What motivates someone to speak out against injustice in the government or private sector? Without whistleblowers, we might never have known about abuses on Wall Street or the use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects. But the decision to speak out often involves conflicting loyalties and harsh consequences. We explore how whistleblowers and other “truth tellers” navigate and overcome those issues.

Guests

  • Jesselyn Radack National Security & Human Rights Director, Government Accountability Project; author "Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" (Whistleblower Press)
  • Ali Soufan Recipient, Ridenhour Book Prize, 2012; Author, "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda" (W.W. Norton); Chief Executive Officer, Soufan Group LLC
  • Eyal Press Author, "Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Transcript

  • 13:22:18

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe arguments begin behind the wall of security clearances and classified documents in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. America's national security agencies rolled out new aggressive tools for fighting terrorist threats from high tech eavesdropping to extraordinary rendition. The new policies quickly generated heated debates within the government. But those arguments played out away from the public.

  • 13:22:42

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIToday, we only know about high tech surveillance and enhanced interrogation techniques because people stood up and spoke out, interrogators and contractors who raised red flags with oversight agencies and people who risked legal jeopardy to alert the press. For the remainder of the hour, we're going to explore the practical and ethical dilemmas of speaking out.

  • 13:23:05

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Jesselyn Radack, former ethics officer at the Department of Justice. She was herself a whistleblower who spoke out against ethics violations in the prosecution of John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban. Today, she helps defend whistleblowers as national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project. She's also author of the book, "Traitor: The Whistleblower and the American Taliban." Jesselyn Radack, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:23:33

    MS. JESSELYN RADACKThank you for inviting me.

  • 13:23:34

    NNAMDIJoining us from studios in New York is Ali Soufan, former supervisory special agent with the FBI. He was involved in efforts to capture and interrogate several high-profile terror suspects in the aftermath of September 11. He has since become a vocal critic of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. He's the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for his book, "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda." Ali Soufan, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:24:08

    MR. ALI SOUFANThank you for having me.

  • 13:24:09

    NNAMDIAlso joining us from studios in New York is Eyal Press, author of the book, "Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times." He's a contributing writer to the Nation and the New York Review of Books. Eyal Press, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:24:25

    MR. EYAL PRESSThank you for having me.

  • 13:24:26

    NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, call us 800-433-8850. Should there be better protections for people who speak out and alert the public about wrongdoing in government or the private sector? 800-433-8850. The September 11th attacks ushered in a sea change in how the U.S. government try to detect, try to capture and ultimately punish terrorist suspects. And each of these changes generated heated debates within the government agencies charged with protecting our safety and our civil liberties.

  • 13:24:57

    NNAMDIBut those heated debates were mostly missing from our public discourse. Both of you, Jessely, and you, Ali, were on the inside for aspects of these debates. Tell us a little bit, starting with you, Jesselyn, about what that was like.

  • 13:25:12

    RADACKIt definitely was a sea change at the Department of Justice to the extent that I was a legal adviser working on ethics. I felt like all the rules were out the window after 9/11 and I became wrapped up in the case at the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh who was our first capture in Afghanistan. And there was clearly a lot of government misconduct as evidenced by the trophy photo of Lindh, some torture going on in that case.

  • 13:25:44

    RADACKAnd then when I blew the whistle on it, I ended up being the one under criminal investigation and referred to the state bars, in which I'm licensed, and put on the no-fly list. So, unfortunately, I stumbled upon torture in its embryonic stages when I was at the Justice Department.

  • 13:26:03

    NNAMDIAre you still on the no-fly list?

  • 13:26:04

    RADACKI am off of the no-fly list. I am still under bar investigation about nine years later.

  • 13:26:11

    NNAMDIAli Soufan, you were one of the only FBI agents in the entire agency who spoke Arabic fluently at the time of the September 11th attacks and you were intimately involved in some of the detentions and interrogations of high profile terror suspects. It took you seven years to go on record in public, opposing some of the things you saw and were asked to participate in. But you were speaking out before then, it's my understanding. Please explain.

  • 13:26:38

    SOUFANYes. Actually, I wasn't the only one in the FBI who spoke out. I was the only one in the New York office, which is -- we have probably about seven or eight in the FBI at the time who spoke up. But when enhanced interrogation techniques started back in 2002 and I saw how these techniques are evolving from one stage to another and to another, I protested. I called my headquarters at the time from one of the, you know, dark sites or off sites that existed at the time.

