Endpoints News: Eric Lander ‘bullied and demeaned’ staff at White House science office — investigation
Eric Lander ‘bullied and demeaned staff at White House science office – investigation”
This article features Government Accountability Project’s client, Rachel Wallace, and was originally published here.
A recent White House investigation concluded that Eric Lander, President Biden’s top science advisor, bullied and demeaned his subordinates, Politico reported.
The news dropped just hours after Politico reported that Lander, the famed but often controversial geneticist who served as founding director of the Broad Institute before getting tapped to lead the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, emailed all his staff to apologize for speaking to colleagues in a “disrespectful and demeaning way.”
“The investigation found credible evidence of instances of multiple women having complained to other staff about negative interactions with Dr. Lander, where he spoke to them in a demeaning or abrasive way in front of other staff,” Christian Peele, the White House’s deputy director of management and administration for personnel, said in a briefing — a recording of which was obtained by Politico.
Fourteen current and former staffers of the OSTP — which has a headcount of about 140 — shared with Politico “similar descriptions of a toxic work environment where they say Lander frequently bullied, cut off and dismissed subordinates,” sometimes yelling at people and making them feel humiliated in front of peers.
While most remained anonymous, Rachel Wallace — a longtime civil servant and the OSTP’s chief operating officer, who first filed a complaint against Lander and OSTP leadership — went on the record saying that Lander “retaliated against staff for speaking out and asking questions by calling them names, disparaging them, embarrassing them in front of their peers, laughing at them, shunning them, taking away their duties, and replacing them or driving them out of the agency. Numerous women have been left in tears, traumatized, and feeling vulnerable and isolated.”
None of the details were mentioned in Lander’s vaguely-worded apology email.
“It’s my responsibility to set a respectful tone for our community. It’s clear that I have not lived up to this responsibility,” reads an email obtained by Politico. “This is not only wrong, but also inconsistent with our Safe and Respectful Workplace Policy. It is never acceptable for me to speak that way. I am deeply sorry for my conduct. I especially want to apologize to those of you who I treated poorly or were present at the time.”
Wallace told Politico the apology “did not come close to addressing” the full extent of his offense. Other staffers argue he should be fired, or at least face a suspension, with one calling him an aggressor who “openly targets women” and another highlighting the “open and brazen way he conducts his abuse.”
“He did so much more than speak to staff in a ‘disrespectful or demeaning way,’” Wallace said, adding: “Lander’s apology was not only disingenuous. It compounded the deep hurt and damage he has caused by ignoring these other acts of aggression, harassment and retaliation.”
Biden elevated the science office to Cabinet level in an attempt to signal his government’s focus on science.
But his selection of Lander as the leader of the office and his science advisor wasn’t without friction, with critics slamming what they see as over-the-top arrogance that consumes scientific accolades at the expense of others, especially women and people of color.
During his inauguration, Biden also pledged a zero-tolerance policy on improper conduct: “If you are ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot. On the spot. No ifs, ands or buts.”
It remains to be seen what consequences Lander, who has also been tapped to head the recently relaunched Cancer Moonshot initiative — a project close to Biden’s heart — will face.
White House leadership has met with Lander to discuss the “seriousness of the matter,” according to a spokesperson. An OSTP spokesperson said that “corrective action was taken consistent with those findings.”
Lander, who apparently got wind of the investigation and looming Politico report, referenced it in his email.
“I understand that some of you have been asked about this, and I thought it was important to write directly to you,” he wrote. “I also realize that my conduct reflects poorly on this Administration, and interferes with our work. I deeply regret that.”
He promised to “take concrete steps to promote a better workplace,” including regular forums to check in with staff and trainings to ensure they know how to report concerning conduct. In the recorded briefing, Peele talked about requiring Lander to hold more collaborative meetings such as “brown bag sessions,” and mentioned there would be a check-in with staff after 30 and 45 days.
2018: Pamela McPherson and Scott Allen
Doctors Pamela McPherson and Scott Allen blew the whistle on the Trump administration’s child detention practices. Having been hired by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to serve as subject matter experts, the doctors described the substandard and dangerously lax medical care children were receiving at detention centers.
