This week’s program focuses on whistleblowers — their contributions to society, the retaliation they often endure, and the legal protections they need. Mickey’s guests for the hour include Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that supports whistleblowers, and three historic whistleblowers who dared speak truth to power. We learn about the dangers and abuses these three men exposed over the past half century, and what reforms are needed to defend individuals who take the risks of becoming whistleblowers, and the journalists who help bring their stories to the public.
Tom Devine is Legal Director at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. Frank Serpico is a retired NYPD detective who became a household name after exposing widespread corruption within the department. His story was the subject of the 1973 Hollywood movie “Serpico.” Rick Parks is a nuclear engineer who worked at the damaged Three Mile Island power plant in 1979, and has spoken out about management’s and regulators’ failures to prioritize safety above utility profits. He is featured on the new Netflix docu-series “Meltdown: Three Mile Island” Robert MacLean was fired from the Transportation Security Administration after criticizing dangerous shortcomings in airline security procedures after 9/11.
A National Whistleblower Summit will take place in July; more information can be found here.
Mickey Huff: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio. I’m your host Mickey Huff. Today on the program, we focus on the importance of whistleblowers and the work of the Government Accountability Project. We’re joined for the hour by their legal director, Tom Devine, to discuss how whistleblower rights need to be upheld and greatly improved. We welcome three historic whistleblowers to the program to share their incredible stories of civil courage, including the legendary Frank Serpico on outing police misconduct, Rick Parks on averting total disaster in containment and cleanup efforts at Three Mile Island. Last but not least, we [00:01:00] welcome back Robert MacLean on TSA flight security after 9/11. Today, an hour honoring whistle blowers and the important role they play. Stay tuned.
Welcome to The Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio, I’m your host Mickey Huff. On today’s program, we’re going to address all things whistleblower. We are joined for the hour by Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project. He is their legal director and has worked with the organization since 1979, and he has formally or informally assisted in over 7,000 whistleblower cases, people defending themselves against retaliation and in making real differences on behalf of the public. So Tom Devine will be with us for the hour today, and then we are also honored to be joined by several whistle blowers themselves. [00:02:00] We are joined by Frank Serpico first, Frank became a national hero and of course folks may know of a well known film of the same name about him. We’ll talk about law enforcement whistleblower cases and why we still need whistleblower protections. We’ll also be joined by Rick Parks, who is affiliated with a film, Meltdown, about Three Mile Island. So a whistleblower from 1979, going all the way back to the Three Mile Island disaster, and we also have Robert MacLean with us on The Project Censored Show today, and he’ll be talking about an ongoing case with Transportation Security Administration and we’ll get into the details of each of these people as examplars and examples of whistleblowers, how they’re important, why they’re important, and why we need to support them. You can learn more about the Government Accountability Project at whistleblower.org and Tom Devine, let’s start with you. Welcome back to The Project Censored Show.
Tom Devine: Thanks for having me Mickey.
Mickey Huff: It is always a pleasure Tom. We were out of the loop for [00:03:00] a few years, but we’re glad to be back together for the National Whistleblower Summit coming up at the end of July. Project Censored is back co-sponsoring that with you and we’re looking forward to being back in the loop, supporting whistleblowers. By the way for listeners, stay tuned, in next week’s show, we’ll have Kevin Gosztola, Abby Martin, with significant updates on the Julian Assange case, speaking of other important whistleblower cases. So Tom, let’s start with you and let’s talk about why are we still talking about the need for protecting whistleblowers?
Tom Devine: Whistleblowers are the people who have kept organizations and those who have power honest or tried to keep them honest and have been our most essential check since the beginning of organized society. Whistleblowers are just individuals who use free speech, rights to challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust, and as long as we’ve had organized society, and as long as people have had power, they haven’t been able to resist abusing it for their own ends instead of for the public good. And when [00:04:00] people fight back with weapons, we call them revolutionaries. When they fight back with words, we call them dissidents and whistleblowing’s just the modern slang for something that’s as old as the history of organized society. They’re the people who change the course of history. We’ve got three people today with you on this program who actually have changed the course of history.
Mickey Huff: Indeed, it’s remarkable, and I’m looking forward to speaking with each of our special guests here today. Tom Devine, whistleblower protection though, it’s interesting. The history of it in the United States goes back to 1777, is that right?
Tom Devine: That was the first kind of anecdotal whistleblower protection for some whistleblowers on a Navy ship with a corrupt captain, but we really didn’t get into having any credible free speech fights until 1978 for government workers.
