columns are excerpted below,

Organizers and Vision

The annual Whistleblowers Summit is organized each July by a group of supporting organizations called The Make It Safe Coalition.

michael mccray marcel reid race power politicsAmong those with lead roles are former ACORN 8 whistleblowers Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, co-authors of the book Race, Power & Politics. It described how ACORN 8 became a watchdog organization of former ACORN insiders and National Board members who attempted to reform the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) following the discovery of a multi-million dollar embezzlement.

Among other leaders in the coalition's 75-member membership are the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP), each of which has provided legal counsel to many sorely distressed whistleblowers through the decades.

A full list of event sponsors and organizers is on the summit's site, along with more precise descriptions of program segments; books and films by participants; and award-winners' accomplishments.

Summit organizers use the award ceremonies to honor heroes from the past as well as present, and to articulate an overall statement of purpose:

As whistleblowers, we are a community of outspoken activists and advocates who frequently speak Truth to Power.

We are trans-partisan and view whistle-blowing not in terms of Left verses Right — but instead as Right versus Wrong. The Pillar Award is a way for our community to give credit and recognition to the individuals and institutions that form the foundation that supports our community, in particular First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment protections.

We traditionally present Pillar Awards to courageous lawmakers who have sponsored or co-sponsored important legislation, or who have supported our community in other tangible ways.

Since it takes Democrats and Republicans to actually pass legislation into law we often recognize the sponsors and co-sponsors of important legislation from both sides of the isle. Additionally, we have recently given Pillar Awards to other exemplary individuals and organizations who support Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, including Media Organizations, Journalists and Community Activists.

The column was updated to reflect events of the opening day.


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Creation, Celebration of  U.S. 'National Whistleblower Day' Annually on July 30

national whistleblower center logoNational Whistleblower Center, Celebrate National Whistleblower Appreciation Day! Staff report, July 30, 2018. Today is" National Whistleblower Appreciation Day." On this day in 1778, the Continental Congress passed what very well could be the world’s first whistleblower law.

Our revolutionary forefathers, when they learned that two whistleblowers that had exposed misconduct by the highest-ranking U.S. naval official, were being prosecuted in the State of Rhode Island, agreed to act. They voted to spend precious monies from the new government’s treasury to ensure that the whistleblowers had lawyers to defend them. They voted to release all of the naval records documenting the whistleblower’s concerns.

Finally, the Founding Fathers, on July 30, 1778 passed our nation’s first whistleblower law. It’s message was clear and the vote was unanimous: “That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."

stephen kohnThe history behind this historic day was lost. However, fifteen years ago, when the National Whistleblower Center’s Executive Director Stephen Kohn, shown  at left, was researching materials for an amicus brief filed by the NWC supporting the constitutionality of the False Claims Act, he discovered this law.

stephen kohn bookHe then carefully researched why our Founding Fathers enacted the resolution, and learned the details of America’s first whistleblower case. He reviewed the letters the whistleblowers wrote in jail pleading their case to the revolutionary Congress. He obtained from the National Archives a copy of the check the Continental Congress wrote to Sam Adams, honoring Congress’ agreement to pay the costs of the whistleblower’s defense.

This history was spelled out for the first time in The Whistleblower’s Handbook. When Senator Charles Grassley learned of this historic event, he worked in a bi-partisan manner with Senator Levin to ensure that this day would be honored. On July 30, 2013 the U.S. Senate enacted their Joint Resolution recognizing National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

Today, we call on all citizens of the world to honor National Appreciation Whistleblower Day. To remember the sacrifices whistleblowers have endured to protect the public interest. To demand that their governments rise to the call of justice for which our Founding Fathers did, while fighting a war for the very survival or our nation, on that day, July 30th, 1778.

