Friday, August 10, 2018

Focus Is On Solutions At 2018 Whistleblower Summit In DC

Outcome of these cases will impact 1st Amendment  

By Andrew Kreig

The annual 2 1/2-day Whistleblowers Summit for Civil and Human Rights began on July 30 with a preview tailored to showcase the vital contributions that courageous, expert informants are making under difficult conditions to solve the nation's problems.

Senate Dirksen Building
The first session of the free conference started at 9 a.m. Monday in the Senate Dirksen Building, in Washington, DC, shown at right

Among other highlights of the first day was a luncheon featuring Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, below, an Iowa Republican who has voiced strong support through the years for government whistleblowers helping to expose waste, fraud and abuse that hurts taxpayers.

The ticketed lunch was organized on a complimentary basis as in previous years by the National Whistleblower Center.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley

Its Executive Director Stephen Kohn had discovered in 2013 a long-forgotten law passed in 1778 by the U.S. Continental Congress on July 30 (now "National Whistleblower Day"). This was because the Founders had received reports that two whistleblowers were being prosecuted in Rhode Island after reporting misconduct by the highest-ranking U.S. naval official at the time.

As Grassley noted in his remarks, the law enacted by the Continental Congress called on all U.S. inhabitants or officials to report "any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors." C-SPAN broadcast and archived here, the 140-minute luncheon, which included as a featured segment at the end the first public remarks in 15 years by former Clinton White House staffer Linda Tripp.

Linda Tripp

The overall program is shown on the next page of this column, with details available also on the conference website at Whistleblowers Summit at a Glance. Sessions are in varied but nearby locations on Capitol Hill that are identified in the program.

This editor, a member of the event's overall host committee, will join the opening panel and moderate a session at 1 p.m. on July 31 about the challenging role of the news media in working with whistleblowers. The term has been defined as persons who expose any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The word has been linked to the long ago police and citizen practice of using a whistle to alert the public to wrongdoing.

 A formidable adversary in the search for the truth, Attorney Andrew Kreig is a force to be reckoned with in his     investigations

In my brief segment on the opening panel, I argued that the nation's problems are so serious right now that it is no longer enough to identify problems and use traditional (and often extremely difficult) methods of reform. I challenged participants to use the conference to brainstorm and collaborate for solutions on whatever issues they find most important.

My media panel on Tuesday at the Stewart Mott House next to the Hart Senate Office Building features longtime health journalist Kathryn Foxhall and USA TODAY Washington Enterprise Editor Ray Locker.

Foxhall, an active member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Press Club's Freedom of Information Committee, has been a leader in organizing media opposition to the increasing practice by Executive Branch officials of both parties to steer media coverage through Public Information Officers (PIOS).

These restrictions block the public from learning via the news media the views of knowledgeable federal employees who work on the substance of issues, as illustrated by a Foxhall talk ‘Censorship by PIO earlier this month to an annual conference of American university professors. PIOs and other public relations officials now far outnumber reporters in Washington and help maintain barriers between the public and whistleblowers and other sources of non-official information.

Locker, author of the bold and important 2016 book Nixon's Gamble: How a President's Own Secret Government Destroyed His Administration, provided expert tips on how whistleblowers and other concerned citizens can approach the major media during an era of huge staff cutbacks and many other pressures on news organizations.

My focus, standing in for scheduled panelist Dr. William F. Pepper, a late cancellation on Friday because of a painful back condition preventing his travel, will be on Pepper's and others' breakthrough reporting and litigation casting doubt on the official accounts of the 1968 assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy is shown at left giving his California primary victory speech for the Democratic presidential nomination, shortly before his murder in a hotel pantry.

Kennedy is shown at left, Thoms Noguchi center

Pepper, a friend of both slain men, reinvestigated the slayings and concluded that the convicted killers, James Earl Ray for MLK and Sirhan Sirhan for RFK, were each patsies set up to take the fall for the real killers.

Pepper, an attorney, represented King's convicted killer Ray in his appeals and also the King family as the latter won a civil verdict in 1999 showing that the killing was a conspiracy.

