Sunday, January 24, 2010


Whistle-blowers face uphill battle

When you hear a whistle in a football game, you know somebody did something wrong. It is the same way in the real world.

A whistle-blower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing in an organization. This person usually is from that same organization. This misconduct may be classified in many ways. For example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations, and corruption. (These facts were lifted from various encyclopedias.)

Daniel Ellsberg, the former State Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, brought the truth of the Vietnam War to light. Ellsberg blew the whistle on the practices of deception by the Johnson and Nixon administrations, leading to less public support for the war.

A more recent case, is the one of Katharine Gun, a former employee of Government Communications Headquarters, a British intelligence agency. In 2003 she leaked top-secret information to the press concerning alleged illegal activities by the United States and the United Kingdom in their push for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Her life was actually in danger for making public what was actually going on in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Then the following year, 2004, Joe Darby, a member of the United States military police, alerted the U.S. military command of prisoner abuse in the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison.

Whistle-blowers frequently face reprisal - sometimes at the hands of the organization or government which they have accused. Fear for their lives was evident with the cases of Ellsberg, Gun and Darby.

The accused usually fights back against whistle-blowers. Take this month's trial of Bradley Birkenfeld. He was absolutely essential to a landmark tax-evasion case against the Swiss bank UBS's cheating the USA Treasury out of $100 billion a year.

Whistle-blower Birkenfeld, on January 8, 2010, began serving a 40 month sentence in a Pennsylvania Federal Correction prison. His revelations were welcomed by the Treasurer Department and Internal Revenue System. Then the rich bankers and the tax-evaders turned on Birkenfeld (who worked for UBS) who became the only one to go to jail.

Leading Anti-Corruption Groups have requested a Presidential Pardon for him. International anti-corruption groups have joined the case. The open letter to President Obama requesting commutation for Mr. Birkenfeld in order to "reverse the devastating impact Mr. Birkenfeld's case will have on international law enforcement efforts."

Mr. Birkenfeld’s attorneys issued the following statement: “An American tragedy. A disgraceful miscarriage of justice. An insult to every honest American who must work hard and pay their taxes. The imprisonment of Bradley, is shocking and unjustified. ... It will have a radical chilling effect [on other bankers] to step forward and expose fraud. This is devastating to any efforts to expose the use of illegal offshore bank accounts by criminals who want to avoid taxes.”

New York Post writer Juan Gonzalez wrote: "Only Birkenfeld, ends up in jail - the No. 1 example of injustice and hypocrisy in the age of Obama."


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