The majority of whistleblowers are dedicated and ethical employees, who work hard and try to do their jobs responsibly and competently.  So, the question is, how can this happen?  How can the employees suddenly find themselves being labeled a whistleblower?  Most often, in the course of doing the job they were hired to do, they came across something that should not be, something unethical or illegal.  Being the kind of person they are, they really face no other option than to do their job and report it, and as is often the case, include the incriminating evidence that “outs” the wrongdoers, in their routine report they must submit as a part of doing their job.  The inclusion of the incriminating evidence in the required report understandably aggravates the wrong doer(s), who may even be a supervisor at some level above the employee, or someone with connections to a supervisor.  At the point that the wrongdoer begins to assert pressure on the employee to change, or make the accurate and truthful report go away, the employee then faces the choice of whether to stand up or be compromised.  And if they choose to take the high road, they become a whistleblower.  If they choose to be compromised, and a security clearance is required for doing their job, they are now potentially a blackmail victim, targeted by others in whose best interests it is to cover-up illegal activities. 


What is not understandable is how these whistleblowers are treated, not only by the corrupted supervisors, but the whole federal system, and sometimes our society as a whole.  There is a tendency to try to kill the messenger, and to blame the whistleblower for the problem.  The incidents that employees need to report, which happen because of wrongdoing by their co-workers or supervisors appear to happen primarily because of ambition, greed, and lack of ethics of the wrongdoers.  And in the response to being “outed” the wrongdoers and anyone they can influence, exact some pretty grim retribution on the whistleblower.  This is not what should happen, and is a pretty sad situation.  But in spite of this, ethical people still stand up and do the right thing at great personal risk, and personal and professional consequence. 


When decisions need to be made under duress, everyone always has choices, but choices are open or closed by one’s character and level of ethics.  One researcher called this the “choiceless choice” that whistleblowers have to face.  The whistleblower’s other option is to look the other way as ordered, or even actively become involved in the cover-up for the wrongdoers.  An employee who does this, risks losing their own security clearances, jobs, and reputations if this is discovered or they may be further manipulated through threats of exposure by the corrupted supervisors later for continued nefarious purposes. This choice, for ethical people, is not really a choice.  Whistleblowers are the employees who choose to do the honest and ethical thing, and in doing that become a whistleblower.


In return for their integrity, whistleblowers may face harassment, discrimination, and other assorted types of retribution for just doing their job as required by law. If doing their job gets in the way of unethical people, either in their agency or in a defense contractor their agency has oversight of, then things become very ugly.  They may have their working conditions turned into a nightmare, lose promotion capability, be rated unfairly, be set up for failure by their corrupt managers, even lose their job.  They can then be “black listed” and find it difficult or impossible to get a job in their field of expertise again, and in some cases not be able to get new employment.  Due to the secrecy held by members of the defense arena, it is not easy to discover what is being done to hurt you or who exactly is doing it.  It has become even worse in recent years, as many federal employees can attest to, due to the increased secrecy practices of the Bush/Cheney administration.  This could happen to anyone, and most often happens to honest, competent and responsible people of character, because they refuse to be compromised or corrupted. 


There are many employees in industry and federal employees who have run up against corrupt players that are still being abused in record numbers and have very few places to get help.  It is imperative that elected officials, those in oversight who are not compromised and corrupted, and U.S. citizens,  must stand up and help to clean house, and assure appropriate protection for our whistleblowers who have the courage to do what many of us do not – stand up and do the right thing – or the future for these whistleblowers, their families, and for our country look bleak indeed.