Defending Whistleblowers

THE public is well served by the courageous few who put their careers at risk by going public about a dangerous or unethical situation in their area of work.

The latest example of such noble whistleblowing is Enron's Sherron Watkins, who brought to light the accounting fiction of Enron's books.

But she, like many whistleblowers, had difficulties getting the truth out. About 90 percent of whistleblowers experience some reprisal or threat of one.

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A public forum is being held on Capitol Hill this week to drum up more protection for public truth-tellers, whether they be in aviation, nuclear power plants, border security, or the military.

Many parts of government rely on secrecy for their work but, as Tom Devine of the watchdog Government Accountability Project points out in these post-9/11 days: "Secrecy can be a threat to national security. It can sustain government breakdowns that create vulnerability to terrorism."

The 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act needs to have some loopholes closed, and a bipartisan effort within Congress to do just that is gaining momentum.

Congress should seize the opportunity to make sure citizens who sound the alarm have the rights - and protections - they need in order to help safeguard the greater society.

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