Whistleblower Protection and the Truth: Linked intimately | Tom Michael Devine | TEDxWilmingtonSalon

July 30th 1778 the continent

America July 30th 2016 we're here

celebrating national whistleblower day

who are these whistleblowers they're

people who use freedom of speech to

challenge abuses of power that betray

the public trust now if they're isolated

the Government Accountability Project

where I work we call whistle blowing

sound of professional suicide but with

solidarity they personify why it's a

cop-out to say you can't fight city hall

or big business they personified that we

haven't lost control of our lives and we

can still make a difference

well they need solidarity at a number of

areas first they need solidarity to

defend them against retaliation and that

means everything from informal

investigations to days in court to

review by the Supreme Court of the laws

protecting them

no and it's funny increasingly they're

getting it the Supreme Court supposedly

can't agree on anything but in every

major test case of whistleblowing since

2000 and the Supreme Court is

overwhelmingly backed the whistleblowers

well then there's solidarity from other

witnesses and it's essential for the

initial pebble of the truth to turn into

a landslide that can't be denied that

can't be covered up the truth is

covering up the cover-up and it gap we

do investigations to help expand the

circle of witnesses and when that

happens then you need solidarity from

the public and where I work we play

information matchmaker with that

evidence that's not just legal cases we

do those with their legal campaigns for

the truth

well we unite the isolated whistleblower

with everyone who should be benefiting

from that's dissent from their knowledge

and instead of a corrupt bureaucracy

surrounding the whistleblower and

isolating that person we get the word

out to the media to the politicians to

the law enforcement people to the


have been affected to the citizens

groups who are lifers in trying to fight

those abuses of power to the competitors

of the people who are abusing their

power everybody who should be benefiting

from that knowledge when that happens

instead of a corrupt bureaucracy

surrounding the isolated whistleblower

it's society surrounding that corrupt

bureaucracy in the truth has turned into


well they need solidarity a third way

from the law and you know they're

getting it when I first came to Gap we

had one week Gras for government

whistleblowers and just a couple of

lawyers for the private sector now we've

got 59 whistleblower Blois blanketing

our society and when I first came to gap

in 1979 there was only one country in

the world with a whistleblower law the

United States now there are 30 nations

with whistleblower laws free speech

rights have spread from the local level

in Washington DC to the federal level to

the United Nations the World Bank

countries all over the world Serbia the

most recent one in 2012 well even

Albania a few weeks ago whistleblowing

is the most dynamic area of

international law that exists but they

can't have this solidarity without

education and so that means that we have

to be training government officials how

to work with whistleblowers training

organization of leaders that there

should be their best resource instead of

turning them into enemies we have to

train our students in education and

classes we have to share our lessons

learned in books such as our book the

corporate whistleblower Survival Guide a

handbook for committing the truth the

first 30 years of lessons learned it get

you know as long as we've had organized

society powers been getting abused and

sooner or later somebody said enough is


it was the pioneer of challenging that

abuse and you know I think of Jesus as a

whistleblower against the corrupt

religious organizations

I think Martin Luther was a

whistleblower against the Catholic

Church but the sailors in the American

Revolution who sparked our first smart

they blew the whistle blow the whistle

on a corrupt commander of the Navy

Lincoln deputized the whistle blowers in

the Civil War to file citizen

whistleblowing lawsuits it's morphed

into America's most effectively

anti-corruption law but no no they are

what we call them I'm whistleblowing

it's nothing special about the name

there's nothing magic about that yeah in

the Netherlands there called bell

ringers of the people who climb the

church tower and ring the bells to warn

the town of danger in some countries

there called lighthouse keepers after

those who shined the lights and the

rocks that were hidden but with sink

ships in the Africa they're called

public sentinels because they're

defending the people but no matter what

we call them whistleblowing is freedom

of speech when it counts the most

that's easy to have freedom of speech at

a sports event where the referee calls a

foul on the wrong athlete and 40 or 50

thousand people have the freedom to call

that referee any name they want to well

while it's it's hard to retaliate

against forty or fifty thousand people

and it wasn't a secret the the mistake

was probably televised and everybody

could see it well it's a lot different

if you're thinking about blowing the