 

Related News Coverage

(Reverse chronological order by date)

Aug. 17

aaron westrick

Dr. Aaron Westrick, above, a former policeman whose life was saved by his bulletproof vast, became the research director for America’s largest body armor company – Second Chance Body Armor – and was the first official to oppose the sale of bulletproof vests made with Zylon fiber. Based on his disclosures, these defective vests were forced off the market and police officer’s lives were saved. Dr. Westrick is the subject of a one hour documentary featuring highlights of his case and the scandal behind the sale of faulty Zylon vest. The CBS show "Whistleblower" featuring Dr. Westrick can be seen Friday, August 17 at 10/9c or online here.

national whistleblower center logoNational Whistleblower Center, Opinion: Faulty Bulletproof Vest Case Featured on CBS’s “Whistleblower” Series, Mary Jane Wilmoth, Aug. 16, 2018. On August 17, 2018, the CBS summer standout series “Whistleblower” will feature the captivating story of Dr. Aaron Westrick, a whistleblower represented by Washington, D.C. qui tam attorney Stephen M. Kohn.

Westrick went up against Japanese fiber manufacturer Toyobo and Second Chance Body Armor, the largest body armor manufacturer in the U.S. at the time, in a False Claims Act case that lasted 14 years. The qui tam lawsuit resulted in the United States recouping millions of taxpayer dollars, Toyobo alone paying $66 million to resolve claims of fraud brought by Dr. Westrick and pursued by Kohn.

CBS publicity materials describe “Whistleblower” as taking “a thrilling look into the real-life David vs. Goliath stories of heroic people who put everything on the line in order to expose illegal and often dangerous wrongdoing when major corporations rip off U.S. taxpayers.”

“The CBS Whistleblower story demonstrates the courage and strength shown by Dr. Westick to face off against huge corporations to save lives,” said Kohn, who has a long history of representing qui tam whistleblowers and has helped establish important whistleblower protections.

The show is hosted by Alex Ferrer, a former judge and police officer. According to the CBS website, each episode “introduces cases in which ordinary people step up to do the extraordinary by risking their careers, their families and even their lives to ensure others are not harmed or killed by unchecked, unethical corporate greed.”

Dr. Westrick was the first official in the body armor industry to blow the whistle on bullet proof vests made from a material known as Zylon. His disclosures resulted in the decertification of Zylon vests by the National Institute for Justice and millions of dollars in sanctions obtained from Second Chance Body Armor (“SCBA”) and Toyobo, the Japanese company that manufactured the Zylon material. Dr. Westrick also testified in the wrongful death case of Officer Tony Zeppetella, who was shot while wearing a Zylon vest. Dr. Westrick’s testimony was the critical evidence that resulted in the jury awarding Zeppetella’s widow $1.5 million in damages based on the failure of SCBA and Toyobo to warn police officers of the dangers from Zylon.

Westrick’s disclosures ultimately resulted in the defective vests being forced off the market saving the lives of countless police officers, military and first responders. United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., et al. (D.D.C. No. 04-0280 PLF).

In a ceremony marking National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Grassley, pointed to the Westrick case stating, “when you don’t listen to whistleblowers like Dr. Westrick, that’s when the regrets come. Because of his remarkable courage, the product was pulled from the market, and no doubt countless lives saved. But think about it this: what if his company had listened to him in the first place? Times would have turned out very differently for the two brave officers whose vests failed them.”

“Dr. Westrick is a true American hero,” said Kohn. “He lost his job and career in the body armor industry by exposing Zylon safety risks.He provided documents and testimony justifying the removal of Zylon vests from the market, and compensation to states and the federal government due to the immoral sale of Zylon vests.” Westrick partnered with whistleblower attorneys Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP and the National Whistleblower Center to pursue his qui tam lawsuit to a successful end for the taxpayers and public safety.

dianne andrews matthew fogg

Television host Dianne Andrews interviewed former U.S. Deputy Marshall Matthew Fogg, who successfully sued the U.S. Justice Department on race bias charges. The two are shown dianne andrewsabove at the U.S. House Rayburn Building, a site of some of the whistleblower events.

WBRL-CA (Baton Rouge, LA), plus Vimeo and YoutTube, 10 Whistleblower stories, Dianne Andrews host of "In Black and White," with broadcast dates TBA. Show host, author and inspirational speaker Dianne Andrews, right, a longtime media co-sponsor of the Whistleblowers Summit, interviewed 10 whistleblowers from the 2018 event in Washington, DC.