Pepper currently represents the still-imprisoned Sirhan, who is seeking the first-ever evidentiary hearing introducing forensic ballistics and audio evidence to show that he could not have killed Kennedy, who was shot in the back three times according to the little-known autopsy of the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who is still alive in his 90s and is available as a witness.

Thoms Noguchi at center

The Washington Post and its experienced law enforcement reporter Tom Jackson published separate Sunday front-page articles this spring quoting family members as stating that they did not believe official accounts. The stories, based in part on scientific evidence, represented a breakthrough for such coverage — 50 years after each of the killings.


Award Winners and "Whistleblowers" World Premier July 30

Pepper, shown below conferring with Dr. King on the dais of the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP) in Chicago in 1967 before King's keynote speech, is among the honorees for public service at an awards ceremony the evening of July 31.

This editor is shown below at center receiving his award, with conference co-hosts Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, each of whom has been a whistleblower.

Other award winners included the late Playboy Magazine founder and free speech advocate Hugh Hefner, "Panama Papers" documentarians Hamish Boland-Rudder, Carrie Ching, Arthur Jones, Will Fitzgibbon, and Eleanor Bell, who explored "the sprawling, secretive industry of offshore that the world’s rich and powerful use to hide assets and skirt rules by setting up front companies in far-flung jurisdictions"; Fox News host Shepard Smith for courageous commentary; and former FBI Director James R. Comey for resisting presidential pressures.

Others honored with awards were: editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers for courageous (and job-ending) commentary; the late civil rights trailblazer Diane Williams; Dr. Aaron Westrick, a former police office who became a whistleblower against defective body armor; a group award to "The Parkland Survivors, as reported by The New Yorker Magazine in its account by Emily Witt "How The Parkland Survivors Started The Never Again Movement," based on the gun massacre killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida; and "Whistleblowers" documentary film producers Kathy Cole, Michael Reichenberg, Sola Adenekan and Mark Baldwin.

The world premier of "Whistleblowers" was Monday evening at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V Streets. NW, beginning at 6 p.m.. The film's producers gave this overview of their work:

Our documentary "Whistleblowers" will take you on a journey that no American citizen should have to go on. Seven New York State and New York City Whistleblowers have united to expose the corruption and the abuse of power and the conflicts of interest that plague this state, ultimately this Nation.

These seven Whistleblowers saw something WRONG in the Government agency that they worked for and had the audacity to say something about it. The issues of fraud, abuse and neglect inflicted on the children and tax payers are staggering. The intentional infliction of harm on the Whistleblower for exposing the agencies is unthinkable. These agencies receive both state and federal funding so this is a National crisis. The protections put in place for Whistleblowers are either non existent or not enforced.

These Whistleblowers are the voice for our most vulnerable population — our children — your children. Six of the seven Whistleblowers are exposing the New York State and New York City Departments of Education and one is from the New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities. The abuse of our tax dollars is one thing, the abuse of our children and the disabled is another.

Our greatest hope is that what you hear from these Whistleblowers in this documentary will forever change you. Our vision is for you to watch their journey, understand the pain and devastation that they and their families have endured for reporting these massive violations of law and then rally with them in their effort for true change. For JUSTICE and ACCOUNTABILITY.

Dianne Andrews
Baton Rouge-based television host Dianne Andrews interviewed Cole as one of 10 whistleblowers for the Andrews show "In Black and White," to be broadcast on dates to be announced (TBA).

Another prolific interviewer and publisher of whistleblower accounts during the conference was OpEdNews Senior Editor Marta Steele, whose multiple columns are excerpted below.

Organizers And Vision

The annual Whistleblowers Summit is organized each July by a group of supporting organizations called The Make It Safe Coalition.

Among those with lead roles are former ACORN 8 whistleblowers Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, co-authors of the book Race, Power & Politics. It described how ACORN 8 became a watchdog organization of former ACORN insiders and National Board members who attempted to reform the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) following the discovery of a multi-million dollar embezzlement.

Among other leaders in the coalition's 75-member membership are the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP), each of which has provided legal counsel to many sorely distressed whistleblowers through the decades.