Mickey Huff: So, this is a pretty significant history and it sounds like in the last 40 years there’s been a lot more attention being paid to the importance of whistleblowers. Again, granted, going all the way [00:05:00] back to Daniel Ellsberg, one of the more famous in the latter 20th century in the Pentagon Papers, but so many whistleblowers since, and many that ought to be household names, but many that folks just never seem to hear about because there’s a connection between whistleblowers and press freedom. The corporate media don’t always like to cover these kinds of stories, because whistleblowers often are saying things that are very damning or incriminating about the corruption of our public and private institutions. Is that right Tom Devine?
Tom Devine: Absolutely. Whistleblowers threaten those who are abusing their power, and animal instinct is if something threatens you, you want to destroy the threat. You don’t think about whether or not you deserved it as a lesson to be learned, or you had it coming or this or that. You want to eliminate whatever is getting in your way and that’s the way organizations react with whistleblowers and because of that, I’m proud, in one sense, of the United States. We pioneered a global legal revolution in whistleblower rights, we passed it in 1978. The second one [00:06:00] wasn’t until 1998 in Great Britain. Now there’s 62 countries that have national whistleblower laws. We got this started, but it’s kind of frustrating. Unlike the rest of the world, we don’t get a fair day in court for our whistleblowers, at least if they’re federal workers. The protection is limited to just employees, not to anyone who peddles the truth where it’s needed. And the protection is generally limited here to workplace harassment, which means that you can be hit with a SLAPP suit that’ll bankrupt you, or you can be criminally prosecuted for the things that you couldn’t be fired from your job for. So our laws have become kind of a caricature.
Mickey Huff: And it’s very unfortunate because it is great work, but rights don’t enforce themselves and laws don’t enforce themselves and corruption and conflict of interest, they are age old challenges and they continue to be, I’d like to bring in one of our whistleblower guests here today. Frank Serpico, of course, folks may know Frank [00:07:00] Serpico in the late 1960s and seventies Serpico blew the whistle on police corruption. This eventually prompted something called the Knapp Commission. Tom Devine, you and Frank wrote an article back in 2020 about changing the culture of silence to protect police whistleblowers specifically. But Frank Serpico welcome to The Project Censored Show. I’d like it if you could talk a little about your historic story with our audience today, Frank Serpico.
Frank Serpico: Yeah, thanks Mickey. Thanks for having me. Well, first, you know, all your guests and all this all has to do with the safety and wellbeing of the society, whether it’s pollution, air safety, or protecting and serving. And as people know from the movie, those that saw it, I mean, it was actually going back to 1971, there was systemic police corruption throughout New York City police department. And I thought, boy, [00:08:00] wait till they hear about this, speaking about internal affairs, that they were going to do something. I didn’t know that internal affairs knew more about it than I did, and they were part and parcel of it. And if it wasn’t for one brave police inspector, Paul Delise, who was my boss at one time, who put his career on the line and went with me to The New York Times, and one good newspaper reporter Dave Burnham, which are hard to find today. The editor didn’t even want to publish the story because, he said, we’re paying off the cops too. And so corruption, it has a purpose and it greases the wheels of corruption when people want favors but it hurts the community as a whole. In my case, they call it the blue wall of silence or the code of silence, which is an unwritten code that is as [00:09:00] strong as the mafia’s omertà. So me having blown the whistle, the term that I hate, because it sounds demeaning, on the corruption, I was on duty with three other offices and I ended up getting shot and exchanging fire with a drug dealer and they left me for dead. And one police car that showed up because a tenant called the police and they didn’t even know that a cop had been shot because they never put out a 10-13, which is officer down. So this one police car took me to the hospital and I was thinking, well, at least it was two cops. Later, I found out the guy that picked me up, he said: “if I knew it was Serpico, I would’ve left him there to fester.” So this is the attitude. The whistleblower is the opposite of the criminal because the whistleblower [00:10:00] exposes the criminal, and the criminal, no matter what guise they come under, doesn’t want to be exposed and they want to keep that code of silence that protects them. And that’s why we need a bill to protect the few that had the courage to come forward and expose corruption, and maybe if we had a whistleblower protection, more of them would be encouraged to come forward. But as in my case, the police want to make sure