2017: Joel Clement
Joel Clement directed the Department of Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis and assessed the impacts of climate change on Native Arctic communities. In June 2017, Clement and dozens of senior officials were involuntarily reassigned as part of a larger systematic effort within the Trump administration to marginalize employees whose work focuses on climate change and other environmental issues. Clement wrote a scathing letter in The Washington Post entitled “I’m a Scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration,” calling out the administration for its dismissal of climate change issues and for silencing civil servants. Clement’s willingness to exercise his rights as a whistleblower rather than stay silent prompted widespread media coverage. Clement won the Callaway Award for Civic Courage in 2017 (Source: CPJ)
2016 ex-Monsanto executive
2016: An anonymous ex-Monsanto executive received a $22 million award from the Securities and Exchange Commission for blowing the whistle on the company’s improper accounting mechanisms. The award is the second largest the SEC has given out as part of its whistleblower program.
2015: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
In a September 2015 press conference, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha risked her career to reveal research findings that showed children’s blood lead levels in Flint, Michigan, had doubled after the city’s water source was switched to the Flint River in April 2014. Despite immediate blowback from state and local officials, Hanna-Attisha persisted with her research and continued to speak out on the subject. After her findings were corroborated independently by The Detroit Free Press, she became internationally known as the face of those fighting the Flint Water Crisis (Source: CPJ)
2015: Brandon Coleman
A Marine Corps veteran and Addiction Therapist at the Phoenix VA, Brandon Coleman witnessed a plethora of improper and possibly unlawful practices within the facility. Coleman disclosed that suicidal veterans had been neglected, and left to walk out of the hospital without proper care. Following his disclosure, Coleman learned that his own medical records had been accessed by a VA Social Worker. Coleman testified before Congress regarding the retaliation he experienced at the VA and subsequently helped to found the VA Truth Tellers, a whistleblowing group. An investigation by the VA’s Office of the Medical Inspector substantiated Coleman’s disclosures. In August 2017, Coleman was assigned to the VA’s newly created Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.
2014: Miranda Brown
Miranda Brown, Chief of the East and South Africa section for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, blew the whistle on the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic by peacekeepers and the retaliation against Anders Kompass, the one senior official who reported it to law enforcement. Subsequently, she was told her contract would not be renewed. When she objected, her post was suddenly transferred from Geneva to Fiji. Despite these reprisals, Brown testified before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bringing light to the epidemic of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic and the plight of those at the UN who try to combat it.
Edward Snowden is a former Booz Allen Hamilton federal contractor employee who disclosed information regarding the NSA’s blanket surveillance of U.S. citizens through a secretive data-mining program that collects the phone records, e-mail exchanges, and Internet histories of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
2013: Jim Schrier
Jim Schrier, a veteran USDA meat inspector, reported clear humane handling violations involving market hogs at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility. After raising concerns to his supervisor, he was sent to work at a facility 120 miles away. His wife started a Change.org petition that has gathered more than 180,000 signatures asking the USDA to move her husband back to his original post near their home.
2013: Sherry Medina
USDA poultry inspector Sherry Medina has collected more than 70,000 signatures in a Change.org petition asking Tyson Foods to stop its excessive use of hazardous chemicals in poultry processing. Medina exposed the serious health issues that she and other inspectors have experienced while working at a Tyson plant in Albertville, Alabama.
2013: Dr. Aicha Elbasri
Dr. Aicha Elbasri was the spokesperson for the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur when she witnessed first-hand how the UN was obscuring the reality of atrocities being committed against Darfuris and failing to protect civilians. Unwilling to be a part of a mission that was lying to the public, Elbasri resigned eight months into the position and leaked thousands of documents illustrating the operation’s failings to Foreign Policy Magazine. Elbasri’s case garnered widespread international attention and in June 2014, the International Criminal Court called upon the UN to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. As a result of Elbasri’s disclosures, the UN was pressured to conduct an internal review of the mission.
2012: John Parsons
John Parsons was the Inspector General for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (The Global Fund) from 2008 to 2012. Under his leadership, the Office of the Inspector General revealed that up to two-thirds of certain Global Fund grants may have been lost to corruption through forged documents, improper bookkeeping, the diversion of donated prescription drugs to the black market, and other irregularities. The Global Funds Board terminated Parsons in November 2012.