  • 13:27:22

    SOUFANAnd I told the people at the headquarters about what happened. And I consider myself one of the lucky ones. At the time, the leadership of the FBI, to include the FBI director, agreed with my assessment and the response came that we don't do that. And we were pulled out. We have a few FBI people by the summer of '02 who were all pulled out from the sites, and then the FBI did not participate in any of the EIT interrogations.

  • 13:27:55

    SOUFANNow, the reason I didn't say anything for seven years is because I cannot talk publicly about it for seven years. But immediately, when these things were happening, I discussed it with my headquarters, the FBI. I talked to people in the DOJ. I spoke to the 9/11 Commission on these issues. So, I testified in closed hearings. And that's how you should go through this, I believe. We have laws that were put in place for some reasons and you don't want to violate these rules because then you will be the subject of the case and you won't be able to make any difference in the long term.

  • 13:28:39

    SOUFANSo, we have a lot of, you know, discussions. We had a lot of hearings that took place. And towards the end, there was an institutional opposition to the EITs, not only at the FBI but then the other agencies that...

  • 13:28:55

    NNAMDIEIT as being enhanced interrogation techniques.

  • 13:28:57

    SOUFANEnhanced interrogation techniques. But also in other agencies. In DOD, for example, we saw a lot of the Department of Defense law enforcement agencies, like NCIS and OSI and CID standing up against these techniques in Guantanamo and reporting about it to the Pentagon. And few people in the Pentagon also, to include the general counsel of the Pentagon, stood up against it and even resigned because of these kind of things.

  • 13:29:27

    SOUFANSo there was a lot of people who spoke up even at the CIA itself. Many CIA officers and analysts came back from these sites and they said to their supervisors that they have a problem with what they have been seeing. Now, politically, the bureaucracy at the time, we don't want to listen to them, but there's also channels that you can go through. Surely one is with their IG. And if you read the declassified inspector general report of the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques, at the very beginning, the IG mentions why he started the investigation.

  • 13:30:00

    SOUFANAnd it's because so many people came back and said, hey, we shouldn't be doing this. This is -- this can hurt our national security interest in the long run, hurt the agency. And also, at the same time, this is un-American. And in the investigation of the IG, they felt and they found out that they could not prove one single imminent threat was stopped because of EITs. Not one single imminent threat.

  • 13:30:24

    SOUFANThis is not me saying that, this is the CIA IG saying that. And that's why in 2005 the program was put on shelf, on a shelf. It was shelved. EITs were shelved by 2005 because of all these people in the government who, from the inside, stood up. And they took a lot of hit, you know. Look at me, I ended up outside the government in heaven's sake. So, you know, but there's also ways that I believe when everything is classified when sometimes over-classified, I think there's rules, there's regulations. And the worst thing you can do in situations like this is break these rules and regulations.

  • 13:31:04

    NNAMDIJesselyn Radack, I see you shaking your head while Ali is speaking. And I can't help but observe differences in your two situations, how you were treated and how he's been dealt with.

  • 13:31:14

    RADACKWell, I agree with Ali that ideally you should complain internally. But in the case, for example, of Thomas Drake who won the Ridenhour Prize last year for truth telling. He was an NSA whistleblower who also stumbled upon secret domestic surveillance in its embryonic stages. And he did complain to his boss. He did complain to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and he did complain to the Department of Defense IG, which vindicated his complaint but then promptly classified it.

  • 13:31:52

    RADACKAnd then turned over his name and that of four other whistleblowers to the Justice Department for prosecution. Now, that prosecution under the Espionage Act was a spectacular failure. But here's someone who went through all the proper channels and didn't get a good outcome. So, I mean, the proper channels are great when they work. But right now, there are some 10 vacant inspector general positions.

  • 13:32:23

    RADACKGoing to your boss, the Supreme Court has said, is not considered to be whistleblowing. So whistleblowers get really stopped when they try to complain internally and it falls on deaf ears.

  • 13:32:33

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you'd like to join this conversation. What is your view of whistleblowers? Should there be better protections for people who speak out and alert the public about wrongdoing in government or the private sector or are you just generally skeptical about whistleblowers yourself? 800-433-8850. Eyal Press, I raised the issue of skepticism because most Americans apparently have mixed views of whistleblowers and others who speak out.

  • 13:33:00

    NNAMDIOn the one hand, you know that they play an important role and we also probably identify with the kind of David versus Goliath story. But on the other hand, we tend to view them very skeptically, don't we?

