- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

Recent news accounts on the ethics of whistleblowing have left out one major reason some government employees tell all — religion.

Call it faith-based whistleblowing.

Joe Carson, a nuclear safety engineer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said it was his Christian worldview that impelled him to blow the whistle 19 times since 1990 on workplace and public-safety hazards at the Department of Energy, guardian of the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

“Whistleblowers are thinking of what’s good for others, not just looking out for number one,” said Mr. Carson, 51.

“If society wants to constrain evil, they license certain professionals to do so,” he said, “and I have a legal duty as a licensed professional engineer to blow whistles. Either you look the other way or confront what you believe is wrong.”

Jesselyn Radack, a former ethics attorney for the Department of Justice and a member of Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue in Northwest, said Exodus 23:2 persuaded her to blow the whistle in the case of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh.

The verse, “Do not follow a multitude to do wrong. You shall not give perverse testimony in a dispute so as to pervert it in favor of the mighty,” was the central theme in her 1984 bat mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish girls.

It came to mind on Dec. 7, 2001, when she advised Justice’s criminal division not to interrogate Lindh without an attorney present. Lindh’s father had already retained counsel for his son.

When the FBI did so anyway, while claiming Lindh’s rights had been respected, a federal judge began looking into the matter. When Mrs. Radack learned that e-mails concerning the case were missing from her files, she retrieved them from her computer hard drive and gave copies to Newsweek magazine.

“I’m not a Bible thumper that goes around quoting Scripture,” she said. “But after September 11, there was such an outcry to get the terrorists dead or alive. What bothered me was the cutting of corners and the taking of shortcuts. In the DOJ’s ethics division, it was important to cut straight corners.”

Calls for comment to the Department of Justice and its Office of Special Counsel, created to protect federal whistleblowers, were not returned.

Mrs. Radack, who will be the keynote speaker Sept. 23 at a Whistleblowers for an Honest, Efficient and Accountable Government convention at the Watergate Hotel, said she’s spent $50,000 in attorney’s fees defending herself.

“It unleashed the full force of the executive branch against me for four years,” she said, adding she ended up on a “no-fly list” and was put under criminal investigation, although no charges were brought.

Rosemary Dew, a Lutheran who now works with the Department of Defense, said her decision to blow the whistle on sexual harassment in the FBI from 1978 to 1990 was based on Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.”

She applied that thought to the treatment that she said many women and minorities received at the FBI, which she described as “a very creepy, aggressive, predatory kind of harassment I had never seen anywhere else.”

“I decided whatever they’d do to the most disenfranchised of their employees, they’d do to the public.”

Her experiences, chronicled in her 2003 book, “No Backup,” were out of her 13 years as an FBI supervisory special agent specializing in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

The Rev. Louis Clark, a Methodist pastor and lawyer who is president of the Government Accountability Project, said religion was a “significant factor” in 50 percent of the cases he’s dealt with. It also motivated several nationally known Catholic whistleblowers, he added, citing Coleen M. Rowley of the FBI, David Graham of the Food and Drug Administration and Burt Berube of General Services Administration.

“It has to do with a strong value system, which most religions strongly cultivate,” he said. “They care about how something might impact your neighbor.”

But Watergate conspirator Chuck Colson, who subsequently converted to Christianity, made a case against whistleblowers in a May 31 “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” regarding W. Mark Felt, the former FBI official exposed as Watergate’s “Deep Throat.”

“He easily could have come to the officials responsible. If they hadn’t acted then, he would resign, have a press conference, and that would be entirely honorable,” Mr. Colson said.

An astounded Mr. Carson sent a letter to Mr. Colson, calling his position “morally wrong.”

Citing Mr. Colson’s “leadership position in a number of Christian ministries,” the June 9 letter said he was failing “to properly execute the church’s God-given office of confronting, via peaceable means whenever possible, the system of state-sponsored lawbreaking that punishes concerned federal employees who do their legal duty … in exposing governmental wrongdoing.”

A July 19 response from one of Mr. Colson’s assistants thanked Mr. Carson for the “loving spirit” of his letter.

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