2012: Phyllis McKelvey
Phyllis McKelvey is a retired USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) chicken inspector. Before leaving the USDA in 2010, McKelvy witnessed firsthand the damage the agency’s new poultry inspection model creates, including turning inspection duties over to company employees and increasing line speeds to the point where inspectors have only 1/3 of a second to view a carcass. Her concerns led her to start a petition asking the USDA to halt its plans, which gained more than 180,000 signatures.
2012: Dr. Eric Ben-Artzi
Dr. Eric Ben-Artzi publicly came forward with his evidence of multi-billion dollar securities violations at Deutsche Bank. As an employee, he discovered and internally reported serious violations stemming from the Bank’s failure to report the value of its credit derivatives portfolio accurately.
2012: Larry Alt & Pete Forcelli
Larry Alt and Pete Forcelli, agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), helped expose issues surrounding the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, the program that resulted in federally-monitored guns ending up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
2011: Michael Winston
Michael Winston was a high-level executive at Countrywide Financial tasked with writing a report about Countrywide’s succession planning and other governance issues to allay concerns expressed by Moody’s Credit Services. Winston refused to write the report as he had seen no succession plan, nor knew if one even existed. Soon afterward, his budget was frozen, his duties curtailed, and when Bank of America took over Countrywide in 2008, he was fired. His story was detailed in a 2011 New York Times story.
2011: Peter Van Buren
Peter Van Buren, a veteran Foreign Service Officer at the State Department authored the book We Meant Well, which exposed massive fraud while serving as the leader of two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq from 2009-10. It detailed how the U.S. wasted more than $44 billion in reconstruction efforts. In September 2012, he was forced to retire.
Christian Sanchez is a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was harassed after refusing overtime pay when there was no extra work to be performed at the Port Angeles, Washington office and briefing Congress about the waste of taxpayer dollars.
2011: Eileen Foster
Eileen Foster, a former high-ranking official at Countrywide Financial and then Bank of America after its purchase of Countrywide in July 2008, exposed systemic fraud at Countrywide Financial and the corrupt activities of company officials that gave rise to the economic crisis.
2010: Walt Tamosaitis
Walt Tamosaitis was the Deputy Chief Process Engineer and Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Eastern Washington. After raising concerns about safety and operational issues, he was terminated in July 2010 by Bechtel.
2010: Wilma Subra
Immediately following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010, Wilma Subra found evidence of serious health risks for clean-up workers and Gulf Coast residents from crude oil, aerosol forms of oil, and dispersant used on the spill.
2010: Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, was arrested for leaking 91,731 secret U.S. military reports about the war in Afghanistan, and 251,287 diplomatic cables from the State Department, including a classified airstrike video showing U.S. gunfire killing 11 civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters journalists.
2010: Samy Kamkar
Samy Kamkar is a computer hacker who exposed the illicit global mobile phone tracking of all users, regardless of GPS or Location Services settings, on the Apple iPhone, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone mobile devices, and their transmission of GPS and Wi-Fi information to their parent companies.
2009: Four sales representatives for Eli Lilly
Four sales representatives for Eli Lilly – Robert Rudolph, Joseph Faltaous, Steven Woodward, and Jaydeen Vincente – filed separate qui tam lawsuits against the company for illegally marketing the drug Zyprexa for uses not approved by the FDA, including the treatment of dementia in the elderly.
2009: Dr. Dean Wyatt
Dr. Dean Wyatt, a former USDA Public Health Veterinarian, discovered humane handling violations at two slaughter plants in Oklahoma and Vermont. Though he was reprimanded and subjected to retaliation, he was ultimately vindicated by an undercover video released in 2009.
2009: Wendell Potter
Former head of corporate communications at CIGNA Wendell Potter testified against the HMO industry in the US Senate and authored the book Deadly Spin, detailing industry-wide deceitful tactics.
2009: John Kopchinski
John Kopchinski is a former Pfizer sales representative whose whistleblower lawsuit launched a massive government investigation into Pfizers illegal marketing of prescription painkiller Bextra. Part of a $2.3 billion global settlement, the case was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.
2009: Renee Dufault
Renee Dufault is a former FDA health researcher who retired after she was pressured to stop investigating traces of mercury found in high fructose corn syrup. In January 2009, she published her findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
2009: Gabe Bruno
Gabe Bruno was a former FAA Manager of the Orlando Flight Standards District Office. He alleged the FAA lacks a national security screening mechanism for mechanics with fraudulent certificates, leaving the industry open to potential terrorism.