  • 13:33:14

    PRESSYeah. I would almost say that many Americans have a kind of schizophrenic view of whistleblowers. On the one hand, if you, you know, run through the gamut of Hollywood films featuring whistleblowers, they're almost invariably depicted as heroes and played by, you know, big stars, Russell Crowe and Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep and others. But in reality, in the real world, whistleblowers are all too often silenced, vilified, ignored.

  • 13:33:49

    PRESSAnd not only when they make the complaint that turns out to be contested or disproven, very often as in the case of the story I tell in my book, when they turn out to be right. And that's a little bit confusing. You know, why if someone -- in the story I tell in my book is about a financial industry whistleblower who blew the whistle on financial fraud. And it turned out that she was dead on.

  • 13:34:20

    PRESSIn 2003, she suspected that something was wrong in her firm. That they were selling a financial instrument that was being misadvertised. It turned out that the firm was the Stanford Financial Company, which was running the second largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Now it turned out she was right. And so you would think years later, Layla Wydler, this broker who spoke out about it, would be a very popular person. But that's not the case.

  • 13:34:48

    PRESSAnd one of the reasons it's not the case is that because she spoke out and turned out to be right, she becomes a symbol of what a lot of other people didn't do. In other words, a kind of painful reminder and rebuke, in a sense, to those who went along and stayed silent and didn't. You know, if it was so clear to her at the time, this was in 2002 where she raised questions about this.

  • 13:35:15

    PRESSThe Ponzi scheme revealed seven years later, by which point thousands of people lost their money and been defrauded. And it was a $7-billion scheme. It wouldn't have gotten to that place if more people on the inside had followed her lead. So, in that sense, whistleblowers, even when they're right, invariably find themselves in a very lonely place.

  • 13:35:36

    NNAMDIAli Soufan, you mentioned earlier about the rationale that was often offered a choice between allowing a terrorist attack to happen or pursuing the boundaries or pushing the boundaries of our usual operating procedures. It's an argument that you apparently vehemently, ticking time bomb idea. But when you heard those used as public justifications for water boarding in the media, did you ever feel tempted to break ranks and just talk to journalists about it?

  • 13:36:07

    SOUFANYou know, I did not. No. I didn't talk to journalists. I was asked by many, even some people inside the bureau. But I spoke philosophically about these issues. I never gave any examples from operations because these examples were classified. Until they were declassified and until they became public, then I put them together. And I showed from a person of experience. And until today, I mean, if you look at my book, it's full with reactions.

  • 13:36:38

    SOUFANAnd it's full with redactions because even though these things has been declassified, even though these things have been a subject in congressional hearings, I testified publicly, for example, in the Judiciary Committee. And part of my statement has been redacted in my own book. So, everybody watched it. It's one the Senate.gov in heaven's sake, but still, I cannot write about it.

  • 13:37:02

    SOUFANSo, there are still people who live and pedal their own fantasies, the fantasies of their own tales when it comes to EITs. As for the stuff, you know, like, for example, you know, the ticking bomb theory. Yes, you know, at the time I commented about that and basically my opinion about it was that's fairy tale. All my time in the FBI I was focusing on counterterrorism. I traveled around the world, you know, targeting al-Qaeda from 1997 until 2005, until I left.

  • 13:37:37

    SOUFANAnd I never encountered a ticking bomb theory. That's something just the philosophical thing that comes from law professors. But it has no connection to reality. That's not how they...

  • 13:37:49

    NNAMDIIt could come from the television show, "24." But that's another story. You mentioned all these…

  • 13:37:54

    SOUFANSo is -- you get the best interrogations in two minutes on the show "24."

  • 13:38:00

    NNAMDIYou mentioned all of the things that were redacted from your book, Ali. But I was struck by a couple of things when I looked at your book. There is no author photograph and there is no index. Why not?

  • 13:38:12

    SOUFANTrue, because when they redacted all the stuff that they wanted to redact, and then we fought back and we told them how some of the redactions are basically on government websites. We -- they insisted. So then we said, okay, we agree with that and we will publish the book with the redactions. And then they came back and they said, well, we cannot -- you cannot publish photos in the book, even though all the photos that I have in the book were photos that were approved by the government and approved by the FBI. And I was really surprised.

  • 13:38:46

    NNAMDISo you couldn't even put your own photo on the book?

