Closing the Loop on NGO Accountability
First, some excerpts from Sibel Edmonds’ highly-recommended Classified Woman:
Good, affordable attorneys willing to take on the FBI and Justice Department are a rarity in Washington, DC. As far as government watchdog and whistleblower organizations go, none of them call you back unless you happen to be famous. (It took me years to understand the game: high profile cases are cash cows for many of these groups, who use the funds they raise to pay the salaries of their staffs, none of whom are whistleblowers.
Meanwhile, I called and e-mailed any organization I could find that dealt with whistleblowers and First Amendment cases, those who claimed to be fighting excessive secrecy and executive branch abuses of power. I needed their support and expertise, yet in spite of the fact that my case embodied all these civil liberties, not a single organization lifted a finger to contact me, call me back, or offer any assistance. (While it was a hard blow and a tough pill to swallow at the time, this experience helped me a great deal a few years later, when I formed my own coalition, network and organization to deal with and help government whistleblowers.)
Soon I started to receive offers of support and solidarity from various whistleblower, government watchdog and public interest nonprofit organizations, something I found bitterly amusing. Where were these groups when I most needed them? Strangely enough, I was helped, in a way, by seeing how they operate. In time, this understanding would become a catalyst for forming my own organization for whistleblowers.
At the end of my speech, noting their enthusiastic applause, I came to another realization. What I was doing here was preaching to the choir. These people were already informed; all were active in the fight. The question I was struggling to find an answer to was, how do I reach other who are not informed? How do we get through to those who readily have accepted the despotism being marketed to them as security?
During the Sam Adams Award conference, a dark-haired petite woman in her thirties had walked over and introduced herself…. Ann wanted to know if I were planning to appeal the case, because if so, the ACLU would be interested in helping. This made me snap at her, rather rudely. I told her all about my past experience begging for their help-how they had made me wait for months for an answer, only to turn me down. None of their attorneys were interested. Then I pointed my finger and said, “I’m disgusted with all these organizations who preach one thing and then do another-who only approach people and help them if those people are surrounded by publicity.”
Later that day she even tried again, to which I nastily replied, “These whistleblowers all need legal help, and they won’t welcome an organization that has not extended help to them.”
My efforts to expose and reform the government watchdog NGOs as exploitative of whistleblowers have run aground. Not because I failed to prove the allegations, but worse: nobody seems to care. Nobody in the community, at least. This is either because they know or they benefited (or both). There’s nothing to be gained by continuing, and more to lose, at this point.
For the sake of posterity, I’ve collected select posts relating to these contentions at http://mspbwatch.net/category/ngo-accountability/. If you’d like access to any walled-off posts, let me know via my About page.
And take heart – accountability of these groups will continue, albeit in a different form, at the Fact Check page.
Cross-posted at mspbwatch.net.