In an article dated January 19 entitled, "When Did Whistleblowers Become the Bad Guys?" author Kevin Mathews says that the demonization of whistleblowers is growing in the business world. He writes, "Employees fear being labeled a snitch or ostracized by their coworkers for potentially costing the company jobs or profits should they report illicit corporate actions. While laws are supposedly in place to protect those who do step forward, too often they fall short: airline employees who brought attention to insufficient safety inspections were demoted to desk jobs. A miner who reported illegal, unsafe work conditions (which would lead to a coworker fatality the following day) is being held criminally responsible. A former Wells Fargo employee who exposed the bank’s practice of targeting minority communities with high-interest loans is now having her home fraudulently foreclosed on by the same bank in an apparent act of retaliation."
Mathews then asks an important question and gives the reader five examples of the injustice that he addresses in his question:
...how can we trust the government to protect against corporate assaults on whistleblowers when they perpetrate the same attacks on the truth?
- Donald Vance reported to the FBI that the military was intentionally overlooking illegal arms sales in Iraq. For revealing this potentially dangerous scenario, Vance was arrested and mistreated by the military for more than three months.
- After Jack Kiriakou exposed the fact that the U.S. government practices torture on terrorism suspects, he was sentenced to more than two years in prison for potentially damaging the reputation of the country. For the record, those who committed the acts of torture have still never been charged.
- A group of Air Force personnel who reported that military bodies were being improperly handled and transported found themselves either fired or suspended for sharing news of the misconduct.
- In 2005, Bunny Greenhouse, who achieved the highest rank for civilian officers in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was suddenly demoted to a low-level cubicle job in another department. Greenhouse knows the move was a consequence of testifying that she had seen billions of dollars misdirected toward Halliburton. “It’s just amazing how we say we want to remove fraud from our government, then we gag people who are just trying to stand up and do the right thing,” Greenhouse said.
- Perhaps most famously, Bradley Manning shared classified documents with Wikileaks that revealed some of the shadier practices of the American military. As a result, the U.S. has branded him a traitor and held Manning in inhumane conditions for nearly three years. Only now is he beginning to see his day in court.
“The only way we can find out what is going on is for someone to come forward and let us know,” Beth Daley, a representative of The Project on Government Oversight, told CBS News. “But when they do, the weight of the government comes down on them. The message is, ‘Don’t blow the whistle or we’ll make your life hell.’ It’s heartbreaking. There is an even greater need for whistleblowers now. But they are made into public martyrs. It’s a disgrace. Their lives get ruined.”
This cannot be good for the mental and physical health of these whistleblowers, those who care about them, and American society in general.
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