2008: Dr. Kunal Saha
Dr. Kunal Saha came forward with evidence that World Bank funds had been used for years to purchase defective test kits designed to detect the presence of HIV/AIDS in blood samples.
2008: Babak Pasdar
While overhauling security for a major telecommunications company (independently identified as Verizon), computer security expert Babak Pasdar discovered the “Quantico Circuit” at the company’s facility that surreptitiously re-routed and captured all customer mobile phone communications. Pasdar’s findings were one of the pioneering disclosures that exposed the full extent of domestic spying on Americans.
2007: James Wasserstrom
James Wasserstrom served with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations as a senior official at UNMIK from 2002-08. In 2007, he alleged internal corruption involving UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative (SRSG) Joachim Ruecker, Principal Deputy SRSG Stephen Schook, and UNMIK Legal Advisor Alexander Borg-Olivier.
2007: George Sarris
While serving as a senior civilian Air Force aircraft mechanic, George Sarris discovered serious maintenance concerns with two types of aircraft critical for national security missions. Ultimately, he settled a Whistleblower Protection Act lawsuit with the Air Force.
2007: John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou is a CIA veteran who headed counterterrorism operations in Pakistan after 9/11, organized the team operation that captured suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, and refused to be trained in enhanced interrogation tactics. In 2007, Kiriakou gave an on-camera interview to ABC News where he disclosed that Zubaydah was waterboarded, explicitly calling it torture – making him the first CIA officer to publicly label the action as torture. His words also exposed the CIA’s torture program as policy, rather than the actions of rogue agents.
2007: Kit Foshee
Kit Foshee blew the whistle on the ammoniation process used by his former employer Beef Products Inc. (BPI) on its low-grade beef product later known as “pink slime.”
2007: Anonymous whistleblowers
Anonymous whistleblowers revealed malfeasance involving World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his top lieutenants. The improper hiring and pay raises of his intimate friends and the deletion of references to family planning in policy statements led to his resignation two months later.
2006: Frank Terreri
Frank Terreri joined the Federal Air Marshals Service after the 9/11 attacks and disclosed numerous security problems on behalf of 1,500 air marshals. He questioned policies that helped identify undercover air marshals and challenged endorsing news segments that revealed methods agents use to respond to hijacking. He was vindicated by the OSC in 2006.
2006: Adam B. Resnick
Adam B. Resnick exposed Medicare and Medicaid fraud by the pharmaceutical company Omnicare, a major supplier of drugs to nursing homes. Omnicare allegedly paid kickbacks to nursing home operators in order to secure business.
2006: Mark Klein
Mark Klein, a retired communications technician for AT&T, revealed the details of the secret 2003 construction of a monitoring facility in San Francisco thought to be operated by the NSA as part of its warrantless surveillance program.
2006: Kenneth Kendrick
Assistant plant manager Kenneth Kendrick from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) blew the whistle on the origins of salmonella-tainted peanut butter that sickened hundreds and even killed several people in the US in 2008-09. Kendrick spoke on Good Morning America and disproved PCA’s defense that the batch of tainted peanut butter from the Georgia plant was an unexpected and isolated event.
2006: Cate Jenkins
Cate Jenkins, a former EPA chemist, wrote memos to the EPA Inspector General, Congress and the FBI detailing the chemical composition of dust from the 9/11 attacks and its hazards to responders. She asserted the EPA lied about the known dangers of the dust which caused chemical burns in the lungs.
2006: James Hansen
James Hansen, climate scientist blew the whistle on NASA officials’ and the Bush administration’s attempts to silence him from speaking out about the dangers of global warming.
2006: Richard Bowen
While evaluating $90 billion of mortgages Citigroup was buying from Countrywide and other lenders, former Citigroup vice president Richard Bowen tried to warn about the rise in defective mortgages. Bowen raised concerns that roughly 60% of prime mortgages were defective, as well as Citigroup’s practice of lowering its standards for subprime mortgage pools. In 2010 he testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and continues to face repercussions as a whistleblower today.
2006: Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn
Dr. Aubrey Blumsohn, a senior faculty member at Sheffield University, blew the whistle on data concealment and manipulation performed on behalf of Procter & Gamble regarding that company’s osteoporosis drug, Actonel.
