Pushback Against Obama War on Whistleblowers

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The New York Times reports that federal employees “commuting to work in the nation’s capital are finding fresh food for thought as they wait for the bus — glossy six-foot posters with an open invitation to blow the whistle on bad stuff happening at the office.”

The Times notes that 13 of the billboards “have been posted along public thoroughfares amid Washington’s workspace warrens, where thousands of employees and contractors toil, many in secrecy.”

The six-foot billboards feature a message from Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: “Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until a new war has started, don’t wait until thousands more have died, before you tell the truth with documents that reveal lies or crimes or internal projections of costs and dangers. You might save a war’s worth of lives.”

Ellsberg has joined with NSA, State Department, EPA and Justice Department whistleblowers to help launch ExposeFacts, which is sponsoring the billboards. The new organization is part of the nonprofit Institute for Public Accuracy.

The money for the billboards was provided by small donations from more than 600 individuals who responded to an appeal from the online activism group RootsAction.org.

For information on the ExposeFacts mission “for whistleblowing, journalism and democracy,” go to ExposeFacts.org. To see the Ellsberg billboard, click here. For exact billboard locations, click here.

The following members of the ExposeFacts advisory and editorial boards are available for interviews:

ANN WRIGHT, microann at yahoo.com

Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves, and a former State Department official. She helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001. In 2003, she resigned in opposition to the then-impending invasion of Iraq. She has since co-authored the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience about whistleblowers.

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh at ciponline.org

Hoh, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He was subsequently appointed Senior Civilian Representative of the U.S. government for Zabul Province in Afghanistan. Five months into his year-long contract in 2009, Hoh resigned and became the highest-ranking U.S. official to publicly renounce U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Hoh was awarded The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling in 2010.

He said: “It took years of involvement with a mendacious war policy, evidence of which was apparent to me as early as 2003, before I found the courage to follow my conscience. … It is not an easy or light decision for anyone to make, but we need members of our military, development, diplomatic and intelligence community to speak out if we are ever to have a just and sound foreign policy. … I trust ExposeFacts and its efforts will encourage others to follow their conscience and do what is right.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He said today: “These billboards are urging people who work in Washington to consider the consequences of silence, conformity and fear — which the Bush and Obama administrations have tried so hard to inculcate and enforce. The words from Daniel Ellsberg are powerful because they connect a lack of truth with horrific consequences of wars waged and lives lost.”

Solomon added: “The consent of the governed is real only if it’s the informed consent of the governed. That’s what genuine democracy requires. That’s what the Ellsberg billboard is saying. … The billboard is just the beginning of major outreach for whistleblowing in the nation’s capital and around the country. Propelled by the knowledge, wisdom and courage of several dozen whistleblowers and independent journalists on the ExposeFacts advisory board, we’re moving ahead to challenge government policies that are antithetical to the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

“Overall, we desperately need to nurture and propagate a steadfast culture of forthright whistleblowing. Whether the dire problems involve perpetual war, corporate malfeasance, climate change, institutionalized racism, patterns of sexual assault, toxic pollution or countless other ills, none can be alleviated without bringing grim realities into the light.”

Solomon is the author of a dozen books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

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