The past week has seen lots of good news for former Ridenhour recipients. First there was the signing into law a bill that will provide healthcare to all those affected by the water contamination at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the subject of the 2012 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize-winning film, Semper Fi: Always Faithful. Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, who led the fight to expose the issue, was present in the Oval Office, along with the filmmakers Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon.
Just today, another 2012 Ridenhour winner, Eileen Foster, who won the Prize for Truth-Telling, wrote an Op-Ed for Rolling Stone in which she takes the Obama administration to task for its singular lack of protection of whistleblower. Foster, a former Countrywide/BofA fraud investigator, was unjustly let go in 2008 for uncovering a widespread pattern of fraud commission-hungry loan officers. She writes:
The federal government, meanwhile, has done little or nothing to protect whistleblowers.
Over the last 10 years, the Department of Labor has found merit in less than 2% of over 1200 whistleblowers cases brought under the Sarbanes Oxley Act. The vast majority having been dismissed on legal technicalities without any investigation into the potential crimes being reported. Claims that should be resolved in 60 days are taking 2-4 years. The Obama administration plans to add thousands of investigators to enforce the health care reform law, but has added just 25 positions to investigate whistleblower claims.
Years after the onset of the financial crisis, caused in large part by deceptive lending, not one executive has been charged and imprisoned – either for fraud or obstruction of justice. For comparison, consider that prosecutors cleaning up the Savings and Loan scandal of the 1980s sent more than 800 bank officials to jail.
In 2010, I was interviewed by the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) and offered evidence of systemic fraud. Other whistleblowers have done the same. The Commission's report concluded that fraudulent actions were systemic in certain financial institutions, and referred these practices to federal authorities. Not a single successful criminal prosecution has resulted.
And earlier this week, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart interviewed 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling recipient and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, along with his attorney from our Ridenhour partners, the Government Accountability Project, Jesselyn Radack. They discussed his case with the spy-movie-star-wannabe Jason Jones. Jones described Drake as a "super spy" and also a "pencil-pusher," concluding that the story of Drake's revelations about expensive government programs that wasted taxpayer money would not make a very dramatic thriller. (Unfortunately, as Drake points out, the NSA doesn't employ ninjas. Or allow fighting. Drake had to make an appointment with his superiors to report his findings, not bust into their office with two pieces of paper, shouting "I'm here to cut costs and kick ass.") Watch the entire segment, License to Spill.