Another Whistleblower Highlights The Futility Of The 'Proper Channels'

from the shut-up,-they-investigated dept

Yet another whistleblower is detailing their depressing experiences with the “proper channels.” Writing for The Intercept, former CIA imagery analyst Patrick Eddington discusses the attempts the CIA made to prevent information on US soldiers’ exposure to chemical weapons during the Gulf War from being made public.

My own experience in 1995-96 is illustrative. Over a two-year period working with my wife, Robin (who was a CIA detailee to a Senate committee at the time), we discovered that, contrary to the public statements by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell and other senior George H. W. Bush administration officials (including CIA Director John Deutch), American troops had in fact been exposed to chemical agents during and after the 1991 war with Saddam Hussein. While the Senate Banking Committee under then-Chairman Don Riegle, D-Mich., was trying to uncover the truth of this, officials at the Pentagon and CIA were working to bury it.

When Eddington objected to the burial attempts, he was placed under investigation by the CIA. The agency also questioned his wife, asking if Eddington would find his “conscience” more important than his secrecy agreements with the CIA. What the CIA seemed completely unconcerned with was the subject matter it obviously didn’t want anyone to discuss.

The agency didn’t care about helping to find out why hundreds of thousands of American Desert Storm veterans were ill. All it cared about was whether I’d keep my mouth shut about what the secret documents and reports in its databases had to say about the potential or actual chemical exposures to our troops.

With the proper channels in lockdown mode, Eddington went in another direction. He published a book on his whistleblowing experience, but only after his lawsuit forced the agency to declassify documents it hastily reclassified when it became apparent Eddington was going public. Faced with the inevitable, the CIA finally disclosed to the public that it had been burying information on troops’ exposure to chemical weapons during the operations in Kuwait and Iraq.

And while Eddington had to deal with the CIA’s investigation and attempts to bury both him and the info he was trying to alert lawmakers about, those actually involved in the suppression escaped unscathed.

None of the CIA or Pentagon officials who perpetrated the cover-up were fired or prosecuted.

Eddington goes on to note that Bill Binney suffered through the same experience when trying to blow the whistle on NSA surveillance. Binney’s experience at the hands of the proper channels — following an attempt to institute a less intrusive surveillance program — led directly to Snowden’s decision to cut and run after being thwarted in his attempts to have his concerns addressed.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from years of whistleblower prosecutions is that the government truly isn’t interested in listening to blown whistles.

We now live in a country where the committees charged with reining in excessive domestic spying instead too often act as apologists and attack dogs for the agencies they are charged with regulating.

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Comments on “Another Whistleblower Highlights The Futility Of The 'Proper Channels'”

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17 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

No really, THIS time it will work!

Bah, just because there’s a long, consistent history of the government shooting the messenger rather than dealing with a problem it doesn’t mean that the ‘proper channels’ aren’t working! Clearly it’s the fault of those trai- concerned individuals for using those channels wrong, or talking to the wrong people, or not accepting that they need to shut their damn mouths because those who know better have already decided that the public has no gorram right to know what’s happening!

Ahem, which is to say that the lesson future whistleblowers should take from this is that the proper channels are absolutely the correct way to bring concerns to light, but patience may be required as it can sometimes take the government a little time to get to their particular issue, and you shouldn’t be concerned if the government pays more attention to you than the concern you raised because of course serious issues require serious responses, and one of these is making sure that would-be-whistleblowers aren’t the sort to make mountains out of mole-hills.

Daydream says:

Moral of the story!

If you know someone has committed a crime, don’t find them in private and ask them to admit culpability, especially if you haven’t told anyone else.

Go to the po-…oh, wait, US police are crooked too, aren’t they?

I dunno what to do then. Steal back what they stole and return it? Destroy the incriminating or compromising photos? Burn down your suspect’s house and blame it on terrorists?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

While most of this is (depressingly) par for the course, business as usual, I just have to wonder about one point.

While the Senate Banking Committee under then-Chairman Don Riegle, D-Mich., was trying to uncover the truth of this, officials at the Pentagon and CIA were working to bury it.

The Senate Banking Committee?!? Why in the world were they the ones investigating this, rather than something more military-oriented?

Anonymous Coward says:

proper channels

is equivalent to be lead willingly to the slaughter.

It is the final word for “you are stuck in your shitty position”.

Every place I have been, I hand around while the going is good, but when things even look like they are about to go south, I get the fuck outta dodge as reasonably fast as I can.

No one gives a fuck about you, never have, and fucking never will. Take care of #1, no one else is going to. There are layers between you and upper management for very good reasons that directly benefit upper management and have nothing to do with benefiting the lowly worker bees. You are always pissed on so if you keep standing there, it soon becomes your fault as you are now part of the problem.

Personanongrata says:

Disgraceful CYA Operation

Another Whistleblower Highlights The Futility Of The ‘Proper Channels’

The only Proper Channels available for whistleblowers seeking to disclose governmental malfeasance is releasing/liberating the information into the public domain thus allowing citizens to make informed judgements about the operations of the US government and it’s agents.

The attempt to cover-up the exposure of US service persons to chemical/biological agents during the Gulf War (1990-91 also from 2003-2011) is plain and simple a CYA (cover your ass) operation put into effect to protect those involved from embarrassment and possible legal jeopardy.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

The U.S. Government has stated they want whistle blowers to come forward if they have concerns about wrongdoing in Government agencies and that is what they want their very own employees and the public to believe and of course they always say how this is about change and transparency.

However the Obama administration has punished more whistle blowers than any other administration in U.S. history. So how can any whistle blower find the courage to come forward when wrong doing has been found when you face the possibility of facing a criminal prosecution?

How does a whistle blower bring forward concerns of wrongdoing to the very government that is prosecuting whistle blowers whom the goverment is supposed to be protecting if they step forward? No whistle blower is going to come forward knowing they will be punished.

This is why sites like Wikileaks are valuable due to the fact that a whistle blower can stick their neck out without their head being chopped off. I am no Assange fan, but I do agree with the principal of why Wikileaks was started.

Their is no way for a whistle blower to bring information forward other than to go to an outside source due to the fear of being prosecuted for bring information forward.

It is sad that the goverment and the people who run it are more concerned with saving face and grifting rather than fixing the mess and corruption that plagues it and makes it so inefficent

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