Whistleblowers play a vital role in stopping government misconduct, but they often pay a heavy price. "Retaliation can include marginalization, firings, loss of promotions, and even death threats," writes Katherine Uraneck. Thomas Devine of the Government Accountability Project says whistleblowers should expect some retaliation. "Before sticking their necks out, whistleblowers should carefully plan a survival strategy," he advises.
In the last decade, 26 countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens' right of access to government information. Now freedom of information advocates have a global internet link: freedominfo.org, a virtual network that offers summaries of existing laws governing access to information in 45 countries, along with current news and analysis.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has joined senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy in warning that the Bush Administration's proposed new cabinet-level Homeland Security Department threatens long-standing American freedoms while eliminating legal safeguards necessary to keep the agency open and accountable to the public.
"Security guards, secret guest lists and silent sponsors were not what some participants were expecting when they turned up at a meeting in Sydney earlier this year to discuss new medicines. Billed as a 'Collaborative Forum' at the University of NSW, the invitation had been signed by three medical groups including Arthritis Australia. Academic kudos for the forum was provided by a major report prepared by the University of Canberra.
The news media is generally failing to report the historic verdict against the FBI in the 1990 bombing of non-violent environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. That would not surprise Judi, were she alive today. In her book Timber Wars she described how the news media eagerly parroted the FBI's lies and deception, casting Bari and fellow bomb victim Cherney as terrorists. "The news quickly went national, with newspapers across the country screaming about Earth First!ers carrying bombs. It was the only time we ever made the front page of the New York Times.
"The Pentagon has made a decision that threatens to keep the American public and Congress in the dark about how things are going with the Bush administration's high-priority missile defense program," says Philip E. Coyle III, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense. "Equally disturbing," he adds, is the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency "new policy of withholding information from the Pentagon's own independent review offices, such as the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
"To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft - working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director 'J. Edgar' Mueller III - has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government," writes conservative pundit William Safire.
"In the eight months since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the Bush administration has moved more quickly than any administration since World War II to make government activities, documents and other information secret," reports USA Today. "Hundreds of thousands of public documents have been removed from government Web sites. Other public information has been edited, and access to some materials has been made more difficult.
In their resignation letters, the top two members of the Ombudsman Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have accused the agency of covering up the existence of deadly pollution in the area of the destroyed World Trade Center towers in New York. Emergency workers who were sent to the scene and residents of Lower Manhattan are developing serious, and in some cases, life-threatening respiratory ailments and other health problems.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul who already owns most of the country's television outlets, is trying to stamp out the few voices of dissent left on the airwaves. "On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 'criminal use' of state television," reports the New York Times. ... Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television 'cannot be so seditious.'"