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Whistle Blowing Tales

Whistle Blowing

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Most people are familiar with the sound of the whistle blowing during various sports activities. This typically occurs when an Umpire or Referee stops the play because they believe that there have been unfair or dangerous actions; and/or rules of the game have been broken by one or more players. The sound of the whistle in sports effectively signals a stop to foul play.

We're not talking about sports today. But we are talking about unfair, unjust, dishonest, dangerous and/or illegal actions. We're talking about specific kinds of whistle-blowers - whistle-blowers who serve as umpires of democracy and justice.

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Using the wikipedia definition, a Whistleblower (Whistle-blower or Whistle blower) in this context is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization. 

Whistle-blowing generally refers to the disclosure of significant data that has substantial ramifications. The term is not usually applied to relatively minor workplace problems  whereby one staff member reports another to supervisors for relatively minor or personal infringements such as a colleague being repeatedly late for work, using the company car for personal reasons, inter-personal disputes etc.
To give you the gist of some of the biggies in whistle-blowing history, here are some  examples 
(For more info, see the reference sites: )

1. Mark Felt (Deep Throat) - Watergate Scandal

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The most famous whistle-blower Mark Felt (also known as "Deep Throat") was the Associate Director of the FBI at the time of the Watergate scandal. He provided details to staff of the Washington Post regarding illegal break-ins, covert operations and campaign violations during the Nixon administration known afterwards as the "Watergate" scandal.

2. Daniel Ellsberg - the Pentagon Papers

Daniel Ellsberg is a former United States military analyst who, while employed by the RAND Corporation (a  global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times and other newspapers. 

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In late 1969 - Ellsberg secretly made several sets of photocopies of the classified documents to which he had access. These later became known as the "Pentagon Papers". They revealed that the government had knowledge, early on, that the Vietnam war would most likely not be won, and that continuing the war would lead to many times more casualties than was ever admitted publicly. Further, as an editor of the New York Times was to write much later, these documents "demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance".

This whistle-blowing incident became known as "The Pentagon Papers".

3. Bradley Manning - Wikileaks

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Assigned to an army unit based near Baghdad, Manning had access to databases used by the United States government to transmit classified information. Manning leaked hundreds of thousands of documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Australian Internet activist and journalist and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks - Julian Assange.

In May 2010 a hacker called Adrian Lamo whistle-blowed on Mannings's activities to the US Army authorities because he thought the activities were putting peoples' lives at risk. The material included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 United States diplomatic cables; and 500,000 army reports.

It was the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. The publication of the leaked material, particularly the diplomatic cables, attracted in-depth coverage across the globe, with several governments blocking websites that contained embarrassing details. 

4. Wendell Potter - Insurance Industry

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Wendell Potter was VP corporate communications for the big insurer CIGNA. He reported to the US Commerce Committee on health insurers in 2009  that the insurance industry was using a "charm offensive, which is the most visible part of a duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbying campaign" [which] may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans."In his testimony, Potter outlined duplicitous (sneaky) techniques used by insurers to “dump the sick”, increase the profits and protect stock price at all costs.

5. Sherron Watkins - Enron 2001

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Enron Corporation was an American energy, commodities, and services company based in HoustonTexas. Before its bankruptcy on December 2, 2001, Enron employed approximately 20,000 staff and was one of the world's major electricitynatural gas, communications, and pulp and paper companies, with claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion during 2000. Fortune named Enron "America's Most Innovative Company" for six consecutive years.
Sherron Watkins was Vice President for Corporate Development of Enron. In 2001 she wrote to the CEO of Enron about an "elaborate accounting hoax". In response her hard drive was confiscated and she was isolated from other executives. 4 months later Enron filed for bankruptcy. It was revealed that Enron's reported financial condition was sustained substantially by an institutionalized, systematic, and creatively planned accounting fraud, known since as the Enron scandal.

