A Government administrator inadvertently sent me documents leading to my conclusion that recipients of certain Government grants were predetermined rather than the funds competitively awarded to those with the best program proposal. When I privately made my findings known, this administrator turned hostile and challenging.
My dilemma … do I report my discoveries to the Heads of the Department? Or, do I assume they gave the directive? If so, do I go to higher-ups within the Government bureaucracy? Or, do I go public? Then, what do I expect will happen? And, what do I risk?
My options still dwelling on a back burner in my mind, my friend and I got into talking about the various degrees of whistleblowing and the categories they fall into such as, provocateurs, agents and activists. She mentioned Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden was a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, the leading strategy and technology consulting firm for the U.S. government in defense, intelligence and worldwide civil markets. In 2013, Snowden released to The Guardian and The Washington Post, documents outlining a massive effort by the U.S. National Security Agency to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of foreign governments and terrorist groups, as well as ordinary Americans. Snowden said he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing, believing that the public has the right to decide whether these intrusive programs or policies were right or wrong.
The U.S. Department of Justice however, did not see it that way. They accused Edward Snowden of jeopardizing the Government’s ability to eavesdrop on terrorists and monitor their plots, thereby endangering the safety of the U.S. and its allies. He was charged with two counts of Espionage, as well as theft of government property. Rather than face jail, Snowden flew to Moscow where he was granted temporary asylum.
The movie “Snowden” directed by Academy Award-winning Director Oliver Stone, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, is supportive of his quest, however, as of this date, the United States Congress wants Edward Snowden to return to the U.S. to face trial.
“What do you think about Julian Assange?” my friend asked, her interest in the subject fueled.
Julian Assange was a criminal provocateur, initially known for hacking the Pentagon and other U.S. Department of Defense facilities, then for founding WikiLeaks, an international non-profit journalistic organization that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.
In 2010, WikiLeaks published top secret documents (and a video) about military crimes during the Iraq War provided by Chelsea Manning, a United States Army intelligence analyst who had served in Iraq. Subsequently, Manning was court-martialed, convicted of Espionage and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
For his role in publishing these leaks, Julian Assange was wanted as a conspirator. He escaped to Sweden where on unrelated activities, he was accused of rape. Before sentencing, he fled to the UK where he is now holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. If he leaves, he will first be sent back to Sweden to face the rape charges and will then be extradited to the United States where he could face the death sentence.
Bargaining for his freedom, with blackmail as his currency, during this 2016 U.S. Presidential race, Assange released hacked Democratic National Committee emails and threatened to release more of Hillary Clinton’s emails before the November election.
The movie, “The Fifth Estate” about Julian Assange, reveals his quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Peter Capaldi, Carice van Houten, Dan Stevens, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney.
My friend, a journalist, insisted that the Freedom of Information Act entitles us, tax-payers, to know everything about anyone and everything regarding the people in government, as well as their decisions. I didn’t disagree. I brought up the name Karen Silkwood.
Karen Silkwood was the chemical technician who blew the whistle on Kerr-McGee, the nuclear facility at which she worked. While testifying before the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns related to the health and safety of workers, she, herself, was found to have high levels of plutonium on her body, clothing and in her home. And it was during these hearings, when on her way to turn over files to a New York Times reporter proving that management knew of the dangers and covered them up, that she died in a mysterious car crash on a deserted road. Coincidentally, or not, the incriminating documents were nowhere to be found.
Directed by Mike Nichols, Silkwood stars Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig Nelson, Fred Ward.
“I guess there’s no upside for any kind of whistleblower, no matter how altruistic the motive,” my friend stated.
“At best a clandestine, dangerous, or unfair situation is remedied and the perpetrators removed from their positions of power. But the claims of the whistleblower generally are disputed, and the whistleblower ends up ridiculed, demoted, fired, arrested, exiled, or dead,” I responded.
I thanked my friend for being my sounding board. My decision about blowing the whistle on the Government Granting agency was made. I decided to let go of the issue … for now.