Letters from the Executive Director

from NWC's Monthly Newsletters

A collection of the recent Letters from the Executive Director featured in each of the National Whistleblower Center's monthly newsletter, updating supporters about whistleblower news, NWC campaigns, and more.

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Letters from the Executive Director

April 2020 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

As we enter the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus’s wreckage continues to expand, I find it helpful to draw inspiration from people who leave their homes every day, often at great risk, to support their communities, such as:

  • Warehouse workers, postal workers, restaurant and grocery store staff, and others who ensure that food, medicine, and other essential supplies make it to the rest of us
  • Health care workers who care for the sick and dying patients and their families
  • Scientists working on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments

At the National Whistleblower Center, we are fortunate that we can provide tangible support for these frontline workers when they encounter corruption and recklessness that prevents them from delivering essential services. We are fighting every day for stronger laws that prohibit retaliation against healthcare workers like Jhonna Porter, who blew the whistle on her hospital when it quietly opened a new floor for COVID-19 patients without first arranging for personal protective equipment, and against federal employees like Eric Bright, who was ousted from his job after complaining about the Administration’s promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments and cronyism in its awarding of federal contracts.

These heroes need to know that their voices will be heard and that the powerful people held accountable by their whistleblowing cannot retaliate against them and destroy their lives.

Sincerely,
John Kostyack
Executive Director
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March 2020 Newsletter

Hi Friends,

I hope that all of the friends and supporters of the National Whistleblower Center are faring well through these turbulent times. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic challenges each of us in many ways. We need to focus on keeping ourselves and loved ones safe and healthy and at the same time think about the rules and protocols that will limit the virus’s spread and repair the wreckage to public health and the economy.

As we have learned in previous national crises, protection of whistleblowers will be absolutely essential to the success of our collective action. Our nation’s founders enacted our first whistleblower law when, thanks to the whistleblowers of 1777, they learned about the Commodore of the Continental Navy taking advantage of the chaos of the Revolutionary War to engage in corrupt behavior. Likewise, President Lincoln signed one of our nation’s most important whistleblower protection laws, the False Claims Act, during the Civil War to address the rampant defense contracting fraud that was undermining the operations of the Union Army. The National Whistleblower Center will ensure that whistleblowers are similarly encouraged today to step forward and help us ensure that the rules are respected and funds are delivered to those in need.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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February 2020 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

Working at the National Whistleblower Center is a great gig. Virtually every day the NWC team is inspired by another whistleblower’s story. These stories remind us that, with the right support structures, everyone has the power to make the world a better place.

I often wonder whether we are doing enough to inspire our kids and grandkids with these stories of whistleblowers’ courage and commitment to fairness. Kids receive a lot of direction from their elders about the need to cooperate, but are they hearing enough about confronting cheating, bullying and other wrongdoing?

As a former Little League coach, I know that my players would be inspired by Mike Fiers, the professional baseball pitcher who blew the whistle on sign-stealing by the Houston Astros organization. His bravery led to the resignations of key leaders implicated in the scandal and is stimulating a long overdue conversation about cheating in the nation’s pastime. After some well-known baseball commentators accused him of being a snitch, his Oakland Athletics teammates responded by giving him a standing ovation and told him, “we have your back, now and forever.”

Protecting and rewarding whistleblowers is what the National Whistleblower Center is all about. We look forward to working with our allies and supporters to building the pro-whistleblower movement that our nation so badly needs. Perhaps it will start with conversations between kids and their parents, teachers and coaches.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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January 2020 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

Now that the impeachment of President Trump and Senate trial have come to a close, it is time for those of us who fight for the rights of whistleblowers to take stock. Given the turbulent events of the past few months, how can the National Whistleblower Center ensure that future would-be whistleblowers know that they will be supported if they step forward to hold wrongdoers accountable?

On the bright side, we have had many teachable moments that serve as a foundation for building a movement for new whistleblower protections and a stronger democracy. NWC has appeared regularly in the media, at conferences and in Congress in the past several months to defend the anonymous whistleblower’s rights to confidentiality and to explain why protecting whistleblowers is critical to democracy and the rule of law. We have communicated important nuances of whistleblower protection, such as the value of second-hand evidence and the reasons why investigators do not reject whistleblower evidence based on speculation about motive.

That said, for the first time in U.S. history, a President openly threatened the safety of a whistleblower and called for the exposure of the whistleblower’s confidential identity. Prominent allies in Congress and in the media joined this campaign of intimidation and retaliation. Although such retaliation and witness intimidation may not be prosecutable, it is nonetheless bad for our democracy.

A December poll by the Government Business Council shows that the harmful effects are already being seen in the federal workforce. One in three federal workers surveyed said they are now less likely to “report an act of perceived wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities” because of the attacks on the whistleblower by Trump and his allies. (Half of respondents said that Trump’s attacks would have no impact on their willingness to expose wrongdoing and 16 percent said they were now more likely to blow the whistle.)