that they don’t forget, and so they continue to treat me with disdain. Here’s a classic example, right up to date. The Daily News was going to write a story about the 50 year anniversary of the Knapp Commission, which came to be due to my charges of police corruption, which did a very good job of exposing the corruption. But the police did a very poor job of correcting it, although they pretended [00:11:00] that they did. So I was awarded the Medal of Honor for my bravery in exchanging fire with a drug dealer. But what happens? They never gave me my proper medal or my certificate. And I constantly asked every police commissioner for my certificate, they all ignored me. The last one, I thought, you know, this is enough. I got in touch with Civil Liberties and they said, we’ll look into it. And so they said, oh, Frank, I got your certificate. They send it to me in a tube. And I look at it and it’s signed by commissioner Murphy, who was the commissioner at the time who was supposed to be the reform commissioner, which he wasn’t, and it doesn’t have a department seal on it. So I go, what? And so I called the newspaper and he says, well, I got a story coming out about the 50 year anniversary [00:12:00] of the Knapp Commission. I said, great, maybe you can tell them I still haven’t gotten my certificate. And the article comes out on Twitter of all places. And I said, nice article, but you have forgot to mention, I didn’t get my certificate. So the new mayor, Adams, says “Frank, you are my hero. I want to make sure you get that certificate.” Great, but how about addressing me as detective Serpico? I mean, do I know you? Are you in the official police department? It’s like everybody wants to get in on the act. So I don’t say anything and then I get a call from Civil Liberties saying, Frank, I just got a call from the mayor’s office. Now, I’m 86 years old. They want to know, can you get down here at eight o’clock tomorrow morning? I started laughing. I said, wait a minute, I don’t hear too good, would you repeat that? No, I heard him right. I said, what the hell’s he think, I’m waiting for him? [00:13:00] Maybe I want to bring some friends or relatives. “They’ll pick you up and drop you off.” No, that’s not the question. Why don’t they treat me with the respect that any recipient of the Medal of Honor gets in the department. He calls me back: “Okay, here’s your choices: you can come pick it up, they’ll deliver it to you,” I forget what the other choice was. I said, look, just tell him to put it in the mail. “Well, what do you want on there?” I want what every other member that got that award, nothing less, nothing more. Framed, proper seal, proper date, et cetera. Calls me back again. “Oh, Frank, can they deliver it to the Sheriff’s office?” Why are they jerking me around? So finally I do get it, and it’s framed with my picture and I look at it and it’s signed by the current commissioner, [00:14:00] Sewell, and the date is January 1st, 2022. Wait a minute, that’s not when I was issued this medal, it was back in . So it appeared and the media picked it up, that I was being rewarded for blowing the whistle on corruption. So you see how I’m at a loss for the word of how disgusting and divisive and deceitful. And this is 2022. So I hope you followed what I’m telling you because that’s the way it happened and there are other officers that blow the whistle on corruption and they become the victims. Not only victims, they make them criminals. As in the case of one officer he’s facing, I [00:15:00] don’t know how many years in jail, because he exposed that these cops were responsible for the death of their suspect. So that’s where we are.
Mickey Huff: So detective Frank Serpico, thank you for sharing your story again with us today, and I’m afraid that the story you just told seems to be all too common with people that have the civil courage to blow the whistle on corruption. And I just wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done to call attention to this. This is still a significant problem in 2022, the code of silence, the blue code of silence. It’s still something that we need to address and Tom Devine, after the break, maybe we can talk a little bit about one of those bills that’s in Congress. And then of course, we also are going to get to our other guests today. We have Rick Parks to talk about Three Mile Island, we have Robert MacLean to talk about the TSA. I’m your host, Mickey Huff for The Project Censored Show. We’ll continue our conversations all about whistle blowing after this [00:16:00] brief musical break.
Welcome back to The Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio, I’m your host Mickey Huff. before the break we were speaking with Tom Devine, the legal director at Government Accountability Project, who will be with us for the hour. We were also joined by Frank Serpico and we were talking about his famous case and of course, lingering concerns that go all the way up to this year. Tom Devine, some of the things that Frank was mentioning, that these are still problems., These are still real issues and challenges. Can you [00:17:00] talk about one of the bills that you’re fighting to get past in Congress about police accountability?