2006: Gary Aguirre
Gary Aguirre is a former SEC lawyer who reported wrongdoing by SEC officials for their failure to allow a proper investigation of one of the country’s leading hedge funds. Aguirre was dismissed following his attempt to subpoena John Mack, the future CEO of Morgan Stanley.
2005: Dr. Susan Wood
Dr. Susan Wood served as FDA Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health for five years. When she concluded in 2005 that Bush administration politics was tying up the approval of Plan-B, not the safety or efficacy of this “morning-after pill,” she resigned, stating that FDA science was being held captive by the “pro-life movement.”
2005: Rick Piltz
Rick Piltz, a senior associate in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, resigns over the White House’s attempt to interfere with the program’s findings and manipulate them to overstate the degree of scientific uncertainty about human causes of climate change.
2005: Bunnatine “Bunny” H. Greenhouse
Bunnatine “Bunny” H. Greenhouse, former chief civilian contracting officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, exposed illegality in the no-bid contracts for reconstruction in Iraq by a Halliburton subsidiary.
2005: Thomas Drake
National Security Agency (NSA) Senior Executive Thomas Drake identified a massively wasteful and ineffective program that sacrificed security and privacy. Drake reported the program first using all proper internal channels (NSA, Congress, DoD IG), then later to a reporter in 2005. Prosecuted under the Espionage Act, he saw his case collapse by June 2011. Nonetheless, he was forced to mount a crushing legal battle for four years and his career was destroyed.
2005: Shawn Carpenter
Shawn Carpenter, an employee of Sandia (Dept. of Energy research and development national laboratory), discovered that a sophisticated group of hackers were systematically penetrating computer networks at major U.S. defense contractors, military installations and government agencies to access sensitive information. He went on to voluntarily work with the U.S. Army and the FBI to address the problem, but Sandia terminated his employment and revoked his security clearance.
2005: Bradley Birkenfeld
While working at UBS bank in Switzerland, banker Bradley Birkenfeld realizes that managers at the bank are encouraging American clients to evade taxes by putting their money in offshore accounts. Despite the recovery of billions of taxpayer dollars and the fact that he has helped to end the illegal UBS tax fraud scheme, Birkenfeld is ordered to serve a 40-month prison sentence.
2004: Peter Rost
Peter Rost, former vice president of Pfizer, reported accounting irregularities and other issues to US authorities, leading to a criminal investigation of Pfizers marketing practices. After he was terminated, Rost authored a book detailing illegal business practices he witnessed at the pharmaceutical company.
2004: Samuel Provance
Samuel Provance, system administrator for U.S. Army Military Intelligence at the Abu Ghraib prison, publicly revealed the role of interrogators in the abuses, as well as general efforts to cover up the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse itself.
2004: Victoria Hampshire
Victoria Hampshire, an FDA veterinarian, discovered that a popular heartworm medication for dogs was killing hundreds of animals. Her analysis and reports pulled the drug off the market. Drugmaker Wyeth Pharmaceuticals then conducted a smear campaign against her and used its influence with the FDA to have her criminally investigated.
2004: David Graham
Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) safety officer David Graham breaks ranks with his employer and testifies to the U.S. Senate that Merck’s blockbuster arthritis drug Vioxx has killed as many Americans as the Vietnam War. Merck is forced to withdraw Vioxx from the market, and the F.D.A.’s reputation is severely tarnished.
2004: Joseph Darby
Sergeant Joseph Darby provides photos to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command of torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, triggering an investigation that leads to prison, dishonorable discharge and reprimands for 11 soldiers.
2004: Gerald W. Brown
Gerald W. Brown, a former firestop contractor and consultant, uncovered the Thermo-lag circuit integrity scandal and silicone foam scandals in U.S. and Canadian nuclear power plants, which led to Congressional proceedings as well as Provincial proceedings in the Canadian Province of Ontario concerning deficiencies in passive fire protection.
2003: Thomas Tamm
Justice Department attorney Thomas Tamm became aware of a program that bypassed the 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court and allowed the Attorney General to sign wiretap requests without the court’s review. After Tamm’s inquiries repeatedly ran into walls of silence, he contacted The New York Times, which ran a Pulitzer Prize-winning cover story about the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
2003: Jon Oberg
Jon Oberg, while working at the Department of Education as a researcher, discovered illegal payments to student loan lenders of federal tax dollars that department officials instructed him not to investigate. On his own time, he researched the payments and reported them to Congress, which in 2004 ended the payments prospectively, saving billions of dollars. In 2007, Oberg sued the recipients under the False Claims Act. Three years later, the Department of Justice announced it had settled four of the cases for over $57 million.
