During my twenty years of government service, I have met and come to know many whistleblowers. If I could make a generalization about them I would describe them this way: Whistleblowers are over-achievers. They are competent and efficient, the kind of people who are concerned that things be done right. They are also people who have the moral fiber to stand up to corruption. In almost every case, they became whistleblowers because a moral dilemma, not of their own seeking, was thrust upon them. They were asked to do something immoral and they refused. Ninety-nine out of a hundred people. when faced with such a dilemma, will hold their nose and remember where their bread is buttered. Or they will convince themselves there is no dilemma. Most whistleblowers start out doing the right thing thinking that once "upper management" or some figure of authority learns of the situation they will straighten it out. Even after they come to understand that "upper management" is not going to save them, whistleblowers remain unrepentant and even defiant. From that inevitably follows harassment, persecution. and vilification. This is not the path for a malingerer. Each year taxpayers pay billions of dollars for goods and services ranging from health care and defense to public safety. And each year taxpayers pay millions of dollars to police and prosecute fraud against the public purse. Yet one whistleblower can frequently accomplish more than a room full of inspectors or policemen, and cost far less. Whistleblowers know the system, and speak out in a spirit of public service. Whistleblowers are precisely the kinds of people we should have in top management of government and industry. It is not the whistleblower who needs protection so much as it is the public that needs the protection of the whistleblower.

William Sanjour
US Environmental Protection Agency

* Carol A. Valentine, STOP THIEF! What Happens When A citizen Takes On The Federal Fraud Machine, sponsored by Fund for Constitutional Government, 122 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002, 1995.

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