Freelance journalist, activist, and artist Jed Alexander recently interviewed FBI whistleblower Jane Turner of WNN about her work as a special agent and her experience blowing the whistle on the cover-up of child sex crimes on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Turner describes the beginnings of her career at the FBI as the bureau’s first female SWAT member and the first female Profile Coordinator. She also talks about her inherent talent for quickly and accurately reading people and situations and how that skill helped her in what was a difficult field for women at the time.
WNN reached out to Alexander to ask him about his new interview series “The Whistleblower Project,” which focuses on whistleblowers.
WNN: Why did you decide to embark on this podcast?
JA: It started through my research at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. I was taking a course on Investigative Journalism under Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gary Cohn, and found my motivation was a combination of the whistleblower complaint and first impeachment trial of former President Trump, and an older whistleblower story I remembered from the 1990’s involving Jeffrey Wigand and the tobacco industry. Aside from being a freelance journalist and artist, it was the “activist” part of these stories that drew me in. Being an activist myself, it always blows my mind when someone takes that bold step of speaking out on wrongdoing on such a grand level. In these cases, the individual or individuals take that step with a chance of retaliation occurring. At that point they can’t look back.
WNN: What is most inspiring about talking to whistleblowers?
JA: How they’ve all persevered through tough circumstances by simply telling the truth. They’ve all carried on with their lives under unimaginable physical and psychological stress.
WNN: Is there a consistent theme in the interviews?
JA: Great question. Each “chapter” or “part” serves as a separate function or stand-alone story. Though they all fall under the same umbrella of whistleblowers. If there was a theme, I’d say it was either “perseverance under difficult circumstances” and/or “the ability to hold those in power accountable for their actions.” The series isn’t completed yet, so perhaps that single overall theme has yet to develop.
WNN: Anything else in particular you’d like to say about the interview with Jane?
JA: I’ve had many followers on social media platforms see the story the way they want. Some see it as “anti-establishment,” “anti-government,” or a “deep-state conspiracy.” Others simply support Jane’s strength and bravery for speaking out. I want people to know that Jane still thinks the FBI has the ability to do good things and serve the country in a positive way. She’s not looking to harm or destroy the agency. People need to know that and separate the two.
In the interview, Turner distills the essence of what it means to be a whistleblower elegantly and precisely. “One day I was in the supermarket and it came to me: If not me, who? If not now, when? And I realized, I couldn’t back off. It’s just who you are.”
The series contains several other excellent interviews with whistleblowers like MD, Rev. Neil Patrick Carrick, who blew the whistle on financial and sexual abuse by church leaders. Alexander also interviewed John Kostyack, former Executive Director for the National Whistleblower Center about his work and the current state of whistleblowing.