2003: Robert MacLean
Robert MacLean is a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) who revealed a cost-cutting plan to cancel FAM coverage from long-distance flights on the eve of a confirmed al-Qaeda suicidal hijacking.
2003: Katharine Gun
British government translator Katharine Gun leaks an e-mail detailing illegal activities by the US and UK in their push to invade Iraq. In the document, a U.S. National Security Agency official requests British help with spying on UN diplomats. Gun is arrested and charged with crimes before the case is finally dropped in 2004.
2002: Coleen Rowley
Coleen Rowley of the F.B.I. outlined the agency’s slow response time to reports of suspicious activity before the 9/11 attacks. She jointly held the TIME Person of the Year award in 2002 with Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper.
2002: Jesselyn Radack
Department of Justice Ethics Advisor Jesselyn Radack warned FBI agents who sought to interrogate “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh without his legal counsel present.
2002: Cynthia Cooper
Cynthia Cooper is an American accountant who formerly served as the VP of Internal Audit at WorldCom. She and her team of auditors worked together to investigate and unearth $3.8 billion in fraud at WorldCom, the largest incident of accounting fraud in U.S. history at the time.
2001: William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe
Technical Director William Binney and Senior Analyst J. Kirk Wiebe retired from the National Security Agency (NSA) after trying to blow the whistle on NSA’s gross mismanagement and waste in connection with the failed data collection program known as Trailblazer.
2001: Jack Spadaro
Jack Spadaro headed the National Mine Safety and Health Academy when the Martin County Coal Slurry Spill occurred in October 2000, spilling 300 million gallons of coal slurry into 100 miles of streams in Kentucky and West Virginia. He participated in the federal investigation of that disaster and found evidence that the owner and operator of the impoundment dam had prior knowledge of problems with the mine. Spadaro refused to sign off on an erroneous report and resigned his position before going public with his evidence of gross wrongdoing.
2001: Sherron Watkins
Sherron Watkins was Vice President of Corporate Development at Enron. She is considered by many to be the whistleblower who helped to uncover the Enron scandal in 2001, as she alerted then-CEO Ken Lay to accounting irregularities within the company, warning that Enron ‘might implode in a wave of accounting scandals.’
2001: Joseph Nacchio
Joseph Nacchio was chairperson and CEO of Qwest when it refused to participate in NSA spying on its customers in February 2001. Qwest was the only telecom company to demand a FISA court order to hand over its customer records.
2001: John Munsell
John Munsell, a small-business owner and meat grinder, reported that a giant packing company (ConAgra) was the source of E. coli-tainted meat at his plant. His disclosures, along with deaths from the E. coli-tainted beef, spurred one of the largest recalls in history, though as much as 80% of the potentially tainted shipment had already been consumed.
2001: Bogdan Dzakovic
Bogdan Dzakovic served as a leader for the FAA’s Red Team, which conducts mock raids on airports in order to determine if airlines are equipped to thwart hijackers. Breaching security with ease (a 90% rate), Red Team members repeatedly warned that America’s airports were vulnerable, including Boston’s Logan Airport used by hijackers a few months later on 9/11. The FAA ordered the Red Team not to write up its reports, not to retest to check if security breaches had been fixed, and proceeded to forewarn airlines when the Red Team was planning to test security. After 9/11, Dzakovic blew the whistle on this abuse of secrecy.
2001: Kathryn Bolkovac
Kathryn Bolkovac is a former police investigator who served as an International Police Task Force human rights investigator in Bosnia. She cooperated with Human Rights Watch to expose the misconduct and human rights abuses committed against young girls, forced into prostitution and used as sex slaves by U.S. military contractors and other UN-related police and international organizations.
2000: Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a senior policy analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the EPA, blew the whistle on the EPA for racial and gender discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case eventually led to the passing of the No-FEAR Act in 2002 making federal agencies more accountable to employees.
