|Protect Whistleblowers Like They Did in 1777|
This day marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers in the New York Times, and today, the Times ran an op-ed by NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn that tells the story of the first-ever whistleblowers in the United States.
In 1777, a group of American sailors and marines blew the whistle on the first Commodore of the US Navy, accusing him of misconduct that included the torture of British soldiers. The Continental Congress did not throw the whistleblowers in solitary confinement, prosecute them, or execute them. Even in a time of war, the government did not use the "state secrets" privilege to hide these abuses. Instead, they passed a law that all whistleblowers should be protected, released all the records related to the whistleblowers' concerns, and used funds from Congress' meager treasury to protect the whistleblowers from retaliation.
As a country we have moved so far away from what the Founding Fathers recognized at the foundation of democracy - freedom of speech. The federal government should immediately drop the criminal investigations and prosecutions of national security whistleblowers, and President Obama should pardon NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.
On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress enacted America's first whistleblower protection law. We ask that Congress declare July 30th National Whistleblower Day, honoring whistleblowers for their contributions throughout history.
Read the full story of America's first whistleblowers in the recently released The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself. We have also made public on our website the original documents from the Continental Congress.
Support the NWC! You can partner with the National Whistleblowers Center to help our programs continue and expand. No matter how large or small, your contribution goes toward assuring that the rights of whistleblowers are protected.