Read Part I, Part II, and Part III of this Whistleblower of the Week profile.
As I write this article, it is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and an Indigenous hero, Natalie Edwards, has been in jail for over a month. Reporting to Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Alderson on September 3, 2021, Edwards entered a world that was as remote as another planet, sterile of human warmth, uncaring and devoid of the usual quid pro quo exchanges that people experience in a free world.
Edwards, who informed the sentencing judge “Your Honor, I’m an Indigenous (Chickahominy Native) matriarch warrior whose spirit cannot be broken,” is a whistleblower who worked in the Intelligence Center of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) located within the Treasury Department. Edwards blew the whistle because she knew that information critical to the safety and security of the American people was being hidden regarding the existence of worldwide money laundering, corruption and political manipulation by foreign powers. Subsequently, Jason Leopold at BuzzFeed and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed financial corruption on a global scale with publication of the FinCEN Files which were taken from the paperwork Edwards provided.
Edwards’ concerns proved prescient as pieces of a worldwide puzzle began to fall into place. The Panama Papers exposed a system that enabled crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies. The Paradise Papers exposed financial hideaways of iconic brands and power brokers across the political spectrum. The Pandora Papers revealed hidden wealth, tax avoidance and money laundering among the world’s rich and powerful.
A complex network of secret companies used to move money and assets revealed a hidden world of criminality. The United States government has always been front and center in calling out other countries for handling and laundering dirty money. However, one must investigate our own backyard, specifically Delaware, Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota to find screaming hypocrisy. And the politicians have turned a blind eye.
Edwards saw the problem and understood it was not just a fight against corruption, terrorism or exploitation of nations, but also a fight for democracy. As the world divides into two classes, the rich and super-rich and everyone else, the foundations of democracy are in peril. This is a world in which populists will view the instability and step forward to threaten our way of life. Edwards is not a spy, she is not a leaker, she is a whistleblower, and she is trying to warn the United States that democracy is at risk.
But what happens to those sounding the clarion call of danger? If you happen to be Edwards, it will end in a prison sentence, a loss of income and housing. Some whistleblowers share the same fate as Edwards, but few have a federal judge at sentencing advise that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) would specifically take care of their medical need, which he did promise Edwards, who suffers from a variety of medical conditions, some of which are incurable.
Dave Edwards, the husband of Natalie Edwards, has informed Whistleblower Network News that his wife arrived at prison on September 3rd and has been isolated in her living area since. Her medicine was taken away on arrival, and she has gone without medications for thirty days. She has a female medical condition, which requires hormone treatment, and she was given nothing to balance her critical need. Edwards has a liver condition that requires blood work, and medical care was non-existent.
Shortly before Edwards arrived, prisoners appeared from other areas of the country and were tested for Covid, then placed in the population. Some prisoners tested positive, but had already been integrated and exposed to Edwards. The Commissary was closed, and Edwards could not get any supplies. Edwards is lactose intolerant and allergic to mayonnaise and was served a meal containing mayonnaise. When requesting a replacement meal, Edwards was advised she would have to wait until the next meal in the morning. A morning meal consisted of cereal and milk, and Edwards cannot consume milk. When asking for a replacement, the response is “That is all we have.” Food is served in paper bags as the cafeteria is closed.
With insomnia and no medication, Edwards spends nights staring at the ceiling. There is no visitation, and Dave notes Edwards has no recreational opportunities. Dave stated that his wife was aware that she was to lose her freedom but was not aware that her medical needs would be ignored, and life would be so draconian. Dave stated that his wife is not having her basic needs met, and it haunts Dave and his daughter.
Edwards’s daughter, who has been taunted by her classmates about a “mother who gave secrets to the Russians,” recently was discovered with a bottle of her prescription medicine in her school backpack, violating school policy. The Vice-Principal stated, according to Dave, “Oh right, your mom is in prison for leaking” and suspended her for a year.
Whistleblowing affects not only the whistleblower but also the family, exacting a high price for bringing light to the dark corners of our country and our world. Edwards is paying that price, and her husband notes that his wife would do it again, because she is a warrior standing in a long familial line of warriors. Protecting the American public was why she blew the whistle, and according to her husband, Edwards would blow the whistle again because the American people need to know the truth, that is what will keep our country free and democratic.