Whistleblower Voices — Fred Whitehurst, “Corruption Has No Place In Society.”
The National Whistleblower Center celebrates and amplifies the voices of whistleblowers and fights for stronger whistleblower protections worldwide. This community blog will highlight these stories, giving you firsthand experiences from the brave whistleblowers who will be part of our July 30th National Whistleblower Day Celebration. Check here every week in July for intriguing stories from real-life heros!
We proudly kick off our blog with a post from the courageous and outspoken federal whistleblower, Dr. Fred Whitehurst:
As our ideas of progress mature, we come together to build alliances. We set up goals and build standards of conduct in our new formed organizations. Whether we have formed great industrial manufacturing businesses, financial enterprises, or government organizations, we build standards into these enterprises. Our goals and standards attract people who want not simply employment but individuals who are drawn to such employment by those goals and standards.
All human enterprises fail at times as failure is the path to better understanding of success. When these enterprises fail, loyal employees seek to understand the perceived failures and the best path to success. Often failures come from lack of adherence to standards by powerful members of these organizations. As employees proceed further and further with their inquiries, their questions begin to threaten the positions of corrupt individuals.
At some point those threatened begin to defend themselves with denial, retaliation, and harmful acts against employees who raise questions. Sometimes the actions of those threatened work well. Dissension is quieted. Loyal employees simply move on. However, there are among all organizations a different kind of loyal employee. Acts of denial and retaliation do not answer reasonable questions and those who raised issues simply stand their ground and speak out. We call such employees “whistleblowers.”
As a whistleblower who reported corruption within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), I walked the normal path of reporting, questioning, retaliation, and denial of allegations. As my journey continued, I came across the National Whistleblower Center (NWC). Our paths crossed by serendipity but nevertheless without that crossing my efforts to address issues with forensic science in the FBI Crime Laboratory would have been fruitless. Since that initial meeting in 1992, I have been associated in one way or another with NWC. I have listened to countless stories by loyal employees who have tried in vain to make positive change in their organizations and met with strong resistance. I have come to see whistleblowers as individuals who not only question what they see in their workplace but also question themselves, recognizing that their own concerns may be unfounded, their own “truths” flawed.
Despite questioning themselves, whistleblowers hold up their questions to the standards declared by their organizations, trying to see how actions of others around them adhere to those standards. In my own case, understanding that the FBI’s standard of “Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity” appeared not to be upheld too often within the FBI, I questioned openly and continually. The continual resistance of FBI managers resulted in the National Whistleblower Center standing behind my lawsuits against the federal government, which included multiple agencies and high-ranking officials including then President William “Bill” Clinton and US Attorney General Janet Reno. Because those entities had failed to uphold the standards, none prevailed in their defenses in those lawsuits. Real change came about — very real change in the FBI and the Department of Justice as a whole.
Whistleblowers should know that they can prevail. In truth, the very fact that they have stood up for truth in the face of corruption means that they have won. As simple bricks in a vast wall we call the United States of America, whistleblowers have proven that one individual can and will speak truth and put corruption on notice that it has no place within our society.
Please join the National Whistleblower Center, the sponsor of Whistleblower Voices, in celebrating National Whistleblower Day 2021. National Whistleblower Day is an annual celebration commemorating the contributions of whistleblowers like Dr. Whitehurst around the world who have bravely stepped forward to expose waste, fraud, and abuse.
This year’s celebration will be an all-day virtual event featuring a wide range of speeches from whistleblowers, policymakers, and advocates as well as a series of panels on pressing whistleblower issues. And, Dr. Whitehurst is a featured speaker! RSVP here.