A full list of event sponsors and organizers is on the summit's site, along with more precise descriptions of program segments; books and films by participants; and award-winners' accomplishments.

Summit organizers use the award ceremonies to honor heroes from the past as well as present, and to articulate an overall statement of purpose:

As whistleblowers, we are a community of outspoken activists and advocates who frequently speak Truth to Power.

We are trans-partisan and view whistle-blowing not in terms of Left verses Right — but instead as Right versus Wrong. The Pillar Award is a way for our community to give credit and recognition to the individuals and institutions that form the foundation that supports our community, in particular First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment protections.

We traditionally present Pillar Awards to courageous lawmakers who have sponsored or co-sponsored important legislation, or who have supported our community in other tangible ways.

Since it takes Democrats and Republicans to actually pass legislation into law we often recognize the sponsors and co-sponsors of important legislation from both sides of the isle. Additionally, we have recently given Pillar Awards to other exemplary individuals and organizations who support Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, including Media Organizations, Journalists and Community Activists.

The column was updated to reflect events of the opening day.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig

Creation, Celebration of U.S. 'National Whistleblower Day' Annually on July 30

National Whistleblower Center, Celebrate National Whistleblower Appreciation Day! Staff report, July 30, 2018. Today is" National Whistleblower Appreciation Day." On this day in 1778, the Continental Congress passed what very well could be the world’s first whistleblower law.

Our revolutionary forefathers, when they learned that two whistleblowers that had exposed misconduct by the highest-ranking U.S. naval official, were being prosecuted in the State of Rhode Island, agreed to act. They voted to spend precious monies from the new government’s treasury to ensure that the whistleblowers had lawyers to defend them. They voted to release all of the naval records documenting the whistleblower’s concerns.

Finally, the Founding Fathers, on July 30, 1778 passed our nation’s first whistleblower law. It’s message was clear and the vote was unanimous: “That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."

The history behind this historic day was lost. However, fifteen years ago, when the National Whistleblower Center’s Executive Director Stephen Kohn, shown below, was researching materials for an amicus brief filed by the NWC supporting the constitutionality of the False Claims Act, he discovered this law.

National Whistleblower Center’s Executive Director Stephen Kohn

He then carefully researched why our Founding Fathers enacted the resolution, and learned the details of America’s first whistleblower case. He reviewed the letters the whistleblowers wrote in jail pleading their case to the revolutionary Congress. He obtained from the National Archives a copy of the check the Continental Congress wrote to Sam Adams, honoring Congress’ agreement to pay the costs of the whistleblower’s defense.

This history was spelled out for the first time in The Whistleblower’s Handbook. When Senator Charles Grassley learned of this historic event, he worked in a bi-partisan manner with Senator Levin to ensure that this day would be honored. On July 30, 2013 the U.S. Senate enacted their Joint Resolution recognizing National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

Today, we call on all citizens of the world to honor National Appreciation Whistleblower Day. To remember the sacrifices whistleblowers have endured to protect the public interest. To demand that their governments rise to the call of justice for which our Founding Fathers did, while fighting a war for the very survival or our nation, on that day, July 30th, 1778.

Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig, Esq.
Andrew Kreig is Justice Integrity Project Executive Director and co-founder with over two decades experience as an attorney and non-profit executive in Washington, DC. An author and longtime investigative reporter, his primary focus since 2008 has been exploring allegations of official corruption and other misconduct in federal agencies. He has been a consultant and volunteer leader in advising several non-profit groups fostering cutting-edge applications within the communications industries.
As president and CEO of the Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI) from 1996 until 2008, Kreig led its worldwide advocacy that helped create the broadband wireless industry. Previously, he was WCAI vice president and general counsel, an associate at Latham & Watkins, law clerk to a federal judge, author of the book Spiked about the newspaper business and a longtime reporter for the Hartford Courant.

Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World from the mid-1990s and currently, he holds law degrees from the University of Chicago School of Law and from Yale Law School. Reared in New York City, his undergraduate degree in history is from Cornell University, where he was a student newspaper editor, rowing team member, and Golden Gloves boxer.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig



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