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Whistleblowing in Washington: Lessons Learned and Unlearned

October 14, 2019 in Economics

By Patrick G. Eddington

Patrick G. Eddington

In light of the attention focused on two anonymous whistleblowers who have accused President Donald Trump of shaking down the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals, people often ask what makes someone willing to risk their career and endure skepticism or even ridicule from co-workers to expose government wrongdoing? Such tortuous odysseys often take years and may, or may not, solve the problem the whistleblower seeks to expose. The fact is, there are several steps Congress could take to ease this fraught path to accountability.


In describing some of the common characteristics of famous whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg, journalist Tom Mueller writes in his new book, Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud, “The ability of all these men to act was enhanced by a certain independence of character, a lack of awe of authority often accompanied by a sarcastic sense of humor, a sense of options in their lives beyond their specific career, a relatively modest need for approval from their peers, and a confidence that they could act independently and effect real change with their acts.”  (p. 131, Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition). In my case, you can add a few more: rage and relentless determination.

The 1991 Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, was my war, fought from a distance. Even though I was an Army Reservist at the time, my day job as a CIA military imagery analyst guaranteed that, instead of being shipped to the battlefront, I would be reporting on Iraqi military moves from the safety of a fence-secured compound in the satellite imagery equivalent of CNN Headline News.

I knew what I and my colleagues were doing was important, but even so I felt guilty about my good fortune at not being called up. My grandfather had fought in France under Pershing in World War I. My father had served in the Pacific Theater in World War II. My brother served aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. My veteran cohort deployed to Saudi Arabia as I and my colleagues were writing reports indicating that Saddam had likely moved chemical weapons into the Kuwait Theater of Operations.

Once the war started, a stream of reports from the theater seemed to indicate that chemical weapons had been detected, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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