Whistleblowers and Official Secrecy, Corruption and Repression

9 November 17:30 – 19:30

Session description

When regulatory structures break down or fail, whistleblowers become the best defense of the public interest and often, the most serious challenge to a corrupt state. In the developed world, regulatory structures have weakened over the course of the past thirty years. For different reasons, national security agencies and international organizations, such as the World Bank, represent two areas that are vulnerable to corruption because of the secrecy that surrounds budgets and expenditures. In the United States, international organizations and national security agencies are both beyond the oversight of democratic structures, such as the Congress and its committees.

Whistleblowers, however, when confronting an institution or a government agency, are not well positioned to defend themselves. They are, after all, single individuals – or at best, small groups of them – who must confront and challenge a system. Unsupported by the justice system, the media and the public, they can be destroyed. They are especially vulnerable to repression in ways that mass movements, political parties and an organized opposition are not. Whistleblowers can be detained, prosecuted and imprisoned. They can also be fired, blacklisted, slandered, and professionally and personally ruined. In brief, often they can be silenced.

In spite of these dangers and complexities, whistleblowers can capture the imagination of the public and attention of the media. They have a narrative and they are witnesses; they cannot be easily dismissed because they were there. As such, whistleblowers become very effective anti-corruption agents, if they can be protected. The panel includes Jesselyn Radack, a whistleblower from the US Department of Justice, who intervened in a secret interrogation. It also includes Thomas Drake, who, as a senior manager at the National Security Agency, exposed gross waste and mismanagement and was then fired and indicted. Richard Behar, who covered the story of the man who blew the whistle on Paul Wolfowitz, when Wolfowitz served as World Bank president, will discuss the role of the media in whistleblower protection when formal measures fail.

Session coordinator’s name:
Beatrice Edwards
Government Accountability Project

Session /Moderator
Jesselyn Radack
National Security and Human Rights Program Director
Government Accountability Project

Thomas Drake
(Former) National Security Agency – USA
Topic: The criminalization of whistleblowing about corruption in US national security work

Richard Behar
Forbes Magazine
Topic: Whistleblowers and retaliation in an international organization

Beatrice Edwards
Government Accountability Project

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