1999: Cathy Harris
Cathy Harris, a former senior inspector for the U.S. Customs Service (USCS) at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, disclosed to the media the USCS practice of discriminatory racial profiling. She verified that women of African descent were targeted as possible drug couriers when only 3% of those women were actually carrying drugs, whereas drugs were found on 30% of white travelers detained and searched. Harris’ revelations resulted in a landmark GAO study of USCS profiling practices, and federal legislation to reform these unconstitutional practices.
1999: Frank Casey
Frank Casey was an equity specialist manager who discovered a money manager, Bernard Madoff, generating a suspect 12% return for investors. He took his findings to Harry Markopolos, a financial fraud investigator, who submitted documents to the SEC multiple times showing that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Madoff is arrested and charged with securities fraud, but not until 2008 when losses to investors are estimated at $18 billion. Madoff is convicted and sentenced to 150 years.
1998: Marc Hodler
Marc Hodler was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member who blew the whistle on the Winter Olympic bid scandal for the 2002 Salt Lake City games. Accusations included members taking bribes from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee during the bidding process. Ultimately, several IOC members were expelled and the IOC adopted new rules.
1996: George Galatis
Senior nuclear engineer George Galatis reported safety problems at the Millstone 1 Nuclear Power Plant relating to reactor refueling procedures. Galatis eventually took his concerns to the NRC only to find they had known about the unsafe procedures for years.
1996: David Franklin
David Franklin files a whistleblower lawsuit against Warner-Lambert exposing illegal promotion of the drug Neurontin. The ensuing investigation uncovers illegal industry-wide practices and results in a $430 million penalty to resolve criminal and civil charges.
1995: Jeffrey Wigand
Jeffrey Wigand, former vice-president for research and development for tobacco company Brown & Williamson, is interviewed by60 Minutes and discloses the company misled consumers about how addictive and hazardous cigarettes are.
1995: William Sanjour
EPA veteran William Sanjour won a landmark lawsuit against the federal government which established the First Amendment rights of federal employees to criticize their employer.
1990: Arnold Gundersen
Arnold Gundersen, a senior vice-president at consulting firm Nuclear Energy Services, discovered radioactive material in an NES accounting safe. Three weeks after he notified the company president of what he believed to be radiation safety violations, he was fired. The Office of the Inspector General later reported the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had violated its own rules by hiring NES.
1986: Casey Ruud
Auditor Casey Ruud testified to Congress about missing plutonium, and public and worker health dangers, at the nation’s nuclear weapons reservation in Hanford, Washington. His testimony led to the halting of plutonium production in the US two years prior to the end of the Cold War.
1985: Ronald J. Goldstein
Ronald J. Goldstein was a supervisor at EBASCO, a contractor for the construction of Houston Lighting and Power Company’s South Texas Project. He reported safety problems to an internal compliance program, but was fired. He then filed suit under federal nuclear whistleblower statutes but lost after a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals cited the lack of whistleblower protections for private programs. Congress then amended federal nuclear whistleblower law.
1984: John Michael Gravitt
John Michael Gravitt, a machinist foreman at General Electric, sued GE for defrauding the U.S. Department of Defense when GE began falsely billing for work on the B1 Lancer bomber. The case led to federal legislation bolstering the False Claims Act in 1986 that made it easier for whistleblowers to collect damages and a record settlement for Gravitt.
1983: Richard Parks
Richard Parks, an engineer with Bechtel Corp. blows the whistle on the cleanup of a nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island – the worst nuclear power plant accident in American history. Parks noted Bechtel and their hiring company, General Public Utilities, were rushing the cleanup by ignoring regulations set forth by the Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC). Funds were supplied to Bechtel for each cleanup task, but only after completion of the previous tasks, incentivizing them to cut corners and rush their work. After blowing the whistle, Parks was relocated and then fired. After the conclusion of drawn out legal proceedings, Parks’ disclosures led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt and then revamp the entire cleanup process at Three Mile Island.
1977: Frank Snepp
Frank Snepp, a CIA analyst at the US Embassy in Saigon, published Decent Interval about Operation Frequent Wind and failure to prepare for the fall of Saigon. Names, methods and sources were redacted from the book, but CIA Director Stansfield Turner had Snepp prosecuted for breach of contract, resulting in the loss of all income from the book’s publication.
1977: Frank Camps
Frank Camps, a senior principal design engineer with Ford Motor Company, warns Ford the design of the Pinto is unsafe. The vehicle is later withdrawn from the market after numerous accidents result in burn injuries due to its flawed design.
