Thursday, November 30, 2006

Whistleblowers: Fired, silenced . . . and killed.

Whistleblowers are traitors. There is no question that this is what most corporations and government entities think. It doesn’t matter if the target is a private corporation, such as Enron with whistleblower Sherron Watkins, a government entity such as the FDA with whistleblower David Graham or an entire country, such as President Putin’s Russia, which former Russian KGB agent and whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko harshly criticized.

All these entities react the same way: Shut down the whistleblower. Fire him, silence him, or kill him, whatever it takes.

It is no secret that former Enron CEO Ken Lay immediately contacted his lawyers and tried to come up with a way to fire Sherron Watkins after she wrote an e-mail warning him that “I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals.”

It is also no secret that the FDA brass tried to shut down David Graham. Dr. Graham said, “Prior to my Senate testimony in mid-November of 2004, there was an orchestrated campaign by senior level FDA managers to intimidate me so that I would not testify before Congress.”

Dr. Graham explained that this intimidation took several forms. The FDA tried to stop an article he wrote for the Lancet; they contacted Senator Grassley's office and attempted to prevent him from calling Dr. Graham as a witness and his superiors even posed as whistleblowers and contacted Dr. Graham’s attorney and attempted to convince him that he should not represent Dr. Graham.

And as far as the ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko goes, we all know by now that he was poisoned in the U.K. with deadly polonium-210, which is extremely hard to come by unless you own a nuclear reactor. In fact, Polonium 210 is highly radioactive and extremely toxic. By weight, it is 250 million times as toxic as cyanide. This means a particle smaller than a dust mote could be fatal if ingested or inhaled. Polonium 210 destroys the internal organs, and death is slow, painful and sure. There is no antidote. No one knows for sure if Russia did this, but most observers have concluded that another former spy, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin probably knows who did it.

And Putin certainly had the motive. Back in 1998 Litvinenko accused his security bosses of ordering the murder of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The tycoon fled to Britain, where Litvinenko soon followed, supported by Berezovsky. It didn’t help Litvinenko that he continued to openly criticize Russia and started to investigate the death of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist who also had been very critical of Putin. And it doesn’t help Russian President Putin that his critics appear to die like flies around him. Not that this means Mr. Putin did anything. He may just be a lucky guy, who happens to have short-lived critics.

Most noticeable, however, is the Russian media’s reaction. The Putin-controlled Russian television networks reported that Mr. Litvinenko did not die of poison, but of "intrigues" in the Russian exile community in London. Mr. Litvinenko was, according to Russian television, "a pawn in a game that he did not understand."

Reality is that most people never get into a situation such as the one Sherron Watkins, David Graham or Alexander Livinenko found themselves in. Most people silently agree to do whatever their company bosses, party bosses or government tells them to do, and look the other way when things get ugly. Commit a few illegal accounting tricks, fine. Let the public die because drugs are unsafe, no problem. Kill a big-mouth oligarch, hey if you’re in the KGB, that’s what you do, right? This is a great strategy for survival but it is certainly not a path to bravery.

In fact, Senator Grassley has repeatedly stated, “Whistleblowers are American heroes.” I’d only add that they are heroes wherever they appear. And especially today, with more and more rampant corruption we need more such heroes.

Because, as Edmund Burke said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”


Anonymous said...

Apathy and ignorance are bigger factors than fear in the triumph of good over evil. We're pretty good at those in the UK.

Litvinenko died a horrible death, a grisly public execution to warn other critics of the "modern" Russian regime, yet the UK government and media is strangely muted on background to the subject. I guess we need the gas.

(The main impact here is that Sushi sales have slumped in London, although Polonium 210 could only improve the stuff in my opinion.)

But no-one here seems to care about the background. When you say that "we all know" about Litvinenko's execution, remember that the most popular newspaper in the UK is "The Sun". (This is a Rupert Murdoch-owned rag that's a bit like your World Weekly News, but with more busty girls, Z-list celebs and plugs for Murdoch's other media outlets, and less factual content.) It makes USA Today seem like a newspaper. Ask a Sun reader who Alexander Litvinenko was and chances are they'll tell you he plays football for Chelsea

"The Sun" is the prime source of information for many in the UK. And "Sky News"...