Tom Devine: You have to have a baseline to compare what these bills would be changing and right now they’d be pretty much changing a vacuum of credible rights against retaliation for police officers who defend the public. Right now, if somebody wants to blow the whistle, a police officer, they go to an internal affairs operation that may be collusive and actually engaged in the same corruption. And if they’re retaliated against, they get to go to the same police department that’s engaging in the harassment and ask them to change their minds. In other words, they don’t have any viable channel to get the truth out and they don’t have a viable channel to defend themselves. There’s legislation in the house of representatives by representative Gerald Connolly, H.R.6762, and it would protect everyone who provides evidence of police illegality or misconduct, [00:18:00] whether or not it’s a law enforcement officer from the local beat to the federal government, the military police, or criminal investigators. It would protect citizens who were witnesses on the street with their smartphone, it would protect victims who are currently afraid to file charges that they were beat up because it’ll get even worse. It’ll protect the media, it would protect civil rights groups. It would give all these people access to jury trials, global best practice confidentiality protections that they don’t want to be exposed, and probably most significant it would give them a right to defend themselves in court against civil or criminal liability. All too often what we’re seeing is that police officers who blow the whistle on crime get charged with the same crime that they were challenging, like Javier Esqueda, that Frank was talking about. He discovered a George Floyd style murder in Joliet, Illinois, did the research to prove it, and they’re charging him with [00:19:00] four felonies and seeking 20 years in prison because he investigated and found the evidence of the murders. They said it was unauthorized for him to see it, even though it was one of his trainees and he was the training supervisor who had to. Or there’s a whistleblower down in Miami, Florida who blew the whistle on the police there in Broward County planting drugs on teenage minority youths and busting them as a distraction from their own drug dealing. So it looked like they were enforcing the law instead of cashing in on the drug trade. Well, this police officer, after he made internal disclosures, they prosecuted him three times. He was found innocent all three times because he was squeaky clean, but he spent a year and a half in prison, a lot of it in solitary confinement, they put him in with the general prisoners who want to kill cops. This is for what we call committing the truth and we need these rights.
Mickey Huff: My goodness, Tom Devine, legal [00:20:00] director, Government Accountability Project. And something tells me with your cadence and stride there, that you could go on for quite a time longer with lists of names of people that need protection and that we need to hear their stories. So Tom Devine, let’s also bring in to our conversation, Rick Parks and Rick, welcome to The Project Censored Show. It’s an honor to have you with us today.
Rick Parks: I’m glad to be here.
Mickey Huff: I understand that you are involved, were involved, with the Three Mile Island disaster that happened back in 1979 and you also have a film that is now a Netflix documentary, it’s called Meltdown. Could you talk to our listeners about Three Mile Island? I heard about Three Mile Island as a kid and my father worked at a local power plant and actually was very familiar with Three Mile Island. So in our house, when we heard about Three Mile Island, we heard a different story than the one that the media was telling. Let’s hear it from you.
Rick Parks: First of all, Mickey, I know the power plant your dad [00:21:00] used to pay a visit to, Shippingport, and I worked at Beaver Valley Power Station also. So I was not at Three Mile Island during the accident. Actually I started to work there in 1980. Specifically, I will not name the company, but anyway, it was another beltway bandit. We were there to do the startup testing on the Submerged Demineralizer System (SDS), the system that was going to be built and implemented to process the million gallons of highly radioactive water that was in the basement of the reactor building. That’s how I got there. Actually, it was a golden opportunity for me because I’m, to that day, to this day, still very pro nuclear. I am an advocate for nuclear power when it’s done right. There’s a couple of ways it can be done right, but that’s not germane to this conversation. What is germane to this [00:22:00] conversation is that along as it does talk about in the movie, and the process, the original concept was we were going to restore unit two to operations. What we found in July of 1982, when we did the quick look process, procedure where we stuck cameras and radiation monitoring equipment, et cetera, down into the reactor vessel. We determined that the upper half of it was all but gone. Big problem with that, as we knew a large part of it had to be in the bottom reactor vessel head. The laws of gravity and physics tend to make that happen after a meltdown, Chernobyl also proved it. So that changed the whole ball game. We knew it was going to take the cleanup a lot longer. By that point in time, I was no longer involved with the SDS project. [00:23:00] Larry King had come on site as director of plant operations. Bechtel had taken over under the auspices of GPU and the DOE, and they were putting people in every department. And since, in the operations department of a nuclear power plant, their operators have to be nuclear operators, they