Government Executive: Snowden Draws Standing Ovation at ‘Truth-Telling’ Awards Ceremony

Before a packed crowd of whistleblower rights supporters and civil liberties advocates in Washington DC yesterday, NSA whistleblower/GAP client Edward Snowden and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Laura Poitras each accepted the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling via videoconference. The now world-famous whistleblower delivered a moving speech in accepting the highest honor a whistleblower can receive.

Snowden’s remarks included:

“A year ago there’s no way I could have imagined I’d be being honored in this room, never imagined this level of support…”

“I thought the most likely outcome would be spending the rest of my life in prison … I did it because it was the right thing to do, and now I see I’m not the only one who felt that way.”

“When [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper raised his hand and lied to the American public, was anyone tried? Were any charges brought? … Within 24 hours of going public, I had three charges against me.”

GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, Snowden’s attorney, accepted the award in person for the whistleblower along with Lon Snowden, Edward’s father. The whistleblower was honored for “exposing the scope of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance state,” while Poitras won for her “reporting and vital role in the NSA disclosures.” Previous GAP clients that have won this prize include Countrywide/Bank of America whistleblower Eileen Foster (2012), NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake (2011), and White House/climate science whistleblower Rick Piltz (2006).

Key Quote (Reuters): Snowden and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who worked with Snowden to reveal NSA documents he took from his job, were given the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, an award to promote transparency and whistle-blowing, at a ceremony in Washington on Wednesday. Snowden appeared on a video link-up from Russia and Poitras appeared from Berlin.

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for Snowden, said his temporary asylum in Russia will expire at the end of June but that “prospects are good” for it to be renewed.

“Obviously, he misses America and would like to be able to come home,” she said. “We just don’t see that happening in the near future.”

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Whistleblower Peter Buxtun and the Tuskeegee Syphilis Study

This guest post on GAP’s blog from two notable physician-whistleblowers relays the story of Peter Buxtun, the whistleblower credited with exposing the heinous Tuskeegee syphilis study conducted by the federal government in which poverty-stricken African-Americans infected with syphilis were not told they had the disease or treated for it, but rather simply monitored for decades (in pain and death). In March, a local journalist society conferred its James Madison Whistleblower Award to Buxtun.

Key QuoteAlarmed by “disturbing similarities” between the Tuskegee Study and crimes revealed at the 1947 Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial, Buxtun wrote a report comparing the Nazi experiments and “the syphilitic damage which these men were being allowed to endure.” His immediate supervisors were not pleased. One responded; “I’ll send your report up the line, but remember I have a wife and kids. Please forget my name when they ask you why you did this.” Another scorned his report as “trash,” insisting, “the men were all volunteers.”

Somehow, the USPHS doctors didn’t see the relevance of the Nuremberg Code to their own research, and had insulated themselves from informed consent procedures widely-adopted in the mid-1960s. After dispatching his critique to headquarters, Buxtun was flown to Atlanta to confer with top USPHS doctors. They defended their use of Tuskegee “volunteers.” Buxtun countered they were “nothing more than dupes … being used as human guinea pigs.” One doctor “was infuriated and thought of me as some form of lunatic who needed chastisement – and proceeded to administer it.” The doctors extolled the study’s value for physicians. Buxtun advocated for the rights of research subjects. Having “dropped a bomb into their laps” he foresaw his firing. Instead, nothing happened.

People’s World: Weak Laws Let Whistleblower at Caterpillar Plant Hang Out to Dry

Earlier this week, a worker from an Illinois Caterpillar plant urged a U.S. Senate subcommittee to strengthen occupational safety whistleblower protections. The worker had witnessed on-the-job retaliation against a colleague who was injured due to a safety lockout violation. Caterpillar was forced to pay a fine for the violation, but due to a missed filing deadline, the whistleblower complaint was dismissed. The OSHA administrator recommends that protections be strengthened via extended filing deadlines. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine participated in the hearing.


Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.