Whistleblowers are a ‘check’ on government, corporate or organisational secrecy and malfeasance.
I recently read Tim Shipman’s preview of the Chilcot report into the origins of the Tony Blair-led UK engagement in the US’s invasion of Iraq, which looked at the ‘sexed-up dossier’ and manipulation of dodgy so-called intelligence about Sadam Hussein’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Among other things, the report disclosed that Blair’s cabinet wasn’t properly informed or consulted because Blair conducted a ‘sofa style’ of government, where important decisions were made by a small close group, who keep their discussions off the record by excluding official public service record keepers (like the Cabinet Secretary) from recording the inner circle’s decisions, or taking notes.
In other words, decisions about the most serious of issues facing a nation were taken not just in secret, but in an improper undemocratic manner by a craven little cabal. The way the WMD dossier was used, and the stifling of voices who didn’t buy Blair’s spin (e.g. about Sadam being able to launch attacks on the UK in “45 minutes”) or the in David Kelly‘s case, the extinguishment of those skeptical, truth-telling voices should be a lesson to all who seek government accountability.
Whistleblowers, people of conscience, can be like a safety valve. Are they perfect people? No, they’re human and screw up like we all do. But they’re people who speak up, to try to call attention to abuses of power.
No wonder the abusers of power, the holders of dark secrets of illegal actions, and those guilty of misleading their citizens fear them so much.
This video by the ACLU is worth considering, whatever your view of whistleblowers.