whistle there may be only a few people

who know the truth and whoever is

abusing the power is desperate to make

sure that no one else learns about it

and because then it couldn't continue

makes this very high-stakes

and very very dangerous well

whistleblowers years freedom of speech

in a few different ways the most we

usually think about is the freedom to

protest that's kind of the stereotype

that's very significant whether it's

demonstrating in the streets or

appearing in a television program to

expose corruption or testifying in

Congress or even being a witness that a


rushon trial whistleblowers are the

agents of accountability this way you

can't have law enforcement you can't

correct problems without people being to

bear witness and testify but I think

there's an even more significant use of

freedom of speech by whistleblowers

that's the freedom to warn to prevent

avoidable disasters before it's too late

for anything sub damage control picking

up the pieces or finger-pointing whose

fault was it when those are important

but they're not much solace for the

families of victims from tragedies that

never should have happened if we'd only

listened you know this doesn't just

apply to the public at large

organizational leaders too we're always

advising organizational leaders that

whistleblowers should be their eyes and

ears their best resources because the

problems have been covered up from them

in the middle of the bureaucracy and

they might not know about them until

it's they're being blamed and held

accountable because the buck stopped

with them whistleblowers can make a

difference if we listen to them I tell

the organization the leaders look you

know it's bad business to silence or

kill the messenger well you know we have

all these different lessons learned and

ideas but why do the whistleblowers to

do it what makes them expose themselves

to retaliation they're in a a life's

crossroads nothing will ever be the same

after this decision and it's a

crossroads where they have to pick

between valid but conflicting values

that we're all raised with there for

example we don't like naysayers and

troublemakers and people who are cynical

we like team players but on the other

hand we don't like bureaucratic sheep

and we value rugged individualists well

we don't like tattle tales and thinks

and rats but on the other hand we don't

have much respect for people who look

the other way don't want to get involved

it's still

America's national disgraces that sixty

years ago a woman Kitty Genevieve was

murdered and raped on the streets of New

York and everybody close their curtains

I didn't want to get involved you know

and uh see no evil hear no evil speak no

evil we think of that as monkeys not as

human beings whistleblowers have to

choose or what about the right to

privacy versus the public's right to

know or loyalty you know we're all

raised that our first loyalty should be

to support our families and you blow the

whistle you might lose your job and not

be able to support them that's why you

don't bite the hand that feeds you but

what about loyalty to the law and what

about loyalty to our country we call

that patriotism well these are difficult

choices then in my experience working

with 7,000 whistleblowers there's a

common reason they act on what they've

learned because they have to to be true

to themselves it's one of them told me I

have to keep looking myself in the

mirror and sometimes their motives are

noble sometimes they may be self-serving

but if they don't act on their knowledge

for the rest of their lives they'll be

wondering things could have been

different if I hadn't been part of the

cover-up you know one of my first

clients and mentors and teachers a

gentleman named Ernie Fitzgerald

Pentagon whistleblower he exposed the

world's most expensive nuts both coffee

coffee parts toilet seats spending

hundreds of times more for the taxpayers

then we'd be charged if we just went

down to the hardware store and Ernie

told me that whistleblowing is

committing the truth because you're

treated like you committed a crime and

isn't that ironic as whistleblowers it's

the human factor they're the Achilles

heel of bureaucratic corruption and the

most corrupt bureaucracies that produced

the most heroic whistleblowers these are

people who make a difference well you

know it's quite a sales pitch that I'm

giving you

and one of the

one of the things that I think they have

an obligation to do is give us some

proof to back up these claims one of the

first people that I've really been

impressed with was an FDA scientist

named dr. David Graham he blew the

whistle on Vioxx wax was a super pain

killer was like aspirin on steroids

only it turned out it was a killer

painkiller it had killed almost 50,000

Americans from unnecessary heart attacks

all this from a drug that our government

had officially decreed was safe about as

many people as died in the Vietnam War

well thanks to dr. Graham public health

was protected and that stopped within a

month of his Senate testimony the

company withdrew VAX from the market

although it was making almost a billion

dollars a year in profits and what was

the reason there were 400 billion

dollars in lawsuits the truth makes a

