Government Accountability Project Clients Awarded Truth-Telling Accolade

WASHINGTON –  Type Media Center, the Fertel Foundation, and the Stewart R. Mott Foundation will honor the greatest truth-tellers of 2019 at their annual Ridenhour Prizes. The Prizes were established in 2003 to commemorate the memory of Ron Ridenhour, a whistleblower and investigative journalist who exposed egregious human rights abuses during the My Lai massacre to Congress and the public. Among the 2019 winners are two current Government Accountability Project clients, Drs. Scott Allen and Pamela McPherson, medical and mental health experts with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL).

Drs. Allen and McPherson blew the whistle to Congress in June 2018 on the risk of harm to children posed by expanded detention implemented under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy after witnessing abuse and misconduct during repeated inspections of child and family detention centers.. Their disclosures were reported in The New York Times; within days, fourteen medical professional associations joined together to voice support for the doctors’ disclosures. Following their disclosures, Drs. Allen and McPherson submitted written testimony for Senate oversight hearings and submitted written comments opposing DHS’s efforts to void existing legal limits on the length of detention to allow for prolonged, indefinite detention of children. In November 2018, concerned that the administration was knowingly endangering children, the whistleblowers spoke directly to the public for the first time on 60 Minutes. They also published an op-ed in The Washington Post following the death of 8-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, which demanded further action and oversight.

Scott Shuchart, a senior advisor at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties who left his position after unsuccessfully trying to warn senior officials about the civil rights violations involved with separating children from their families at the southern border, will be sharing the truth-telling prize with Drs. Allen and McPherson. As recipients of the Ridenhour truth-teller prize, Drs. Allen and McPherson and Mr. Shuchart join a select group of whistleblowers recognized for their courage in speaking truth to power, including former Government Accountability Project clients Aicha Elbasri, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, Thomas Tamm, and Rick Piltz.

Senior Counsel and Director of Education at Government Accountability Project, Dana Gold, who serves as legal counsel to the doctors, said of the prize,

“Honoring DHS whistleblowers Drs. Allen and McPherson and Scott Shuchart for their ethical courage sends a critical message to other employees about the importance of speaking up in in the face of serious abuses to protect the public interest. Given that President Trump has expressed desire to renew the child separation policy, that potentially thousands of children are still waiting to be reunited with their families, and that children continue to be at risk of serious harm in detention, it is essential to encourage other employees to exercise their rights to blow the whistle on these unconscionable abuses. This award expresses not only gratitude for the public service of truth-telling, but for its continued, and urgent, necessity.


Contact: Dana Gold, Senior Counsel and Director of Education
Phone: (202) 457-0034 ext. 160


Government Accountability Project

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C