Aug. 16

OpEdNews, Opinion: Whistleblower Retaliation - Kelly Miller's Story, Irene Parker, Aug. 16, 2018. I met Kelly Miller at the Whistleblowers Summit held July 30 -- August 1 in Washington D.C. Kelly was recognized at the Whistleblowers Summit for exposing corruption in law enforcement and government agencies which resulted in violent, inhumane, and illegal retaliation against her.

I attended the summit on behalf of 70 members of the military and law enforcement, veterans and active duty, who reported being victims of timeshare fraud, but this article is not about timeshare. It is about corruption, collusion, influence and power. Timeshare victims fight the same battles.

Kelly's story is horrific, but what's most horrific, is that what happened to her could happen to any woman. She describes mafia-like behaviors from prominent individuals.

In Paintsville, Kentucky, around 1999, cameras were secretly placed all over Kelly's home by a sex ring Kelly calls a "Racketeering Influenced Organization" involving law enforcement and the justice system. The perpetrators saw her all day every day on their Voyeurism website that they illegally streamed to others.

Single and living alone in Paintsville, the secret cameras remained in Kelly's home for at least eight years. Kelly said several other women were victimized. The ring included high ranking members of her local community in Kentucky and in Washington D.C.

Aug. 10

The 5th Estate, Focus Is On Solutions As 2018 Whistleblower Summit Proceeds In DC, Andrew Kreig, Aug. 10, 2018 (reprint via Indonesia-based global news/commentary site). The annual 2 1/2-day Whistleblowers Summit for Civil and Human Rights began on July 30 with a preview tailored to showcase the vital contributions that courageous, expert informants are making under difficult conditions to solve the nation's problems.

Aug. 8

Scottsdale Independent (Arizona), Schenkat: recent D.C. trip further emboldens my justice-for-all pursuit, Sandy Schenkat, below at left), Aug. 8, 2018. I was a panel speaker July 30 at the Dirksen Senate Building in Washington, D.C. As an invitee to the panel with three attorneys, I spoke about my participation during the past five years on Scottsdale’s Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. The topic was “Judicial Discretion — Problems with Institutional Accountability of Court Disciplinary Systems.”

sandy schenkatAs the first panel member to speak, I shared my experiences and personal knowledge of how the judicial system operates in Scottsdale. My whistle blowing story related to my board member position when I discovered what I believed to be embezzlement at the Venetian Condominiums.

The retaliation by my fellow board members resulted in my incarceration for 19 hours in Scottsdale city jail. After that experience, I spent two years in the court system attempting to prove my innocence against the board members’ perjury.

My conviction of a criminal misdemeanor was eventually “set aside” in 2014. Covering up corruption through the justice system is the topic I have been pursuing since that time. This D.C. panel of whistle blowers consisted of experienced, thoughtful and courageous leaders in the national judicial reform movement.

“Independence vs. Accountability” was discussed related to the judicial system in the U.S. How our democracy is affected by lack of internal court accountability was pursued by this panel....

After the three-day conference with horrific stories by whistle blowers across the nation regarding veterans affairs, sexual harassment, office of special council, guardianship, public school systems, and justice, the panel speakers were invited to a dinner hosted by Andrew Kreig and Jack Levine at the National Press Club where whistle blowers continued to connect and share ideas for solutions.

My week in the D.C. area concluded by attending two hours at the Manafort trial in a federal courthouse in Alexandria, VA. That eye-opening experience has brought further realization to the impact of my participation as a whistle blower.

I plan to continue my pursuit of justice for all through Homeowners Associations’ reform work and judicial accountability in the future in Scottsdale and the nation.

CBS News has produced three episodes called Whistler Blower with Judge Alex (Alex Ferrer) as host. This show has shed the spotlight on how important whistle blowing has become in our country to disclose fraud, corruption and crime. The real life “David vs. Goliath” stories are helping combat injustices throughout our nation.