1975: Gregory Minor, Richard Hubbard and Dale Bridenbaugh
GE engineers Gregory Minor, Richard Hubbard and Dale Bridenbaugh reveal safety issues at nuclear power plants and subsequently resign. Over the next 15 years, more than 500 additional whistleblowers disclose further issues, resulting in the halting of construction of three plants and the overhaul of the Three Mile Island clean up.
1974: Karen Silkwood
Union activist Karen Silkwood, a technician at the Kerr-McGee plutonium fuels production plant in Oklahoma, is in the process of gathering evidence about plant safety negligence when she is killed in a mysterious car crash.
1972: Mark Felt
After a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover ties between the break-in and the White House. Anonymous source “Deep Throat” gives reporters information that eventually leads to President Nixon’s resignation. In 2005, Deep Throat is revealed to be W. Mark Felt, former associate director of the F.B.I.
1972: Peter Buxtun
While working for the US Public Health Service, Peter Buxtun realizes the agency is studying the effects of syphilis by monitoring 399 African-American men who are neither told they have the disease nor treated for it. After Buxtun takes the story to the press and a series of Congressional hearings are held, a $10 million class-action settlement is paid to victims and their families.
1971: Perry Fellwock
NSA intelligence analyst Perry Fellwock exposed secret surveillance practices in an interview with Ramparts magazine under the pseudonym Winslow Peck. Legislation was passed in 1973 to stop the NSA from spying, but later ignored.
1971: Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, a former US military analyst and government contractor, discloses a classified government study about the Vietnam War later known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg’s act proved several administrations had directly lied to Congress and the public about their intentions and actions in Vietnam. This led to protests, contributed to the resignation of Nixon, and emboldened the media when the Supreme Court decided against prior restraint in New York Times Co. v. United States.
1970: Frank Serpico
After police officer Frank Serpico reports police corruption to his superiors for several years and no action is taken, he approaches The New York Times with a story that ultimately forces New York City mayor John Lindsay to establish a commission to investigate police corruption.
1969: Ron Ridenhour
Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour, an ex-Army helicopter gunner, writes a letter to Congress and the Pentagon describing events at My Lai during the Vietnam War, including the torture, sexual abuse, mutilation and mass murder of hundreds of unarmed civilians.
1968: A. Ernest Fitzgerald
A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a Department of Defense auditor, reports a $2.3 billion cost overrun in the Lockheed C-5 aircraft program. President Nixon reportedly tells aides to fire Fitzgerald, but he’s reinstated four years later. In the late 1980s, Fitzgerald plays a part in the investigation that reveals the Pentagon has purchased $200 hammers and $900 toilet seats.
1966: James Boyd and Marjorie Carpenter
Congressional aide James Boyd and secretary Marjorie Carpenter expose documents from the office of Senator Thomas Dodd to show Dodd used more than $200,000 in unreported campaign funds for personal expenses. Dodd is censured and loses his seat in the next election.
1963: John Paul Vann
John Paul Vann, an American colonel, reported to his superiors (and, later, the media) that American policy and tactics during the Vietnam War were seriously flawed. He was asked to resign his commission.
1962: Rachel Carson
Through her watershed book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson exposed the residual effects of DDT chemicals on animals and humans, inspiring the widespread ban on DDT chemicals that went into effect in 1972.
1933: Smedley Butler
Through secret congressional testimony and a book entitled War is a Racket, retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler exposed government corruption known as “The Business Plot” that aimed to overthrow FDR’s presidency.
1906: Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair exposes conditions inside Chicago pig slaughterhouses through his novel, The Jungle.
1872: Julius Chambers
Julius Chambers, one of America’s first investigative journalists, admitted himself to New York’s Bloomingdale Insane Asylum and published an exposé proving patient abuse. 12 patients were subsequently released and laws were substantially re-written.
1777: Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven
US naval officers Samuel Shaw and Richard Marven revealed the torture of British POWs by the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy. The following year, the Continental Congress unanimously enacted the first whistleblower protection law.
1773: Benjamin Franklin
Confidential letters exposed by Benjamin Franklin proved the governor of Massachusetts misled Parliament to promote a military buildup in the new world. The governor was dishonorably discharged and exiled.