mark hertsgaard

Independent Journalist & Author

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Fighting over a nation’s safety

(Host intro) Bills on how to beef up the nation’s security are moving through
Congress. The White House has submitted its own draft in the wake of the
911 commission’s report on how to keep the nation safe. As lawmakers in
Washington debate how to protect against future attacks, commentator and
writer Mark Hertsgaard says they are ignoring the most cost-effective tool
available.

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(Mark Hertsgaard) “Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul
Revere.” So begins the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about the
patriot who warned American revolutionaries the British were coming.

As they’re jockeying over whether to pass the 9/11 Commission reforms,
Congress and the President should re-read that poem.

It might remind them: we had our own Paul Reveres before September 11th —
dedicated public servants like Colleen Rowley, Bogdan Dzakovic, and Rich
Levernier, who risked their careers to warn their bosses about what was
coming.

Reform bills now before Congress contain no protections for these
government whistleblowers, who refused to stay silent, even when they were
ignored or punished.

The FBI’s Colleen Rowley was on to one of the hijackers and pleaded with
headquarters to tail him. No one listened.

Bogdan Dzakovic warned FAA superiors that his team of mock terrorists was
getting fake guns onto planes more than 70 percent of the time. He was
taken off the job.

In drills at the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons plants, Rich
Levernier’s teams were getting in and getting out with plutonium, more
than half the time. His security clearance was yanked.

It’s ironic government workers don’t have the legal right to warn without
fearing retaliation. Congress gave corporate workers that right two years
ago as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act intended to prevent another Enron
scandal.

Besides killing 3,000 people, the September 11th tragedy cost the economy
hundreds of billions of dollars. But investing in whistleblower rights
would cost nothing.

Supporters hope to attach a whistleblower rights amendment before the 9/11
reforms are passed by the House and Senate. If President Bush sees the
light, the Paul Revere Freedom to Warn Amendment could become law with a
stroke of the presidential pen.

So get out your Longfellow, Mr. President, Members of Congress. America
needs its Paul Reveres today more than ever.

In San Francisco, this is Mark Hertsgaard for Marketplace.

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About Mark

Independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard is the author of seven books that have been translated into sixteen languages, including Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden; HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth; and A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles. He has reported from twenty-five countries about politics, culture and the environment for leading outlets, including The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Time, Mother Jones, NPR, the BBC and The Nation, where is the environment correspondent. He lives in San Francisco.

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