It is time for President Biden to honor the history and contributions of whistleblowers who have made this a better nation. Today, a group of whistleblowers launched a campaign calling on President Biden to sign an Executive Order to make July 30th a permanent day of recognition for whistleblowers. This Executive Order would require every federal agency to provide their employees with whistleblower education each year on National Whistleblower Day.
The United States government has progressed in handling whistleblowers since 1998, when I notified the FBI of criminal conduct and malfeasance in Indian Country regarding Crimes Against Children. The coverup of sexual assault against Indian children and subsequent whistleblowing in 2001 on Theft from Ground Zero ended my highly successful twenty-five-year career in the FBI. Subsequently, Congress has passed numerous bills strengthening protections for whistleblowers. Congress’s work on behalf of whistleblowers has enabled the United States to become the leading country in the world in fighting corruption.
However, what will be critical in ensuring a healthy future for whistleblowing is something larger than any single piece of legislation: we need to change the culture. We must adopt a new way to handle employees who speak truth to power when faced with criminality, corruption, and misconduct. Most of the time, whistleblowers are met with marginalization, retaliation, and termination. We need to flip the script on societal attitudes toward whistleblowers. Instead of seeing them as “skunks at a picnic,” we must recognize whistleblowers for their bravery and integrity.
In the past twenty-five years, I have gone from a federal law enforcement agent to a whistleblower, then whistleblower advocate, and have seen some changes in how whistleblowers are perceived. Significant change is possible, but it must come from the very top. We have made progress through grassroots efforts, but whistleblowers are still vilified and pushed to the fringe of society. Corporations and government agencies still incite fear and retaliation against those with the integrity to speak out against criminality. We must encourage a culture of celebrating those who step forward to prevent fraud.
Whistleblowers provide transparency to the public and are invaluable in assisting law enforcement with investigations of corruption, bribes, and fraud. Whistleblowers are critical in business, identifying corrupt practices and providing a system of internal checks and balances preventing criminal activity from taking root and flourishing. Whistleblowers provide the foundation of truth and integrity in any action.
Since 2013, the United States Senate has passed a unanimous resolution supporting National Whistleblower Day. Whistleblowers have brought Republicans and Democrats together, consistently showing the important contribution of whistleblowers to the country. The overwhelming majority of Americans support whistleblowers.
The time has come for a culture change, for President Biden to elevate whistleblowers to the status they deserve as people of integrity. It is time to support whistleblowers by making National Whistleblower Day permanent. The world needs to know the United States government stands behind whistleblowers, provides recognition, and honors their sacrifices.
That is why I am joining with the courageous whistleblowers Sherron Watkins, Fred Whitehurst, Aaron Westrick, and Bunny Greenhouse to call upon President Biden to command every federal agency to recognize National Whistleblower Day. In doing so, he would honor this country’s long history of supporting whistleblowers. It was, after all, in 1778 when the first United States whistleblower law was passed by the Continental Congress at the height of the Revolutionary War.
And it was Abraham Lincoln who, on this day in 1863, signed the False Claims Act into law to curb corruption occurring during the Civil War. The historical whistleblower actions taken by some of our most revered and forward-thinking leaders are a testament to the importance of whistleblowing. With his pen, President Biden can stand with those heroes of long ago, reinstating the historical tradition of respect, honor, and justice for whistleblowers.
Please join us in urging President Biden to sign an Executive Order to permanently recognize July 30th as National Whistleblower Day. Join the Campaign!