6. Harry Markopolos - Madoff Securities Fraud
Harry Markopolos was an independent fraud analyst who first raised red flags to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2000 calling attention to the Madoff Securities Ponzi scheme. At the time of his first report in 2000 the size of the fraud was roughly $5 billion. By the time it peaked in 2008 (after Markopolos had filed 4 more interim submissions to the SEC) the fraud had reached $65 billion.
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7. Jeffrey Wigand - Brown & Williamson tobacco company - The Insider

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In 1994 the seven CEOs of the major tobacco companies had testified before Congress that nicotine was not addictive. In 1996, Jeffrey Wigand - VP for research and development disclosed to "60 Minutes" that his employer had knowingly doctored the nicotine content in its cigarettes so as to enhance its addictive qualities. His story is the subject of the 1999 movie: "The Insider".

8. Karen Silkwood - Kerr-McGee Nuclear Power Plant in Oklahoma

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Karen Silkwood was responsible for occupational health and safety at the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Power Plant. She reported health and safety concerns regarding the facility to the Atomic Energy Committee. Shortly thereafter she tested positive for plutonium exposure, and several surfaces in her house was found to be contaminated. She went to meet reporters from The New York Times with her evidence - but en route her car ran off the road and she was killed. The documents she had been carrying were not found with her.

9. Frank Serpico - New York Police Department

Serpico D13Serpico reported corruption in the New York Police Department to his superiors. Unfortunately his trust in them was misplaced. He went to the New York Times with his story. The subsequent publicity led to the creation of the Knapp Commission and a clean up of the New York Police Department. Unfortunately he was shot while at work and was not assisted by his fellow officers - an example of how negatively co-workers may regard whistle-blowing, regardless of the justification for it. Fortunately he survived, but left the police force.

10. Peter Buxton - Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments

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For 40 years, the US Public Health Service researched the natural progression of untreated syphilis. 399 African-American sharecroppers with syphilis were left untreated despite the existence of a cure for the disease. (The men had in many cases subsequently passed the disease on to their wives; and the newborn children of infected mothers were affected).  When Peter Buxton joined the group in 1966 he raised concerns over the lack of ethics with his superiors. When he was ignored he went to the papers.

11. Coleen Rowley - 9/11

Coleen Rowley D13Coleen Rowley was a Field Agent for the FBI. Her office had received info that a man was suspected as possibly preparing for a suicide hijacking.  She had requested permission to search the room of one of the men (Moussaoui) who subsequently hijacked one of the planes on 9/11; but she had been refused permission by her bosses. Her report to her superiors and the 9/11 Commission led to improvements in counterterrorism investigations and intelligence communication.

12. Mark Hodler - IOC - Salt Lake City Winter Games Scandal
He reported International Olympic Commission (IOC) members having been given cash, expensive trips, jobs etc to secure votes to have the games held in Salt Lake City. He went to the press and several members of the IOC were sacked. 

13. Cheryl Eckard - GlaxoSmithKline Quality Control fiasco

GlaxoSmithKline D13Cheryl Eckard was a Quality Assurance Manager with the drug company GlaxoSmithKline. She warned her bosses about significant quality control issues at one of their huge factories in Puerto Rico. She was fired. She went to the authorities. The company was fined $750 million and forced to clean up the factory. She was awarded $96 million in damages.

14. Mordechai Vanunu - Israeli Nuclear Program 1986

Mordechai Vanunu is a former Israeli nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to 
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weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel's nuclear weapons program to the Sunday Times of London in 1986  showing that Israel had between 100-200 nuclear weapons. Prior to this Israel had not acknowledged its nuclear program.
Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Released from prison in 2004, he became subject to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement. Since then he has been arrested several times for violations of those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. 

15. Emma O'Reilly and Christophe Bassons  - Lance Armstrong scandal

Lance Armstrong D13They blew the whistle in the Lance Armstrong scandal, exposing his use of performance-enhancing drugs to win high-level cycling competitions. The US Anti-Doping Agency considered this one of the most sophisticated doping conspiracies in the history of sport. After years of denying the charges and character assassination of the whistleblowers, in January 2013 Armstrong finally admitted that the allegations of doping were in fact true. As the result of doping revelations, Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and has been banned from professional cycling for life. 

