Friday, January 08, 2010

The Dangers of Whistle-blowing

According to wordnet the definition of whistle-blower is an informant who exposes wrongdoing within an organization in the hope of stopping it.

Common sense tells us this is a good thing. So can anyone explain to me why whistle-blowers in the United States who've helped uncover fraud, wrongdoing and other heinous crimes are being prosecuted and imprisoned?

The latest, and possibly most abhorrent example of the despicable treatment of someone coming forward for the right reasons came to a head today, when Bradley Birkenfeld reported to a federal prison to begin serving a 40-month sentence!

Birkenfeld was an international banker working for the Swiss banking giant UBS. In 2007, he came forward to US authorities with information on how thousands of Americans were hiding assets in secret Swiss bank accounts.

Due to Birkenfeld's information, UBS pleaded guilty last February, paid a $780 million fine, and agreed to turn over the names of nearly 4500 of it's American clients (out of an estimated 19,000 they claim have secret accounts with them).

Federal prosecutors have admitted that this fraud scheme would likely have never been uncovered if not for Birkenfeld, yet he's the only one connected with UBS to serve time!

According to the National Whistleblowers Center,

The facts of the case are clear:

  • Mr. Birkenfeld repeatedly tried to correct the illegal UBS tax fraud scheme internally.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld resigned from UBS when they failed to correct the problem internally.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld voluntarily approached the U.S. government with his allegations.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld made full disclosures to the Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
  • Every UBS tax cheat that has been prosecuted has received probation, fines, and/or community service - NO jail time.
  • Mr. Birkenfeld is the ONLY person connected with UBS to receive a prison sentence.
Why are whistle-blowers being persecuted and prosecuted?

Tonight, I'll speak with another whistle-blower, who was recognized as such by being named one of Time Magazine's Whistleblower 2002 Persons of the Year. Coleen Rowley began her career as a special agent with the FBI in 1981. In May of 2002, Rowley brought some of the pre 9/11 lapses in the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui to light. According to Time,
Coleen Rowley is the FBI staff attorney who caused a sensation in May with a memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller about how the bureau brushed off pleas from her Minneapolis, Minn., field office that Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now indicted as a Sept. 11 co-conspirator, was a man who must be investigated.
The 9/11 Commission subsequently described Moussaoui as an "Al Qaeda mistake and missed opportunity," the investigation of whom may have led to the center of the Al Qaeda plot if it had been pursued in a timely and effective manner.

In June of 2002, Coleen testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems faced by the FBI and the intelligence community. In April of 2003, following an unsuccessful attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, she "stepped down" from her legal position and returned to being an FBI Special Agent.

It's another sad indictment of the way things work in America. Honest people trying to do the write thing are ostracized and prosecuted while the people they're blowing the whistle on are whistling all the way to the bank.

Tonight, Coleen Rowley will join me on Air America radio to discuss her story and what's happening now to Bradley Birkenfeld. Listen live beginning at 11pm ET.


aloegrower said...

And thank you, Nicole, for hang'n out with us! Great show with Ray McGovern; I caught the last 30 min of a re-broadcast on AM radio.

It could have been that the National Whistle Blowers site was swamped yesterday, cause it wouldn't finish loading for me. It's coming in now, but it might end up a squeeze for me trying to send off the messages tonight. I will try. If Birkenfeld indeed endeavored to address the problem, why is he in prison? The appearence of things is that an example is being made, relevant say if anyone is considering rocking any boat that carries the loot offshore to other destinations. "Corporate democracy" does seem to work a little different than democracy straight-up. Speaking of punishing no-crime, don't mean to digress too much but how bout the real crime involved in that cut that gets skimmed off the immigrant farm workers' pay in Italy (the guys that camp out in abandoned factories with no plumbing)?

Radio or not? Looks like "not"; cause NPR will not link their very own story on the subj last week that reported the skimming! (?)

Guess Napoleoni wasn't embellishing with that stuff she wrote in "Rogue Economics".

Yeah, radio or not seems to represent the fundamental alternatives, though I imagine others like me attempt to morph "not" into something in-between.

The stimulus helped us avert apocalypse, granted, but I wonder what is going on when I hear other progressives on "radio" citing this aversion as the great justifier of Obama-policy. Every day "radio" sings that little silver lining ditty about 50 different ways already (without Obama spin on'em). Are "progressives" pulling punches cause they're afraid the other side'll devise critiques of the best arguments...of the truth?! Or because it's their duty not to foment discontent? After listening to these CNNbots on-and-off half the night...Robert Kuttner does seem to deconstruct things-are-looking-up fluff pretty well; but then Nader implies all his books and Greider's books will not in the end put Humpty Dumpty back together (interview at Radio Open Source). So, in those moments wherein I tend to agree with Ralph...I find myself two layers of "truth" removed from standard prolefeed! Shoot, I wish a million folks would post somewhere: Thank God for any guy that comes along that can say it better, truer, and more concisely...a guy like Kevin Drum! [1/8 Moyers Journal & new MoJo] Here's the url for Drum with Korn on Moyers:

Mother Jones has been coming up with some decent charts (graphics I call it), something the rest of the liberal internet seems to me to have ignored totally. Liberal minds born to do this have evidently dropped some bad ecstasy or are off playing Virtual Skipper somewhere. I've saved a little text on the subj in one file or another, but it would be nice to have an illustration re "going long" on one bond and short on another that's similar...when a spread between them is anticipated to close up. That one's the torquer for me (but explaining it so one doesn't forget would put an end to the fashionable no-explanation due to complexity).

Ah well...hearing Chuck Prophet's new stuff today on Bob Edwards Weekend, I realized the muse was able to find yet one more strummer down here with ears to hear.