  • 13:38:49

    SOUFANNot even my own photo. And I was really surprised that these demands were coming from the CIA, not from the FBI. The FBI, it took them three months to review my book. It went through the revision of the Counterterrorism Division and then the Information Security Division and then the pre-publication unit. And all of them said that we're okay with it. There is no classified information in the book.

  • 13:39:17

    SOUFANThe process was supposed to take 30 days. It took three months. They were very thorough. They came with so many different questions. We answered all their questions, all their concerns. We showed them where the things are in public, you know, have been declassified publicly by the U.S. government and they were okay with it. So then I went through something that no one else, I believe, went through.

  • 13:39:40

    SOUFANI went through double jeopardy of pre-publication review. The manuscript, the entire manuscript had to go to the CIA. And then after we said, okay, you know, we take all your redactions, we fought them back first and we didn't get anywhere with it. So we said we'll take all the redactions. They said no photos and no index. And the whole thing about photos and index were just really interesting to me because -- especially index.

  • 13:40:05

    SOUFANI mean, you're living in the age of iPads and Kindles, and you can just put a word and you know which page that word is in. So why shouldn't we publish and index? And I think they're main point was they're trying to basically mess with us and hope that they can delay the publication of the book or, you know, make us so angry that, you know, we go through other channels and that will take years and years.

  • 13:40:33

    SOUFANSo we decided to publish without photos. We decided to publish without index, and we decided to publish with the redactions, however, we put at the end of the book a list of all the declassified government reports from the CIA, DOJ, FBI, the military, the Senate, and if you read all these, I know it's thousands of pages, but if you look into all this declassified material, you will have an idea of everything that has been redacted.

  • 13:40:58

    NNAMDIGot a lot of callers who would like to speak with you, but I gotta say, I'm looking at Jesselyn's book, her picture is right there on the cover of the book, but Jesselyn, as a result of your own experiences, I am inferring you work to defend whistleblowers in their legal cases?

  • 13:41:15

    RADACKBecause of what I went through when I blew the whistle back in 2001, 2002, because of the living hell that I went through, I said I'm gonna dedicate my life to representing whistleblowers and that's how I ended up representing the NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and representing people like Peter Van Buren who's suffering from almost a retroactive classification of his book, and, you know, John Kiriakou is another person, I think, who is suffering a sort of retroactive classification.

  • 13:41:53

    RADACKWhat Ali was speaking about comes from over classification and the Thomas Drake case was such a vivid illustration of that, to the extent that the Court found that every single thing, that every single espionage act charge derived from information that was in fact not classified, but the government had said it was classified retroactively, which led George W. Bush's classification czar to say that it was the most deliberate of misclassification he'd ever seen.

  • 13:42:27

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk with Eyal Press about his book and the four people he tracks who spoke out against a system that they were part of. But you can still call us, 800-433-8850. If the lines are busy, you can go to our website kojoshow.org and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 13:44:43

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about truth telling in the public interest. We're talking with Jesselyn Radack. She's a former ethics officer at the Department of Justice, herself a whistleblower. She spoke out against ethics violations. Today she helps defend whistleblowers as a national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project. Her book is called "Traitor: The Whistleblower and the American Taliban."

  • 13:45:06

    NNAMDIAli Soufan is a former supervisory special agent with the FBI. He is the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for his book, "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda," and Eyal Press is author of the book, "Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times." He's a contributing writer to the Nation and the New York Review of Books. Eyal, your book tracks four people who spoke against a system that they were part of. You describe them as people who were motivated by conscience. How would you characterize an act of conscience?

  • 13:45:47

    PRESSWell, I think it was very interesting hearing Ali and Jesselyn talk about their slightly different views of whether to go public with information that conflicts with your conscience or not, because it gets to an essential aspect of what an act of conscience is. It is an act of affirmation, affirming one's own beliefs and principles and acting in accordance with them, but it is also an act of in a sense breaking a loyalty to something else, whether it's a loyalty to a superior, or a system you belong to, a corporation or a government agency, and in each case, in my book I tell the stories of people who reach these decisions after, you know, knowing that it is not necessarily gonna turn out well for them. And in one of the cases, that of a Swiss police captain, who...

  • 13:46:51

    NNAMDIA border guard in Switzerland, huh?

  • 13:46:53

    PRESSYes. Right. A border guard who ends up violating the law he's entrusted to enforce in 1938. The law in question required him to prevent Jewish refugees from entering Switzerland shortly after Nazi Germany took over Austria and started terrorizing Jews there, and this police captain who's told to enforce this law, don't let the refugees in, let's hundreds, actually possibly thousands, we don't know the exact number, in. Now, in doing that, there's no question, you know, he broke the law. He violated the trust of is government and his superiors.