put me in with him. So Bechtel, who I did not work for, approached me about coming to work for them so they could put me in Larry King’s department. And I said fine. Larry King gave me the polar crane as a project, as an operations engineer, myself and the other operations engineer interfaced with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, we reviewed everything that was to be performed on that power plant that could affect the fuel inside the reactor vessel. I mean, we weren’t the only ones we approved it for operations, Ed [00:24:00] Gischel’s guys approved it for engineering aspects, that sort of thing, and radiological aspects. When we said you could do it, you could do it, because our people had the license that was required by law to be in charge of that fuel and make the final decision about what was done. Unfortunately, money stands in the way of everything, the pursuit of man’s livelihoods, and when we wouldn’t approve the procedure, because we considered that there was a chance that we could drop the reactor vessel head and shear the transverse in-core probes on the bottom of the reactor vessel, because we figured that the reactor core, when it melted, damn sure came close if it did not exceed the ability to melt some of the thinnest parts of the reactor vessel, which [00:25:00] was where the transverse in-core probes go to. Ultimately, it was proved those tubes were braided during the accident, so it was a good damn thing they never dropped the head. The problem being if they had dropped the head because they had violated every aspect of the requirements of 10 CFR 50.59, which means if it’s not been thoroughly reviewed and approved from a nuclear safety protection standpoint, it’s an unreviewed nuclear safety question and you’ve got to take another look at it. So Bechtel put the procedure on our desk, which became my desk and I started reviewing it. I went and started looking for the records, because during my stint under the SDS program, I was the assistant startup and test manager at unit two and I knew what the test program was and I knew what type of records [00:26:00] we had to have, and there weren’t any that I could find. So in my mind, that made every part put on there a suspect or counterfeit part until you could prove otherwise because that’s what the regulations require. So I was accused of being a super by-the-book-er and I was threatened as soon as I put that in writing back to not only Bechtel, but to the NRC. A guy who had been instrumental in getting me to come back to Bechtel and work for them, a friend of mine, walked up to me the day after I made those comments and issued that memo and said, management is really pissed at me and they were looking every way they could to get me off the island. That blew me away. And it was because they didn’t like the positions I was taking. I wasn’t a team player is basically what he was saying. They wanted me there to push stuff through and [00:27:00] I would’ve if it had been safe. You tell me what I asked for, give me the load drop analysis to prove that if we drop the load sufficiently, we would not create a special shape missile, and I want to make sure that missile cannot break the pressurizer surge line. And by the way, can you prove that if we drop this, or any portion of that weight, will the fracture potential for the bottom of the reactor vessel head be adequate. And everybody: “oh, yeah, we have all the calculations.” I went all the way up to Mr. Sanford, the senior vice president of Bechtel at Gaithersburg, Maryland issuing my complaints and my concerns and I went to the NRC, and the NRC told me, take your silly ass problem to the Department of Labor. This is an employer employee relationship [00:28:00] problem. I said, wait a minute, threatening me because I won’t go along with it, you’re saying that I should just take it to the DOL? Okay. Well, when I went to Mr. Sanford there were three of us: Larry King, my boss, Ed Gischel, the director of plant engineering who reported to Larry King and myself. And when Ed refused to approve that procedure from an engineering standpoint, a man who sat on the committee that wrote American National Standards Institute procedures for how you test polar cranes in a reactor building, so therefore they thought he didn’t know what he was talking about, they required him to have a neuropsychological evaluation. Larry King, they [00:29:00] fired, accused him of conflict of interest. They flew in a special investigator from San Francisco, Bechtel did. Put me in a room with this guy and my boss, whom I’d never met because they hired me over the phone, I never went to the home office, I just went to work under a different hat. So these two guys are asking me, I’m accused of conflict of interest. What’s the conflict? So my instincts told me I was being set up. I mean, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I damn sure ain’t stupid. I told them I didn’t want to talk anymore unless I could have an independent witness inside that room and they assured me that that wasn’t necessary, and I assured them if they wanted to hear anything from me it was. As history has demonstrated, there’s not a lot of backup in me, but they finally gave in [00:30:00] and the guy I asked to come into the room was another Bechtel engineer, a friend of mine. And as we walked out of that room, he said he had never seen that before in any of his experience with Bechtel, never even heard of it. So I demanded to see the vice president who was the lead dude down in Gaithersburg. And his name was Sanford, as I said. I go in telling the story, he tells me, well, you know, all those calculations exist. And I said, well, I sure would love to see them. I have never seen them. Not in all my