"I have served my country for almost thirty years ... I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of this Administration and cannot – morally and professionally – defend or implement them. It is with a heavy heart that I must end my service to America and therefore resign."
In March 2003, retired Army Colonel and former U.S. Diplomat Ann Wright resigned in response to the U.S. decision to invade and occupy Iraq. While Ann Wright does not consider herself a whistleblower, she has highlighted and publicized whistleblowers, particularly government insiders who spoke out against the Iraq War, in her book “Dissent, Voices of Conscience.” She continues to honor them through sharing an abbreviated history of whistleblowers, their role in shaping peace movements, and her vision of their role, and ours, in the future.
Ann began her discussion with Daniel Ellsberg’s 1971 publication of top secret U.S. government documents regarding the Vietnam War. Te study revealed the government had information early on that the war was not likely to be won, would result in far greater causalities than was publicly admitted, and that the government was lyingto the American public about secret bombing campaigns in Laos and Cambodia. For his bravery in copying the study and getting it published in major newspapers in the U.S., Ellsberg faced threats of physical harm and charges under the Espionage Act, carrying a maximum sentence of 115 years. However, the Nixon administration gathered evidence against Ellsberg illegally, so the charges were dismissed.
In the last decade, people have continued in Ellsberg’s groundbreaking footsteps by speaking out for human rights and constitutional principles. After the September 11, 2001 tragedy, two women held the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) account-able for mishandling critical information. FBI agent Coleen Rowley wrote a memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller and testified before the Senate for 9/11 Commission regarding the FBI’s negligence, while a contract FBI employee, Sibel Edmonds, provided evidence of a cover-up involving a U.S. government official’s payoff from another government.
In 2004, U.S. Army Specialist Joe Darby provided photographic evidence to theU.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command that displayed soldiers mistreating and torturing prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in violation of the Geneva Conventions. After being assured anonymity, he was publicly exposed by Donald Rumsfeld, which forced him into military protective custody and later into the Federal witness protection program.
Last year, U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning allegedly disclosed over 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghani-stan to the website WikiLeaks. He spent ten months in pre-trial “maximum custody” solitary confinement at Quantico Marine Base where Daniel Ellsberg and Ann Wright were arrested on March 20, 2011 at a rally protesting the inhumane conditions of his detention. He was recently transferred to a medium-security facility. Whistleblowers demonstrate there are people within the government who will not let government officials get away with violating our laws. They are voices of conscience willing to challenge authority, even at great personal expense, by exposing lies, corruption, criminal actions and immoral policies. Whistleblowers encourage others to be skeptical and critical of half truths delivered to the public. Although they may be terminated, prosecuted and threatened for their dissent, whistleblowersare true patriots who hold our nation to a higher standard of democracy and morality.
Wright provides three steps for supporting whistleblowers:
1. Protect whistleblowers! Federal and state regulations have been enacted to protect whistleblowers, yet these regulations are being ignored. We must pressure Congress to pass laws which truly protect those who speak up and expose wrongdoing of government officials.
2.Support whistleblowers! If/when whistleblowers are alienated by their communities and demonized by the government, we must welcome them into our community and offer our help and appreciation.
3.Prosecute wrongdoers! We cannot let the sacrifices of whistleblowers be made in vain. We must hold our elected officials accountable and prosecute them for their violations of U.S. law.
Compiled from an interview by Sarah Dobson
Excerpt from the May 2011 Washington Peace Letter, a publication of the Washington Peace Center