Aug. 1

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, "Whistleblowing Works!" 12th Annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights, Marta Steele (shown below at right), Aug. 1, 2018. With a focus on issues compelling wronged government employees and others to blow the whistle against all forms of corruption, entangling and often ruining their lives and fortunes thereafter in a maze of legalities and retaliation, the twelfth annual Whistleblower Summit convened for three days on Capitol Hill.

marta steeleThe keynote speaker at the First Plenary was Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA, shown below at left), a strong advocate of empowering and protecting whistleblowers. A bill he sponsored, the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act, was signed into law four days prior to the conference.

July 30, the first day of the conference, was designated National Whistleblower Day by the Senate, to commemorate the first Whistleblowers Law on July 30, 1778, passed unanimously by the founding fathers prior to their signing of the Constitution. So it's an age-old event, still explosive all over the country, wherever "employees are silenced about schools, science, police departments, and all levels of governance," according to seven surveys sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

The Senate also proclaimed July 30 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day to honor whistleblowers, more than 63 of whom attended the conference, many of them featured on panels enabling them to tell their stories in detail.

Beyond whistleblowing in its multiple venues, specific emphasis was on wildlife crime whistleblowing.

A key theme was obstruction of mainstream media (MSM) reporting of the outrages perpetrated against victims of corruption who become whistleblowers. Relevant communications with the MSM, in the last 25 years more than previously, are being obstructed and must be cleared by press and information officers (PIOs), which amounts to censorship — unethical but spreading. Where the officers clear interviews, PIOs dictate what staff can discuss and also bar reporters from specifying whistleblower names and interviewing outside sources. Often officials listen in on interviews.

Wrote Kathryn Foxhall of the SPJ Freedom of Information (FOI) Committee: "Silencing people is a recipe for skewing information and hiding dangerous and critical information. This is a continuous danger to public welfare and we welcome you to join us in this fight."

marta steele coverCo-Hosts of the conference were ACORN 8, LLC, the Justice Integrity Project, The Pacifica Foundation, Project Censored, Coalition for Change (C4C), and Federally Employed Women-Legal Education Fund.

A compelling, harrowing documentary film, Whistleblowers, detailing the stories of the "New York Eight," spanning a wide range of outrages involving abuse of children and disabled populations, was premiered on July 30 in the evening at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC, including two panel discussions — one by the whistleblowers in the film, and the other by the filmmakers.

Marta Steele, a senior editor with OpEdNews, is also the author of Grassroots, Geeks, Pros and Pols (shown at right), documenting electronic election theft in presidential elections.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Rob Kall on "Unleashing the Power of--YOUR--Story" (Whistleblower Summit, July 31, at panel moderated by Michael McCray), Marta Steele, Aug. 1, 2018. OpEd News's own Rob Kall, also host of the "Rob Kall Bottom-Up Radio Show," spoke at the Whistleblower Summit on Monday about "how to do power stories," summing up his message with two guidelines: First tell what you'll say, and then what you've said. Develop an elevator pitch in this process.

rob kallKall, shown at right, turned to the story we all share, the Hero's Journey (and all whistleblowers are heroes), popularized by Joseph Campbell in his book Hero with a Thousand Faces and the PBS series on it narrated by Bill Moyers. There is first the call to adventure, which some reject but ultimately take up when summoned a second time (think about the ruses of Odysseus and Achilles to avoid participating in the Trojan War — their subterfuges didn't work).

The tale of the Hero's Journey is told in thousands of worldwide stories and myths. It should be taught in grade school, Kall said. Mentors are often part of the tale, which originates in a womb of sorts (lack of experience) and leads to a road of trials, along which the Hero acquires new allies, skills, and knowledge. On this voyage the Hero meets with mom and dad, defines his or her gender, meets a god, and then returns home with a magic elixir.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, "STOP THE PRESSES": Andrew Kreig's July 31 Panel at the Whistleblower Summit, Marta Steele, Aug. 1, 2018. "Stop the Presses — Challenging Conventional Wisdom in Newsrooms" was the title of a panel moderated by attorney and investigative reporter Andrew Kreig, also owner of that iconoclastic treasure trove of truth, the Justice Integrity Project.

