Blog of Rights

The Informants! Need Protections

By Claire O'Brien, Washington Legislative Office at 10:50am

Matt Damon is funny. No, really, it's true. For all his serious emoting in Good Will Hunting and action-hero pyrotechnics in the Jason Bourne movies, the man knows how to generate a giggle. In The Informant! Mr. Damon is a mild-mannered corporate whistleblower, dressed up in nondescript glasses and a funny moustache. And he's pretty hilarious, bumbling his way through corporate intrigue and exposing abuses of power along the way. After all, nothing is more fun than good ol' corporate corruption and the lengths to which people will go to cover it up.

But all jokes aside, whistleblowers are real-life heroes — people brave enough to speak up when they see wrongdoing and demand change. Sometimes they take on corporations, sometimes they take on the government, but no matter how large or small the obstacle, it takes true courage to take on the establishment, especially if doing so costs them their jobs or their freedom. That courage should be rewarded with meaningful legal protections, including access to independent due process and especially for those in the intelligence community, where unreported misconduct can result in serious abuse of civil liberties and human rights, as well as damage to our national security. The government needs to create a framework that provides enough shelter for people to speak up without fear of losing their livelihoods.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need whistleblowers. Those in power would always follow the rules, and corruption and abuse would never happen. Unfortunately, that kind of utopia isn't reality, and the actions of people like Daniel Ellsberg, Frank Serpico, and the ACLU's own Mike German, are more important than many Americans realize. These are just three of the panelists who will participate in "Anyone Can Whistle," a discussion of the role of whistleblowers in American society, and what the government should do to protect them. They'll give their first-hand accounts of exposing corruption, and examine the importance of whistleblowers both historically and in today's world.

"Anyone Can Whistle" will take place Wednesday, February 17, 2010, at 7 p.m. EST at the Paley Center for Media's Concourse Theater at 25 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019. For free tickets, RSVP to publicprograms@paleycenter.org. Space is limited and seating is on a first come, first serve basis. The event will stream live online at www.livestream.com/theinformant.

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