With Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning hogging the spotlight, here are 5 not-so-well-remembered whistleblowers.
Edward Snowden is hiding in Russia, and Julian Assange is hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, evading arrest and extradition. Let’s face it, whistleblowers are in the news, and the Obama administration in most cases is doing its level best to track down and prosecute those who reveal government and corporate corruption, war crimes and criminal activity.
Always a controversial figure, the “whistleblower” has sometimes been portrayed favorably in popular films, for example Al Pacino’s portrayal of New York police officer Frank Serpico in the Oscar-nominated 1973 movie “Serpico.” The film tells the story of an officer who struggled to expose racketeering, extortion and police corruption rampant in his department while facing threats from his colleagues.
With a growing list of whistleblowers who have come forward, here is a list of five whistleblowers who in recent years called out major misconduct that you may never have heard of.
David P. Weber
David Weber, a former chief investigator for the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) Inspector General’s office revealed a sex scandal within the SEC that he claims undermined the Commission’s investigations into the Bernie Madoff scandal and Allen Sanford: two men responsible for Ponzi schemes that defrauded individuals of billions.
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone Magazine reports that Weber came forward with evidence that the SEC, charged with investigating financial crimes, was negligent in its investigation of these two individuals.
Weber filed a lawsuit claiming that his office’s senior officials — former Inspector General David Kotz and his successor, Noelle Maloney — were sleeping together. Apparently, Kotz was also sleeping with Dr. Gaytri Kachroo, a lawyer representing a group of victims who lost money in the Sanford scheme.
When Kotz refused to meet with Kachroo as part of the investigation, Weber was alerted to the fact that something was awry in his department’s investigation of the case. He was soon fired for investigating the problem.
“When David Weber began to uncover the depth of dysfunction at the SEC, they fired him,” Weber’s attorney Cary Hansel said. “He has no intention of being silenced by threats and false allegations.”
Weber and his attorney are now pushing forward with a lawsuit after the firing to expose a whole host of problems. Taibbi reports that Weber plans to come forward with “allegations that officials handed out SEC contracts to buddies at influential Beltway consulting firms, claims that sexual harassment cases were covered up.”
Stanford and Madoff are serving respective 110 year and 150 year sentences for their roles in multibillion dollar ponzi schemes that defrauded investors.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reported last year that Ward Diesel, a New York-based company that manufactures filtering systems for diesel engines, was implicated in a scandal for knowingly submitting false claims to federal agencies.
The company had provided systems to the Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, Department of Interior, as well as the Air Force, Marine Corps and Department of Energy.
It was a lawsuit filed by Ted Siska in U.S. ex rel. Siska v. Ward Diesel Filter Systems, Inc., No. 10-0111-JL (D. NH) that alerted the federal government to systematic overcharging for services. His lawsuit allowed the government to investigate Siska’s claims that Ward Diesel had been routinely overcharging government agencies that purchased diesel filter systems through its GSA contract.
This case was filed under the False Claims Act’s “whistleblower provisions,” which permit private parties to sue for false claims on behalf of the United States and to share in any recovery. The whistleblower in this case, Ted Siska, will receive $94,200 of the settlement.
The company agreed to pay $628,000 to resolve allegations that it knowingly submitted false claims to federal agencies under a contract. Ward was given a contract to provide diesel exhaust filtering systems for fire engines through the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Multiple Award Schedule program.
Federal prosecutors believe that Jeffrey Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided classified information to New York Times author James Risen that served as the basis for a chapter in his 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.”
The chapter outlines an effort by the CIA in 2000 to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The plot involved sending a former Russian scientist to give Iranian scientists blueprints for a nuclear triggering device with a hidden design flaw that would compromise the program.
The validity of the plot and the Iranian nuclear program both remain in doubt, but Slate reported last month that a federal appeals court ruled 2–1 that Risen must testify in any future criminal case against Sterling.
Thomas Andrews Drake
Years before Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (NSA) leak there was another major leak involving the NSA. The whistleblower, Thomas Andrews Drake, claims that if the NSA had used resources more efficiently, it could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans and triggered the subsequent U.S. invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.
The Atlantic Wire reports that Thomas Andrews Drake, leaked information to a Baltimore Sun reporter claiming that an NSA surveillance program known as “Trailblazer” was a waste of agency resources.
A more efficient system called “Thin Thread” was available but wasn’t used by intelligence agencies. Drake also claims that the Thin Thread program was less invasive than Trailblazer, which many civil liberties proponents now believe infringed upon Fourth Amendment Rights that bar authorities from carrying out unreasonable searches and seizures.
When Drake came forward with this evidence and expressed his grievances to the Baltimore Sun and later during a 60 Minutes episode in 2011, he was charged for violating the Espionage Act of 1917.
He now faces up to 35 years in prison for airing his grievances and exposing possible NSA constitutional violations to the media.
Stephen Jin-Woo Kim
The Washington Post reported in 2009 that Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a senior analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and former State Department contractor, was accused of telling James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, that North Korea was preparing to have a bomb test.
The announcement was considered routine in Washington circles where news agencies receive tips and reports from anonymous sources about foreign policy issues. It was the ensuing investigation that drew condemnation from Kim’s supporters, who say that such conversations are commonplace in Washington and do not compromise U.S. national security, as alleged by prosecutors in the case.
Kim’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, condemned the Obama administrations’ charges against his client saying, “In its obsession to clamp down on perfectly appropriate conversations between government employees and the press, the Obama administration has forgotten that wise foreign policy must be founded on a two-way conversation between government and the public.”
“Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public,” said First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin, who has represented The Associated Press, but not in the current case. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”
Kim was indicted on charges relating to the incident, in violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. The Washington Post reported in May that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had tracked Rosen’s phone records, obtained a warrant to view his personal emails and even gain access to “security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department.”