  • 13:47:28

    PRESSOn the other hand, we can see very clearly in retrospect that he did something that was in accordance with Swiss tradition and Swiss values, or at least those values that he's been raised to believe which was that Switzerland was a democratic country and a refuge for the persecuted. And I tell his story in part because he fits with the characters, and I think with many whistleblowers actually in the sense that he was not someone who was out to rebel or to break ranks out of some kind of ideological proclivity to shake up the system.

  • 13:48:03

    PRESSRather, he really believed in the underlying ideals the system stood for. In his case, the Swiss patriotic notion of a country that welcomes refugees. And when he saw those ideals being violated, he felt he had to do the opposite of what he was told. I think to me that's what most fascinating most moving about the stories of these insiders who do speak out, which is that they're almost rebels in spite of themselves, and they very rarely benefit personally from what they're doing.

  • 13:48:34

    PRESSOn the other hand, and ironically, even those they're seen very often as people who only listen to their own conscience, the people who end up benefitting from what they do when they speak out or break ranks are the rest of society, you know, the larger world around them. So here they are seen as these sort of firm upstanding individuals, which they are, but in terms of if you want to, you know, individualists are usually people who act in their own self interest. Well, in a certain respect, these people act against their self interest. They suffer terribly.

  • 13:49:05

    PRESSOn the other hand, society as a whole relies on them, and I do think that one of the lessons whistleblowers and the various cases in my book underscores is that democratic societies know less than totalitarian and authoritarian ones, really rely on dissent. We need dissent because otherwise we don't find out when poor decisions are being made and everyone falls silent or goes along. You know, it's interesting that Ali mentions how many people on the inside we're now learning in various agencies did not go along, but we didn't know that back in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.

  • 13:49:44

    PRESSIt took years, and to me it's, you know, a fascinating thing as we reckon with torture and what was done in the done in the name of protecting our freedoms that we learn about these people.

  • 13:49:57

    NNAMDIAli we heard in the previous segment the distinction some people make between people who leak information and people who are whistleblowers. You apparently do not consider yourself a whistleblower, so what are you?

  • 13:50:11

    SOUFANI am basically an FBI agent who did the same thing that many people in the FBI, and CIA, and NCIS and different entities did. You know, we said this is un-American, we don't do this, this is counterproductive. This hurts our national security. We stood up. I became kind of the face for fighting EIT's inside the government because of my reporting it to headquarters, and this has now -- I can talk about it because it has been declassified by the Department of Justice inspector general.

  • 13:50:44

    SOUFANI contacted headquarters, and headquarters said, you know, they'd come back to me. They had a few meetings and then they pulled all the FBI out. So from that day, I became a targeted person, and I continued to be in the Bureau. The Bureau supported me, so as I mentioned earlier, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. So I was supported by the Bureau. I even was promoted at the time, but I continued to fight against EITs and I continued to do my job at the same time.

  • 13:51:15

    SOUFANI never participated or any of my teammates participated in EITs but we continued to do interrogations into Guantanamo and other places, get confessions, save lives.

  • 13:51:24

    NNAMDIWe're running out of time, so I do have to move on a little more quickly. Sorry to interrupt. Jesselyn you mentioned earlier that you provided legal support to Thomas Drake, former senior official at that National Security Agency, and you told us a little bit about that case. What does that case say about the Obama Administration and its national security priorities your view?

  • 13:51:45

    RADACKWell, it shows that the Obama administration, when it decides it's going to look forward and not backwards, that apparently applies to people who've committed war crimes and illegal activity, but does not apply to whistleblowers, because two of the biggest scandals from the Bush administration, torture and warrantless wire tapping, there are men who are the whistleblowers, in this case it's Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou who are being prosecuted or were prosecuted.

  • 13:52:15

    RADACKThe difference between leaking and whistleblowing is that leaking is of no public value whereas whistleblowing, it's in the public's interest to know something, and the government cannot properly classify illegal conduct. So it's been very disappointing that Obama has brought six prosecutions against people who are whistleblowers not spies.

