Bulletproof vests that don’t work. Russian money laundering. US tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts. No-bid, sweetheart government contracts.

Once a year, whistleblowers and their supporters gather to remind each other why they risked so much to expose wrongdoing. This year’s National Whistleblower Day event will be Tuesday, July 30. It will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill on Facebook. It is one of several events and panels underway this week as part of the annual Whistleblower Summit.

From the National Whistleblower Center:

National Whistleblower Day will commemorate the 241st anniversary of America’s first whistleblower law, and celebrate the contributions of whistleblowers to democracy.The event will feature speakers including whistleblowers, lawmakers, and other public officials.

More from the NWC on some of the speakers, with video from past events:


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Nader in 2008

Scientific whistleblowers include drug reviewers, medical researchers, quality control monitors, and engineers. The recent emergence of Boeing whistleblowers demonstrates that we need more of the latter, says Ralph Nader. The legendary consumer advocate and founder of the consumer protection group Public Citizen writes in Scientific American that engineers are “often the first to notice waste, fraud and safety issues.”

Compared to the technologically stagnant dark days in the auto industry of cruel suppression of technical dissent over safety and toxic emissions … today’s engineers are working in an improved environment for taking their conscience to work. Yet much more remains to be done to safeguard the ability of engineers to speak truth to the powers-that-be.


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4/23 update:The LA Times has dug into the California Air National Guard scandal.

Allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers in the California National Guard are more widespread than the complaints made at a Fresno air base that led to a dramatic leadership shakeup of the organization earlier this month, The Times has found.

The paper’s reporters found workers allege retaliation against whistleblowers and a failure of the Guard’s to protect them.

“When a person blows the whistle on wrongdoing, they face almost a guarantee of retaliation,” said Dwight Stirling, a reserve judge advocate who heads the Center for Law and Military Policy and alleges he was targeted for investigation after he reported possible misconduct five years ago. “It’s meant, as in all cases of retaliation, to send a message that if you hold the managers to account, if you bring to light their misconduct, that they’re going to make you pay for it.”

From 4/15: After Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pineda of the California Air National Guard reported finding her boots full of urine, she felt the investigation had turned into a cover-up.

From the LA Times on this military whistleblower case: 

In August 2015, Pineda filed a whistle-blower complaint. She wrote that the main investigator told her that the evidence showed that a woman could not have urinated in the boots, but that she heard that officers speculated that she urinated in them “for attention.” In the complaint, Pineda said that “makes me want this investigation to be complete and legit to prove that I did not do this to myself.” She added that she feared she could be forced to leave the guard.


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They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant. When information about corruption or other wrongdoing comes to light, that transparency results in accountability, both against those who are culpable and for those affected by it. Whistleblowers are the ones with that crucial information.

Maya Efrati head shot
Maya Efrati, National Whistleblower Center

Whistleblowers are people who bravely come forward with information about fraud, corruption, and other criminal behavior. A whistleblower may be anyone from an employee at a company who comes across fraud to a government employee who sees the law being disregarded and rights trampled to a member of an impacted community whose family is affected by environmental catastrophe because of negligence in the race for profit.

Despite enormous personal and professional risks, they bring to light what would otherwise remain hidden. Often, those who blow the whistle on wrongdoing are disparaged and retaliated against for their actions. Even still, they report such crime knowing they may lose their jobs and income, only to face a negative social stigma while fighting an uphill battle. For the sake of truth and transparency, they are willing to come forward, to step up, and to disclose what they know.

But at present our society does not honor whistleblowers, and because of that we don’t encourage them to step forward.
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Rep. Maxine Waters issued an open letter to potential whistleblowers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) late last week.The California Democrat’s letter was addressed to agency employees who witness waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement. It asks that they “please do not hesitate to alert me and my staff” if they witness any such bureaucratic misconduct. Her action was in response to reports of low morale at the agency.

CFPB logoIn a Monday Washington Post column about Waters’ letter, Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, agreed —  with a caveat: “Whistleblowers are protected by federal law . . . Given the problems with federal whistleblower protection, we recommend that any whistleblower approaching Congress ensure that they can maintain anonymity.” He’s also noted that the system does not offer federal employees rewards, and access to federal court jury trials is limited. In addition, the WPA does not apply to intelligence and national security agencies. 
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“Roan @ The Gates” is new play about a whistleblower and how her actions impact her marriage. The play just ended a run at Luna Stage in West Orange, New Jersey

Outspoken civil rights attorney Nat and her NSA analyst wife Roan seem to have it all together. But when their personal life collides with national security, it launches a beautiful, high-stakes adventure that illuminates the cost of secrecy.

In the real world, whistleblowers were credited last week with reporting concerns to Congress about a White House plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.


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The 90th Academy Awards yesterday featured a diverse set of films nominated for Best Picture, including a whistleblower film called The Post. Based on a true story, the movie centers on the fight to publish top-secret U.S. government information on the Vietnam War leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The star-studded cast includes Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.

In the spirit of The Posts’ Oscar recognition, here are some other riveting whistleblower films that you can enjoy on the big screen.


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Picture this: while at work you become aware of conduct that you believe is unethical, illegal, or qualifies as government waste, fraud, or abuse. You decide you want to blow the whistle. But before you act, be careful! Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Your work computer and phone are not private. When you use a company or department computer, assume everything you do is monitored. These computers are an easy way for your employer to determine you are the whistleblower.

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To this day, Congress has not passed a comprehensive whistleblower protection law. Unlike other areas of employment law, such as federal laws prohibiting race, sex, or age discrimination, there is no uniform national law to provide understandable rules and procedures for blowing the whistle on your employer.

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Part of the “Quick Peek” Series, exploring the NEW edition of Stephen Kohn‘s Whistleblower’s Handbook.   

Whistleblowing is the foundation of democracy. “The roots of whistleblowing can be found deep in the American dream,” declares Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center. One might think this a bold assertion, but the first recorded instance of whistleblowing happened even before our nation had written a constitution. Even without explicit first amendment protections in the newly independent United States, whistleblowers were backed and protected by members of Congress, viewed as patriots serving their country.


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