We have entered a new era, where the forward march of progress on whistleblower protection can no longer be taken for granted. Starting today, we must build a movement for more powerful whistleblower protections. Already, NWC has begun rallying Democrats and Republicans in Congress to pass new protections for federal government whistleblowers, including stronger confidentiality provisions, new Privacy Act sanctions for outing whistleblowers’ identities, and access to the federal courts and jury trials. But achieving these victories will not be easy; we need the help of all our NGO friends and grassroots supporters. We hope you will join us in this fight today.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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December/November 2019 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

Today the National Whistleblower Center is launching its new Climate Corruption Campaign, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you why I believe this campaign – and the whistleblowers who will be at the heart of it – are so badly needed.

Last month, 11,000 scientists from around the world came together to issue a clarion call: “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” They predicted that “untold suffering” would ensue without an “immense increase” in effort to address the climate crisis.

The urgent need for action is clear. We must not only bear down on proven strategies like rapidly deploying wind and solar energy. We also must finally come to grips with what is happening inside the companies producing fossil fuels, the primary source of the carbon pollution driving climate change.

Last week’s announcement by Spanish energy giant Repsol to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 was quite impressive. But the commitments of other fossil fuel companies are far less clear. In my blog, I describe recent fossil fuel industry activity suggesting that legally actionable fraud may be underway. If large-scale fraud connected to climate change is indeed happening, what can be done about it?

This is where whistleblowers come in. A host of laws enacted by the U.S. Congress and the states in the past few decades encourage whistleblowers to report corporate fraud to authorities.

The Climate Corruption Campaign will be the first sustained effort to educate potential whistleblowers in fossil fuel companies about their rights, secure them qualified attorneys, help them deliver cases to prosecutors, and when those cases lead to successful prosecutions, help them secure financial rewards. (It will soon also enlist whistleblowers to help counter the illegal timber trade, out of recognition that deforestation is another key driver of climate change.)

I truly believe that in the next three years, thanks to whistleblowers, our society will be far better positioned to hold accountable the industries that currently hold so much sway over our planet’s future.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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October 2019 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

In the past month, I have been given numerous opportunities to share the views of the National Whistleblower Center on the importance of protecting the two Ukraine whistleblowers from reprisals. In our view, this is not a partisan issue. We need to encourage whistleblowers to report wrongdoing regardless of their political affiliations or those of whom they accuse.

The motives of the Ukraine whistleblowers are irrelevant to whether they deserve protection. What counts is that they scrupulously followed the reporting procedures established by Congress and the executive branch. In passing our whistleblower laws, Congress recognized that rampant corruption will proliferate if those who witness law-breaking believe that they will suffer retaliation if they report it. To protect our democracy from bad actors of all political stripes, we must send a strong message to whistleblowers that if they report wrongdoing in compliance with the law, they will be protected.

The National Whistleblower Center is working hard to create a more favorable climate for whistleblowers. One of our exciting new initiatives on this front is a partnership with Bradley University to strengthen cybersecurity for whistleblowers. An array of laws require government agencies and corporations to help whistleblowers keep their identities confidential when they report wrongdoing, but implementation has often been lacking. Similarly, nonprofit organizations, law firms and other organizations focused on helping whistleblowers often fail to take advantage of best practices for protecting the confidentiality of whistleblower communications.

Working with Bradley University professor (and new NWC Senior Advisor) Jacob Young, our team will advocate for strengthened cybersecurity practices for whistleblowers – including stronger guidance by federal whistleblower offices on their websites and in their outreach materials. Whistleblowers deserve to be protected from reprisals and perhaps the best way to ensure their protection is to assist them with safe, confidential reporting.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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September 2019 Newsletter

Hi Friend,

Since mid-September, when the complaint of an intelligence community whistleblower about President Trump’s July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was made known to the public, we’ve been in the midst of a national conversation about the importance of whistleblowers and the protections to which intelligence community whistleblowers are entitled. I’m happy to report that the National Whistleblower Center is very engaged in this conversation and in advancing its mission of whistleblower protection.

This is a critical moment in the history of the National Whistleblower Center. The law requires federal whistleblowers with evidence of possible lawbreaking to report it through proper channels. They are protected from reprisals for these disclosures only because of a long tradition of policy makers from both parties working together in support of whistleblowing. This tradition is now at risk.

In recent days, President Trump and his allies have engaged in a series of attacks against the whistleblower who reported on the Ukraine matter.  These attacks are likely to continue now that impeachment proceedings have been launched. NWC has vigorously responded, and will continue to vigorously respond, to the whistleblower attacks, while steering clear of the many non-whistleblower issues being raised in these proceedings. To keep whistleblower protections strong, we must help the public understand how whistleblowing is not a partisan issue and why the intelligence community whistleblower and other whistleblowers play a critical role in upholding democracy and the rule of law.

Every day, because of NWC’s sterling reputation for its expertise and insights on whistleblower law and procedures as well as whistleblower history, journalists seek our help with the meaning and context of the latest developments. General Counsel David Colapinto, Board Chairman Stephen Kohn and I have been asked to weigh in by major media outlets such as C-SPAN, MSNBC, NPR, Washington Post, and The Guardian. Our focus is ensuring that the particular whistleblower in question is protected from reprisal and that our cherished whistleblower laws are respected.

This moment in history is one of enormous opportunity and risk for whistleblower protections in the U.S. We are working to uphold the longstanding bipartisan support for these protections, but we need your support.

Help us support the whistleblowers who risk it all to expose waste, fraud, and abuse at all levels.

Sincerely,

John Kostyack

Executive Director

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