Accuracy in Media

Those of us who have been challenging the official stories about the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800 and the circumstances surrounding the death of Vincent Foster are frequently told that our charges of cover up cannot be true. We are told that it would be impossible for the government to cover up wrongdoing in these cases because there would be many people who would know the truth and some of them would step forward to expose the cover-up.

Accuracy in Media decided to address this question at a conference in Washington on October 24. The conference focused on what happens to whistleblowers, people who come forward to expose lies and other wrongdoing within the government. It also dealt with what had happened to individuals who had come forward with evidence of official cover-ups in the TWA 800 and the Foster cases.

David Colapinto, a Washington attorney who has represented whistleblowers for over ten years, pointed out that while there are laws that are supposed to encourage and protect whistleblowers, these laws do little to encourage government employees to expose wrongdoing. Colapinto said those who do come forward do so under the illusion that their information will reach a responsible person who will see that the problems that they complained about will be corrected.

Colapinto said, “The harsh reality is that it’s extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, to have comparable work in the same industry or profession following whistleblowing activity.” He cited a six-year study of 64 whistleblowers in government and industry which showed that less than one-third of them were able to keep their jobs. He said those that found other employment, did not usually find jobs as good as those they lost. In several cases, when they found jobs in the same field, they were fired when their employers learned that they had been whistleblowers.

Rather than being rewarded for their honesty and courage, whistleblowers are punished. They are usually fired or forced to retire. They may even be harassed and prosecuted. Patrick Knowlton, a key witness in the Vince Foster case who refused FBI efforts to get him to change his testimony, found himself subjected to frightening harassment. Capt. Terry Stacey, a TWA pilot assigned to the TWA 800 investigation, leaked documents and other evidence that exposed a cover-up by the FBI investigative team. Both he and Jim Sanders, the journalist to whom he leaked the evidence, were arrested and prosecuted. The President issued an executive order denying Navy personnel who participated in the salvage operation coverage by the Whistleblower Protection Act.

David Colapinto says that if whistleblowers consult a superior about the problem, they are usually told to forget it. If they persist, virtually all of them experience retaliation. It can range from being fired to being isolated and given demeaning work. If they go public and hire attorneys, they are likely to find the litigation involved in fighting for their rights can become a job that consumes most of their time and financial resources. Many become depressed. This is why so few who see serious wrongdoing blow the whistle to expose it.

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