  • 13:52:37

    NNAMDIGot to get to the telephone. Someone would like to remain anonymous in Alexandria, Va. You're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 13:52:45

    ANONYMOUSHi. So I wanted to bring up the fact that one of the little known aspects of the whistleblower law is that protection does not extend to subcontractors of a government contract. So under Title X, United States Code, Section 2409, only prime contractors are protected. So when I brought up allegations against the director of an agency, as well as some other people working for that agency, I was retaliated against. I was working Clear Program. My access to the site was taken away. I am the program manager for that program.

  • 13:53:20

    ANONYMOUSI was removed from the site and I was fired by my company. I filed with the Department of Defense Inspector General, and they are investigating the ways, fraud and abuse allegations that I have. They have forwarded up to the Office of Special Investigations, but they have told me that because of 2409, they cannot help me on the whistleblower retaliation because I am a subcontractor even though I brought a valid claim.

  • 13:53:44

    NNAMDIJesselyn Radack, sounds familiar?

  • 13:53:46

    RADACKYeah, it does actually. While contractors enjoy some protection, the subcontractors are definitely in more peril, and quite counter intuitively, national security and intelligence whistleblowers have no protection compared to corporate whistleblowers who have a lot more. So the people who are at the heart of the things we would most want to know about if there's gonna be some kind of nuclear disaster, or if the government is secretly spying on Americans, those people have the very least protection in coming forward, and that was illustrated by the prosecution of Thomas Drake who won the Ridenhour award last year.

  • 13:54:27

    RADACKAt the Government Accountability Project, we're trying to enact legislative reform in terms of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, so to provide broader protection, but we're still getting resistance.

  • 13:54:40

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We've been mentioning it a number of times, Eyal, and Jesselyn mentioned it. Could you tell our listeners exactly what the Ridenhour award is?

  • 13:54:50

    PRESSAs I understand it, it's an award for truth telling, and it goes to individuals who, at great risk to themselves, their careers, sometimes their families, told the truth, did their jobs and paid a great price for it. I was struck just now in hearing the caller that it reminded me of when I was writing about this corporate financial industry whistleblower and learned that there was a law passed to protect whistleblowers in 2002, Sarbanes-Oxley, that seemed very strong.

  • 13:55:29

    PRESSThen when people started invoking it, an agency in charge of reviewing the cases decided it didn't apply to the private subsidiaries of corporations. This was under George Bush. The law has since been changed to extend to those private subsidiaries, but as a result of that, all kinds of legitimate cases were thrown out, and when the Wall Street Journal looked at this law, out of 1200 cases, something like 17 of the whistleblowers had actually won. This was a law that was supposed to change the way companies operated and give whistleblowers more protections. So, so much of what actually goes on, I learned is in the fine print, and unfortunately, the fine print is often -- goes against the individual in these cases.

  • 13:56:14

    NNAMDIHere is Rachel in Washington D.C. Rachel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 13:56:19

    RACHELHi Kojo. Yes. Thank you for taking my call. I had -- and it's been spoken about, you know, throughout this conversation, but my major question is the, you know, in political campaigns they bring up that they want to have more transparency and accountability in the Whistleblower Act. That really seems to be what drives that, and so they want to bring this up, but then on the same token it's like a catch-22, because you have, you know, once the whistleblower comes forth, they do have this gigantic risk of ruining their career, you know, risking their job. So what kind of incentive, besides this Whistleblower Act, I mean, it's just that...

  • 13:57:03

    NNAMDICan there be for somebody to come forward? Jesselyn Radack, you have about 30 seconds.

  • 13:57:07

    RADACKThere are various whistleblower laws that some of them do provide some sort of whistleblower reward, but again, those laws are also problematic. For example, Bradley Birkenfeld who blew the whistle on tax fraud. He's the one who landed in jail, and I think since the law for a reward was passed, it's only been doled out maybe one time. So there are incentives, but the biggest one is just that you can sleep at night, and that you can live with yourself.

  • 13:57:38

    NNAMDIJesselyn Radack is a former ethics officer at the Department of Justice. Today she helps defend whistleblowers as a national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project. She is author of the book "Traitor: The Whistleblower and the American Taliban." Thank you for joining us.

  • 13:57:52

    RADACKThank you.

  • 13:57:53

    NNAMDIAli Soufan is a former supervisory special agent with the FBI. He is the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Book Prize for his book, "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda." Ali, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:07

    SOUFANThank you.

  • 13:58:08

    NNAMDIAnd Eyal Press is author of the book, "Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times." He's a contributing writer to the Nation and the New York Review of Books. Eyal, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:58:21

    PRESSThank you for having me on.

  • 13:58:22

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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