Punishing Whistleblowers


Jason Vest has a profile in Government Executive about Torin Nelson, a military interrogator who was one of the whistleblowers alerting officials to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. And where is he now? Struggling to find contract work with the military. “They’re saying there’s no blacklisting policy, but there’s clearly a blacklist.” It sure seems that way. Here’s what someone who does the right thing can look forward to these days:

All Nelson did was pass on what little he had heard and had been able to document. And as far as he was concerned, he’d already paid a fair price for doing the right thing. It was bad enough that word of his meeting with investigators leaked almost immediately at Abu Ghraib. The ostracization that followed was far from pleasant. Worse were the thinly veiled death threats that convinced even as formidable a man as Nelson that he had no choice but to flee not just Abu Ghraib, but Iraq.

Comparatively speaking, Nelson hasn’t had the worst of it. Darby [the main whistleblower at Abu Ghraib] and his family, for example, had to be taken into protective custody after receiving death threats. After Provance [yet another whistleblower] spoke to the media about Abu Ghraib and the Fay investigation, his superiors ordered him to cease contact with the press, and subsequently suspended his security clearance, reassigned him and demoted him. Through the graces of Provance’s home state senator, torture opponent Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Provance did address a congressional subcommittee on whistleblower protection in February.

Nelson, by the way, is now running for congress in Utah.

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