On Thursday, Oct. 24, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) returns to FIU to present its acclaimed program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability. The stop will feature prominent national security whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack. Both were part of a delegation of whistleblowers that met last week with NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden (Snowden – Sam Adams) in Russia to present him with the Sam Adams Award.
GAP’s Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event, which is from 2:30 p.m. -– 4 p.m. in CBC 155 (the College of Business Administration at the Modesto Maidique Campus), will feature a moderated discussion and is free to all.
GAP President Louis Clark will moderate the panel discussion.
“The hot-button issue of 2013 is the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens vs. our privacy rights,” said Clark. This debate is only happening, and will continue for years, because of the actions of one national security whistleblower. We are pleased to visit FIU for the third year in a row, and bring students the first whistleblower charged by the Obama administration with espionage, along with the nation’s leading whistleblower rights pundit.”
• Thomas Drake is a former senior official of the National Security Agency (NSA) whom the Justice Department prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In June 2011, the case against him collapsed, but he endured four years of investigation and faced 10 felony counts after he used internal mechanisms to disclose serious wrongdoing concerning a data collection program called “Trailblazer.” That program was costly, wasteful and ineffective; it threatened Americans’ privacy rights, and was wholly undeveloped – despite the availability of a cost-effective, functional alternative that protected Americans’ privacy. Ultimately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped all felony counts against him, and the judge excoriated DOJ lawyers for their conduct. Drake is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, regarded in the U.S. as the highest honor that a whistleblower can receive.
• Jesselyn Radack served as an Ethics Advisor in the Department of Justice. In 2001, she learned that FBI agents sought to interrogate “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. Because Lindh was represented by counsel, she advised the agents they could not conduct the interrogation without Lindh’s attorney. They did so anyway. As a result, she correctly advised them that Lindh’s testimony was inadmissible in a legal proceeding. When Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely stated in public that the seriously injured Lindh had waived his right to legal counsel before speaking with the FBI, Radack’s advice was reported in the news media. Radack is GAP’s National Security & Human Rights Director and a recipient of the 2012 Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award (also awarded to her client, Thomas Drake).
Fred Blevens, professor and honors fellow in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the event will highlight and address all the issues surrounding personal privacy and national security.
“No matter what discipline students are studying, the need for government accountability and protection from government snooping are essential to a functioning democracy,” Blevens said. “Radack and Drake provide us with a clear window on whistleblowing and how the government misbehaves when faced with disclosures that prove embarrassing.”
This Tour stop is sponsored by GAP along with FIU’s College of Law, the Ruth K. And Shepard Broad Lecture Series in the School for International and Public Affairs, and the Hearst Lecture Series in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
This stop at FIU is the third of several to be held this academic year. Previous 2013-14 stops have included American University and West
During the 2012-13 academic year, the American Whistleblower Tour visited 11 colleges, including FIU, Portland State University, James Madison University, University of the District of Columbia Law School, Auburn University and University of Houston- Clear Lake. GAP secures some of the most prominent whistleblowers in American history for its Tour. Previous whistleblower presenters have included Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Susan Wood( “Plan B”).
Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America’s youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.