Whistleblowing in our federal government may soon be a thing of the past, not because whistleblowers face more vicious retribution than ever before – although that is true; and not because important acts of whistleblowing now result in fewer reforms and less accountability than they used to – although that is also true and is getting closer; but fundamentally because the actions against which we need whistles blown are publicly acknowledged.
How would one expose war or indefinite imprisonment or assassinations or drone attacks or wiretapping or profiteering or bribery or massive money transfers to Wall Street? I understand how, even a few years ago, such things could be exposed by courageous whistleblowers. I understand how retired officials who missed their chance at being timely whistleblowers can now expose the steps through which these crimes have been normalized. But I have a hard time understanding how one would leak to the media or reveal on one’s blog what has been openly acknowledged, legalized, formalized, and normalized.
Starting from the model of whistleblowers, one is tempted to suggest that we begin supporting those individuals who will resist immoral orders and assignments: resisters instead of whistleblowers. But we have one whistleblower for every 100,000 or so government employees informed of the abuses exposed. We are likely to have infinitely fewer inside resisters. Clearly we need a different model. We need to all be whistleblowers, since we all know about the crimes. We need to insist on viewing policies differently, rather than viewing different policies. We need to expose what happens where the bombs land and the defunding of human needs hit home. And we need to organize massive resistance from outside the government, with the potential for creating massive resistance within the government as well.
I expressed my concerns and raised these questions to some of our most praiseworthy whistleblowers at an event Monday evening in Washington, D.C. … //
… What stands out about every person who was part of Monday’s panel is how incredibly rare they are. What ought to go without saying, what would simply be required of students for example under the University of Virginia’s honor system, is an extremely unusual freak occurrence in our government in Washington, D.C. We do indeed need to reward such rare courage and sacrifice when decency and integrity are in such short supply and a culture of fear, loyalty, and conformism is ascendant in the halls of power and bureaucracy. We are going to need to develop a counter culture, the culture one can see blossoming in the Occupy encampments, a culture in which honesty and integrity are the norm, a culture in which decent behavior leads to acceptance rather than ostracism. Sam Adams Award recipients can help show us the way. (full text).