16. Bradley Birkenfeld is a former banker at UBS, Switzerland’s largest banking entity. He reported banking irregularities that showcased the internal workings of secret Swiss bank accounts. Birkenfeld revealed the names of thousands of Americans maintaining illegal offshore bank accounts for the purpose of tax evasion, including elected officials, judges and corporate moguls. 

Erin Brockovich D1317.  Erin Brockovich - Chromium 6 Contamination
Brockovich worked as a law clerk and was instrumental in blowing the whistle on the contamination of the groundwater in and around Hinkley, CA with toxic Chromium 6, when she uncovered evidence that toxic run off from Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the water in the area for over 30 years. 

Joe Darby D1318. Joe Darby - Abu Ghraib Prison Torture and Abuse scandal
Sergeant Joseph M. Darby is best known as the whistleblower in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. 
At the time, Darby was a U.S. Army Reservist who served as a military policeman (M.P.) at the Abu Ghraib prison, in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. After learning of the abuse, Darby was the first person to take steps to alert the U.S. military command. In January 2004, Darby provided a CD that contained a number of incriminating photos to the Army Criminal Investigation Division. 

The images exposed abhorrent, inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. Army prison guards, including beatings, torture, and sexual humiliation. Fearing retaliation, Darby asked Army investigators to protect his identity. His cover was subsequently blown by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who mentioned Darby’s name during a congressional hearing.
On May 7, 2004, Darby was profiled as the "Person of the Week" by anchor Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight, and in December 2004, he was selected as one of three ABC News "People of the Year". Darby received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on May 16, 2005, in recognition of his courage in exposing the abuses at Abu Ghraib. 
But, he and his wife have been shunned by former military friends and neighbors - some of whom dubbed him a traitor for whistle-blowing on the American military perpetrators of the torture. The Darbys now reside in protective military custody at an undisclosed location.
We think that Joe Darby showed admirable integrity in whistle-blowing. One can't help but wonder what goes on in the minds (or what has gone on in the lives) of those who implicitly condone torture by wanting it to be covered up, and abuse those who take steps to stop it.
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We 3 Monkeys think the jungle would be a much more brutal, unfair and unjust place without people of integrity in it. We applaud whistle-blowers who spill the beans in the interest of the common good, justice and common decency.

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The Whistle-Blowing TIPS part of this post has been moved to a separate post. You can find it here -


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Lies disguised as truth P3

Some politicians and bureaucrats think the general public are dumb. They want to keep us that way by controlling what information we are given. 

The information we are provided may be "truthiness" (which is not the truth, and involves all manner of deception), not truth. Lies and deception are often used to put a positive spin on matters  we would not agree to, or would disgust us if we knew the truth. Secrecy is another tool of "impression management" to cover up wrong-doing, or shameful or corrupt acts.

Freedom of information is a cornerstone of democracy and justice. Without it, the risk of a decline into an authoritarian form of government is virtually inevitable.

Are we "sheep-les" or mere puppets who can be led to believe and do whatever our masters say; or are we thinking people who want to be truthfully informed? 

Are we willing to speak up and insist on the truth? Are we prepared to take action to guard our democratic rights and our rights to justice and fair treatment?

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The people generally trust their government, law-makers and the publicly funded bureaucrats who are responsible for representing their interests. But the "people" are being deceived in many instances. We feel this is wrong.  The "people" - ordinary folk like you and me have great power in democratic countries. We can and should do something about this.

Lies, deception, cover-ups and corrupt practices must be "out"-ed if they are to end. This is necessary for democracy and justice to survive.

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The "people" are like a sleeping tiger.

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If you pull the tail of the tiger; it is to be expected that the tiger will wake up, take notice of it's tormenters and give chase.

In the interests of democracy, justice, world peace and a stable economy for ordinary people - the tiger must run wrong-doers to the ground.

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Original 3 Monkeys

All that is required for evil to take hold and grow is to: close your eyes, block your ears, shut your mouth - and do nothing.

If we do nothing - then nothing will improve.

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Spread the Word!

One person can achieve little or nothing. 

Many can move mountains.

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3 Freedom of Information Monkeys

Thank you from
3 Monkeys & me

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