On Friday, March 22, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) will bring the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability to the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). The Tour stop will feature prominent whistleblowers Thomas Drake (NSA waste and mismanagement), Rick Piltz (White House climate change scandal), and Jesselyn Radack (unconstitutional treatment by DOJ of John Walker Lindh).
GAP’s Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event will feature a moderated discussion that is free and open to all. A full description of the Tour can be found at www.whistleblowertour.org
This Tour stop is sponsored by GAP along with UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law. The event will last from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in Room 518 (Moot Court Room).
- The case of Thomas Drake made national headlines in 2011, and the prosecution of him by the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to receive widespread coverage today. Drake attempted to expose massive NSA mismanagement and the agency's use of a data collection program that was more costly, more threatening to American citizens' privacy rights, and less effective than a readily-available alternative. For his actions, Drake's house was raided, and he was subsequently charged under the Espionage Act, facing 35 years in prison. The case against him collapsed in June 2011, when he pled guilty to exceeding authorized use of a government computer – a misdemeanor. The DOJ dropped all 10 felony counts against him, and the judge excoriated Department lawyers for their conduct. Drake is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, regarded in the U.S. as the highest honor that a whistleblower can receive.
- Rick Piltz is a former senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. In 2005, he blew the whistle on the White House’s improper editing and censorship of science program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress. GAP, which represented Piltz, released edited reports to The New York Times that documented the improper editing. The changes were inserted by hand by White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff Philip Cooney, a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute, and the editing downplayed the reality of human-driven global warming and its harmful impacts. The changes also introduced an element of scientific uncertainty that had not been part of the original reports. This scandal sparked a media frenzy that resulted in Cooney’s resignation. Piltz received the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize in 2006, and Cooney went to work for ExxonMobil only days after his departure from the White House.
- Jesselyn Radack served as an Ethics Advisor in the Department of Justice. In 2001, she learned that FBI agents sought to interrogate "American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. Because Lindh was represented by counsel, she advised the agents they could not conduct the interrogation without Lindh’s attorney. They did so anyway. As a result, she correctly advised them that Lindh’s testimony was inadmissible in a legal proceeding. When Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely stated in public that the seriously injured Lindh had waived his right to legal counsel before speaking with the FBI, Radack’s advice was reported in the news media. Currently, Radack is GAP’s National Security & Human Rights Director and a recipient of the 2012 Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award (also awarded to her client, Thomas Drake).
GAP President Louis Clark, who has spent more than 35 years at GAP protecting whistleblowers, will moderate the panel. Stated Clark, "We’re excited to bring prominent government whistleblowers to UDC, where students in the nation’s capital can learn about the challenges of speaking truth to power.”
Joe Libertelli, Director of the Law School’s Office of Alumni Relations, stated: "The American Whistleblower Tour will provide our students and the public with unique insight into ethical decision-making in the real world, as well as the legal hurdles honest federal employees may face without whistleblower protections.”
About the Tour
This UDC event is the seventh Tour stop held this academic year. Previous 2012-13 stops have included the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Whitman College, Franklin & Marshall College, Auburn University, and Florida International University. Future stops will include American University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Indiana University-Bloomington.
During the 2011-12 academic year, the American Whistleblower Tour visited 13 colleges, including FIU, Auburn University, Mount Holyoke College, Rutgers University-Newark, Syracuse University, Tulane University, and the University of Texas at Austin. GAP secures some of the most prominent whistleblowers in American history for its Tour. Last year, whistleblower presenters included Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Susan Wood ("Plan B").
Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America's youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.