Both are relentlessly pro-Blair, because Blair is relentlessly pro-Murdoch.

We had our own home-grown Litvinenko, Dr. David Kelly, a former Weapons Inspector from the UK Ministry of Defence, who made the mistake of telling the BBC that "weapons of mass destruction" were non-existent. He committed suicide before any in-depth investigation of his claims took place.

Suggestions from the mainstream UK media that anything was odd about that? None. No, we in the UK can't be too nasty or smug about Mr. Putin.

Now that's truly frightening.

MsMelody said...


Here's another "whistleblower" story/site for you. You can see that the FDA is not the ONLY suspect in the oppression of whistleblowers. Do you think we should all feel safer when these examples show how well our government looks out for our health and safety? (Opening graphs of story follow, with link for the rest of the story.)

A fired air marshal is suing to regain his job in a case that could draw the line between blowing the whistle on mismanagement and protecting sensitive information.
Robert MacLean sued Oct. 30 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, arguing that the Whistleblower Protection Act should have covered him when he told a reporter in 2003 that the Federal Air Marshal Service was eliminating assignments on cross-country flights.

Anonymous said...

The crooks all stick up for each other don't they. hmmmm.

Unfortunately, this is the results of 25+ years of "government by corporation". All you have to do is look at instances like what happened and where movies were made about it such as A Civil Action.

The US has created a society of "untouchables" almost where there is one set of rules for them and another for everyone else.

Speaking about Russia, I was surprised at how much Mikhail Gorbachev defended Putin in this interview (Pt 2 I think, but an interesting read).
International Dateline
Archives - July 26, 2006 - Mikhail Gorbachev Interview
Archives - August 09, 2006 - Mikhail Gorbachev Part II

Anonymous said...

Also The Verdict is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

MedChatter - should they hide said, but also asked the big ?. Would someone in the big pharma EVER "give the order" when it came to protect the interest of the Co or thier lucrative jobs?
The answer is still pending and perhaps no one would venture into an analysis or claim, for one important but simple reason: It is so much out there, so much unbelivable, so much impossible that non of us, including the doc could not imagine that such thing is likely reality in practices and armamentarium of the Big pharma. Also it is hard to believe that some of those tough boys hired over from goverment security agencies for their own bunkers, would now go as far as that. Imagine if it did happen to a one WB and the big pharma co. were suspected for the hit. On the other hand just forget it.
Besides they have lot of other means to effectivelly defend themselves and in the end if they have to pay up, so what. Just the cost of doing business. And the beat goes on.

Smedley said...

I was skeptical about Putin's involvement in this one particular act, given the proximity of it to Anna P's death.

Now reports are coming out of Ireland that Yegor Gaeda was also poisoned and the perps appear to be ex-pat groups in Great Britain. The thinking is that they were also involved in Litvinenko's death.

While it's always easy to look to the person who might be most responsible for silencing a vocal critic, cui bono is sometimes more difficult to determine.

Putin isn't an ideal leader and he is damaging Russia. Russians I have spoken with on my trips there are aware that things are changing toward more authoritarianism yet they are also wary of having a return to Yeltsin like chaos and they remember Gorbachev as the man who ruined their lives and destroyed their country.

What we in the West view as good for the rest of the world rarely is as evidenced by the failed effort to "bring democracy to the Middle East" in Iraq. Russians are very proud people, proud of their heritage, of their culture, and very proud of their leader. It is businessmen who the everyday Russian hates; the fact that the group derives its riches from those in power doesn't get through to some Russians and doesn't matter to others.

It's just the nomenklatura in a different incarnation and Russians have a long history of that.

Peter Rost said...

Smedley, well, Russians put into work camps wrote to Stalin once upon a time, trying to tell this glorious leader what his underlings were doing. They couldn't imagine he had anything to do with their plight . . .