(Washington, DC) – On Tuesday, April 9, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) will bring the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability to James Madison University (JMU). Rick Piltz (White House climate change scandal) and Thomas Tamm (warrantless wiretapping) will be the prominent whistleblowers featured at this event.

GAP’s Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event will feature a moderated discussion that is free and open to all. A full description of the Tour can be found at www.WhistleblowerTour.org.

This Tour stop, sponsored by GAP and JMU, will last from 7:00 p.m. ­– 9:00 p.m. in the Health and Human Services Building, Room 1302.

Speakers

Rick Piltz is a former senior associate in the coordination office of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. In 2005, he blew the whistle on the White House’s improper editing and censorship of science program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress. GAP, which represented Piltz, released reports to The New York Times documenting the improper editing. Philip Cooney, former White House Counsel on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff and a lawyer and former climate team leader with the American Petroleum Institute, hand-wrote the changes to the report. Those edits downplayed the reality of human-driven global warming and its harmful impacts. The changes also introduced an element of scientific uncertainty that had not been part of the original reports. This controversy sparked a media frenzy resulting in Cooney’s resignation. For his own courageous efforts, in 2006 Piltz received the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize.
Thomas Tamm was a well-regarded Justice Department attorney in the Capital Cases Unit who, in 2003, transferred to the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) – perhaps the most sensitive unit within the Justice Department. While working there, Tamm became aware of a program that bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. After Tamm’s inquiries about the program repeatedly ran into walls of silence, he contacted The New York Times, which in 2005 ran an explosive Pulitzer Prize-winning cover story about the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. The program was in fact part of wide-ranging covert surveillance activities authorized by President Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. Although the law creating the FISA court made it a federal crime for any official to engage in such surveillance absent adherence to strict rules, including court approval, it was Tamm who became a target of law enforcement officials. In August 2007, 18 FBI agents raided Tamm’s home, executing a search warrant in furtherance of locating the source of the Times story. Tamm was also the subject of a six-year federal criminal investigation. As the result of his courage and the ensuing ordeal, Tamm received the 2009 Ridenour Truth-Telling Award.

GAP President Louis Clark, who has spent more than 35 years at GAP protecting whistleblowers, will moderate the panel. Stated Clark, “We’re excited to bring the American Whistleblower Tour to JMU, where students can hear directly from brave government whistleblowers about the challenges of speaking truth to power.”

“As future employees of private-sector businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, JMU students at times will have to assess the benefits and risks of sharing information without official authorization,” said Dr. Ming Ivory, JMU professor of integrated science and technology. “As this whistleblower panel will make clear, sometimes employees face vital decisions about whether loyalty to the organizational mission, to fellow employees or to the general public is of central importance. During this panel session, students can rehearse in their own minds what their obligations to the public, to their place of work or to their own ethical values would argue that they do.”

About the Tour

This JMU event is the tenth Tour stop held this academic year. Previous 2012-13 stops have included the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Whitman College, Franklin & Marshall College, Auburn University, Florida International University, American University, University of the District of Columbia, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Indiana University-Bloomington.

During the 2011-12 academic year, the American Whistleblower Tour visited 13 colleges, including FIU, Auburn University, Mount Holyoke College, Rutgers University-Newark, Syracuse University, Tulane University, and the University of Texas at Austin. GAP secures some of the most prominent whistleblowers in American history for its Tour. Last year, whistleblower presenters included Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Frank Serpico (NYPD), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Susan Wood (“Plan B”).

Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America’s youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, GAP Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137
Email: dylanb@whistleblower.org

Contact: Sarah Damian, GAP New Media Associate
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 130
Email: sarahd@whistleblower.org

Contact: Eric Gorton, James Madison University
Phone: 540-568-3674
Email: gortonej@jmu.edu

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

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