The panel's focus was "courageous and effective" challenges to the conventional historical wisdom (?) on two major events that occurred 50 years ago, the assassinations of two twentieth-century progressive icons, Robert F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The failure to address these issues fully has brought us to our present impasse, wrote Kreig in his introductory summary.

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, "You're Guilty until Proved Innocent" -- One Whistleblower's Story, Marta Steele, Aug. 1, 2018. Honing in on one of many stories presented by Panelists at the Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights (July 30-August 1).

Sandy Schenkat of Scottsdale paid a steep price after she became entangled in city court. The trouble began as a dispute with her homeowners association (HOA). It ended after HOA board members had her arrested and eventually convicted of a criminal misdemeanor in city court.

Schenkat said she was forced to sell her condominium at a $65,000 loss once it became clear that she would face the constant threat of civil sanctions from the HOA board and criminal charges from the city if she remained in the complex.

July 30

C-SPAN, National Whistleblower Day, July 30, 2018 (2 hr., 20 min. video). The National Whistleblower Center hosted an event honoring National Whistleblower Day. Linda Tripp, the whistleblower in President Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, was a featured speaker, as was Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

The whistleblowers and advocates talked about the role and importance of anti-corruption informants and about ways Congress could better protect those willing to speak out against waste, fraud and abuse in government. This was Ms. Tripp’s first public appearance in 15 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Linda Tripp says she was the victim of ‘a real high-tech lynching’ in first public address since 2000, Helena Andrews-Dyer, July 30, 2018. After years out of the spotlight, the former White House aide celebrated National Whistleblower Day with a speech on Capitol Hill. In her first public address in nearly two decades, Linda Tripp, known for her pivotal role in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, said she had just one regret: “Not having the guts to do it sooner.”

“It was always about right and wrong, never left and right,” Tripp said at an event Monday marking National Whistleblower Day on Capitol Hill. “It was about exposing perjury and the obstruction of justice,” she continued. “It was never about politics.”

Tripp, a former White House aide, secretly recorded conversations with her “friend” Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern who had an affair with then-President Bill Clinton. Tripp’s tapes blew the whistle on Clinton, who had denied his relationship with Lewinsky in sworn statements. The ensuing and all-encompassing scandal led to Clinton’s impeachment and Lewinsky’s effective banishment (until she resurfaced as an anti-bullying advocate a few years ago).

Tripp, a career civil servant, also disappeared from the public, retreating to a quiet life in Middleburg, Va., and remaining relatively under the radar. But she conducted rare, gut-spilling interviews with the Daily Mail and Breitbart in 2015 and 2016, respectively, in which she called Hillary Clinton “ruthless” and said that Lewinsky was alive because of Tripp’s own actions.

She said that whistleblowers would never truly be safe until “enhanced protections” were put in place that prosecuted the individuals — not just the institutions — who retaliated against those who expose corruption. The room applauded that talking point.

When recounting the personal toll coming forward had on her personal life, Tripp said it was “virtually impossible to get your good name back.”

Monday’s event was attended by nearly 60 whistleblowers who exposed corruption in powerhouse institutions including the FBI and a nursing home in Virginia, with more than half a dozen speakers touting the patriotic duty of speaking truth to power. But Tripp, the afternoon’s keynote, nailed that message.

July 22

Society of Professional Journalists, ‘Censorship by PIO’ theme of Kathryn Foxhall speech June 14, 2018, to AAUP conference Arlington, Virginia, Amy Fickling, July 22, 2018. These remarks were delivered by Kathryn Foxhall at a session of the American Association of University Professors Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia, on June 14, 2018.

So in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control admitted that they had found patterns of mishandling of dangerous pathogens. The agency in the whole world that is most responsible, takes the lead on infectious disease, and they were just not doing what they were supposed to do.