difference or let's go to threats to

freedom from our own government there

were half a dozen whistleblowers

starting at the telephone companies

through the Department of Justice the

NSA climaxing with mr. Snowden who

taught us the big brother has moved into

the homes of every American family that

uses electronic communications well

thanks to their courage we got the USA

Freedom Act and there's some controls on

their type of surveillance now let's

consider anti-terrorism Robert McLane

was a blur at the federal federal air

marshals service he stopped the

government from going AWOL

during a more ambitious rerun of 9/11 in

2003 Saudi intelligence the u.s.

counterintelligence had confirmed that

al Qaeda this time was planning not to

attack just New York City in Washington

DC those cities plus cities up and down

the West Coast European capitals Rome

London Paris even the capital of

Australia Canberra it was going to be

the grand finale of terrorism

in our department of homeland security

pulled all the air marshals off when the

when the attack was can when the attack

was going to be taking place thanks to

mr. MacLaine's disclosure within 24

hours the government said oh is all a

mistake corrected the mistake the

hijacking was prevented these people

changed the course of history or

casualties in water France now the chief

science advisor for the Marines he

learned that 90% of our fatalities in

60% of our casualties in Iraq because we

hadn't delivered for a year and a half

vehicles that would actually protect our

troops against landmines and they were

using ones they weren't even designed

for that purpose well thanks to him

blowing the whistle the EM reps as

they're called were delivered in

casualties from land mines went from 60%

to 10%

what about human rights about 15 years

ago and the situation in our country was

that people arriving from other nations

at the airports or african-american

women coming through our airports were

regularly stopped in accused of drug

smuggling without any evidence

sometimes it was sexual harassment

sometimes they just wanted overtime

nothing to do with the law enforcement

though in if they couldn't find any

drugs in their luggage they do body

cavity searches inside and outside if

they still couldn't find any drugs they

take them to a hospital you have up to

four days of laboratory tests during

their time they couldn't contact their

family they couldn't talk to a lawyer

but they had vanished in their bodies

were property of the United States

government well thanks to Kathy Harris

an African American customs inspector

down in Atlanta the truth came out the

government couldn't defend itself in

four days were shrunk to two hours

before they have the rights of

citizenship well let's consider the

environment about 20 years ago at the

Hanford nuclear waste dump that's where

we store all America's radioactive waste

plutonium the most dangerous substance

on the planet or if you touch it in less

than 240,000 years it kills you and

about 20 years ago the contractor there

held a press conference and said well

we've lost track of 5,000 gallons of

radioactive waste we're telling you this

because we're honest and don't worry I

can't get into the water supply or

anything well thanks to a whistleblower

using their books we learned the real

figure wasn't 5,000 gallons four hundred

forty billion gallons of radioactive

waste unaccounted for we send divers

that into the Columbia River the water

supply for the Pacific Northwest there

are already traces of radiation in the

water thanks to a whistleblower it

started a much more ambitious cleanup

effort plugging the leaks and we don't

have the wrong kind of hot water in the

Pacific Northwest today you know I could

keep going for quite a while but I think

the points been made whistleblowers

changed the course of history in their

making more of a difference today than

ever before in the course of history and

you know it's funny that our government

leaders say oftentimes well if we want

to be safe it's very expensive and it's

going to cost a lot of money tens and

tens and tens of billions of dollars for

you to be safe

and we don't really have the luxury of

all this Liberty we're gonna have to cut

back on freedom if you want to be safe

but it doesn't cost anything to listen

and whistleblowers they make us safer by

strengthening our freedom instead of

canceling it

you know the founding fathers had it

right that freedom of speech should be

the First Amendment in our bill of

rights you know and the good news is if

solidarity is the magic word for

whistleblowers to make a difference and

get away with it they're getting more

solidarity that ever before in history

when I first came to get they're

considered Kooks or traitors or nuts now

they're lionized in the press

unprecedented public

support is the reason why Congress which

can't get it agree on anything as

unanimously passed 15 laws for strong

and whistleblower protection since 2000

though Supreme Court justice once said

if corruption is a social disease

sunlight that's the best disinfectant

and the reason is pretty obvious to me

in a free society there's nothing more

powerful than the truth