At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration found smallpox in one of their storage areas that they were cleaning out.

Smallpox!

It was estimated to have killed 300 million people in the 20th century alone. And when it was eradicated in the human population in 1979 — in what I think is one of the most precious agreements that humanity ever came to — they said that there would only be two stockpiles of it: one in Atlanta at CDC and one in Russia.

FDA just found some in a storage room, in a cold storage area, that had apparently had not been inventoried in decades.

But there’s a bigger scandal here. And that is that all those people, all those people around those situations — you know, the lab people who knew that these storage areas had not been inventoried and knew that anything on Earth could be in there — were silenced.

Forever, by policy. Never, ever to speak to a reporter without going through the censors, which means, in effect, most of them will never speak to a reporter.

So you don’t chat, you don’t get to know people. ​

And, you know, this is where we are.

I have worse news: They’re still silenced. Those people in CDC, those people in FDA, still silenced. That’s the policy.

Something really stunning has happened over the last 20, 25 years. Agencies, organizations, businesses, nonprofits, on and on, have brought on a surge of these policies of blocking reporters from communicating to staff without notifying the authorities — usually a PIO [public information officer] — unless they are tracked and monitored by public affairs offices.

Somebody needs to look into why this is happening, why we didn’t react.

It’s mean, powerful censorship that’s now a cultural norm.

Reporters used to walk the halls of agencies, something that has long since been prohibited. And they called employees at will. They got educations, they got an understanding, Really dynamic stuff.

It’s more than one time that a reporter told the agency what was going on in the agency. I’m not the only person to compare this to something out of Stalinist Russia or another authoritarian regime.

June 19

Government Accountability Project (GAP), Make It Safe Coalition Praises Congressional Approval of the Whistleblower Coordination Act, Andrew Harman, June 19, 2018. The leadership of the whistleblower rights coalition, the Make It Safe Coalition (MISC), today praised Congress for unanimous passage of the Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act, S. 1869. On June 14, Congress sent the legislation to President Trump for his signature.

The bill makes permanent a pilot program requiring ombudsman-style whistleblower protection coordinators in all Offices of Inspectors General to provide guidance and counseling on rights and responsibilities in the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). In the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, Congress created the pilot program. MISC has been advocating its adoption over the last year.

This legislation is significant for a solid infrastructure supporting federal whistleblower rights. Whistleblower Coordinators’ duties are to educate employees, contractors, and grantees about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, as well as their rights, responsibilities and remedies under the WPA. The Coordinators also are responsible to assist Inspectors General (IG) in facilitating communications between whistleblowers and other stakeholders, such as the Office of Special Counsel and Congress.

claire mccaskill oThe bill reflects bi-partisan support, with leadership from Senators Charles Grassley, (R.-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R.-WI) and Claire McCaskill (D.-MO, right), and Representatives Rod Blum (R.-Iowa) and Elijah Cummings (D.-MD) Representative Blum and Senator Grassley are majority chairs for the House and Senate whistleblower caucuses, respectively. MISC Steering Committee representatives offered the following expressions of appreciation:

Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project legal director, commented, “This legislation makes permanent the infrastructure for Whistleblower Protection Act rights to take root. It also is Iowa’s good government gift to taxpayers. Senator Grassley and Representative Blum lead the Senate and House Whistleblower Caucuses. This law reflects long-term, bi-partisan commitments to whistleblowers.”

Shanna Devine, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen, commented “Congress has risen above partisanship to protect our most vulnerable government employees – whistleblowers. Its unanimous passage of this good government bill will strengthen and make permanent whistleblower coordinators throughout the government, helping to guide our modern day heroes as they risk retaliation to defend democracy.”

Rebecca Jones, Beth Daley Policy Associate for the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), commented, “POGO Applauds the unanimous passage of this truly bi-partisan effort. This is a laudable re-commitment to whistleblowers, our nation’s first line of defense against waste, fraud, and abuse. Providing a dedicated Coordinator within IG offices is crucial for whistleblowers to understand their rights as they come forward with vital disclosures.”