lifetime. They don’t exist. Unless they doctored them up yesterday. Then he told me I’d probably be fired for putting Bechtel in a bad light with a customer, and I’m thinking, holy Jesus here, if we drop that head and we shift that fuel just enough, put it [00:31:00] into a critical mass, it’s not going to be critical, it’s going to be super critical because it’s going to have the water there to feed it until it cracks, and it’s going to eject all of that stuff out. And the reactor building was open. They like to claim that the reactor building was sealed. I walked on board that side in 1980 and that reactor building had more penetrations that were open than a porcupine’s got quills. So they lie about that too. Ed Gischel even made awful lot of stink about that and they chose to ignore it because we were compromising reactor safety to the general public, and they ignored it. So I had no choice. I knew that after I found pot in my vehicle and I was pulled over and searched, I mean, high and low. I should’ve smoked that pot instead of flushing it, I’d have probably been better off. My [00:32:00] apartment was broken into. I mean, I had every position of authority stripped from me so I could no longer be an impediment because until I signed off that I accepted the response on my comments, declaring the whole thing an unreviewed nuclear safety question, they were up the proverbial creek without a paddle. And they were wanting me to agree to sign off. I decided that since I couldn’t trust the NRC, because I’ve never seen such incompetency in my life as I witnessed on the part of some members of the NRC, definitely demonstrated to me that they would not hesitate a moment to do anything that it required to further their career and the revolving door concept between the NRC and the beltway bandits like Bechtel, Stone & Webster, Burns & Roe, Babcock & Wilcox. It existed [00:33:00] then the same way it exists now, best way to advance yourself from going to lowly paid beyond working for the U.S. government is to suck up to the big boys. And so to make long story short I knew they didn’t care, and I knew that I not only had two men I respected above all else, Ed Gischel and Larry King, who agreed the same thing I did, I know the other guys in the upper management within site operations department agreed fully too, but by then, those guys had been so compromised, the ones that had been involved there during the accident that they toed the line. That’s a story that would take more than this radio show to tell, because I don’t think it’s ever been told, but I worked with those guys for years. I drank beer and played pool with those boys. We all had common backgrounds, we were all ex-Navy nukes, [00:34:00] most of us anyway. Story that was fed, I thought was, to the people during the accident, I think the movie, Meltdown: Three Mile Island is the actual title, did an excellent job of showing it. I know to a lot of people, it was yesterday’s history, but that very same thing goes on in this country to this very day within the nuclear industry. There may not be a blue wall of silence, as Frank Serpico referred to, within the industry, but there is certainly a wall of silence because they know the guys that are licensed to operate these plants know, when in doubt, put it out is the rule they like to shout about, you do that once. Because, a million dollars a day in purchase power it costs, at a minimum, to take a nuke off line. Okay. [00:35:00] So all of management puts the thumb on the guys that have the license and the guys that have the license have to decide: do I do it knowing that I’m falsifying records? Do I do it knowing I’m keeping a reactor at power, full load, base load, with a leaking pilot-operated relief valve? How do I know it’s leaking? Because the tail pipe temperature’s been out of spec for God knows how long and the technical specifications says: thou shalt shut down the reactor. They didn’t do it. So it’s pressure, management integrity.
Mickey Huff: And also regulatory capture. You mentioned the revolving door, Rick Parks. I’d like to remind our listeners, you’re tuned to The Project Censored Show. I’m your host, Mickey Huff. We were just hearing from whistleblower Rick Parks talking about Three Mile Island, there’s a new series at [00:36:00] Netflix called Meltdown: Three Mile Island. You can see that story here. We’re going to continue our conversation about whistleblowers. We’re going to bring back Tom Devine and also Robert MacLean and I believe Rick Parks, you’re going to stay with us and certainly can chime in here again in the next segment. Stay tuned for more talk on whistleblowers on The Project Censored Show after this brief musical break.
Welcome to The Project Censored Show. Once again, we are continuing our conversation on whistleblowers. Today. We are [00:37:00] joined by the legal director for the Government Accountability Project, Tom Devine. Earlier in the program we heard from Frank Serpico from the historic whistle blowing case about law enforcement corruption. In this last segment, before the break, we were speaking with Rick Parks talking about Three Mile Island. He is a whistleblower on the Three Mile Island case. There is also a new Netflix series called Meltdown: Three Mile Island that tells that story. And in this segment we want to bring in Robert MacLean. Robert MacLean was on The Project Censored Show several years ago. As I mentioned at the outset, Project Censored is one of the co-sponsors for the National Whistleblower Summit, and we have reconvened and reupped our relationship with the wonderful folks doing that important summit at the end of July. You’ll hear more about that coming up on a future Project Censored Show. You can learn more at whistleblowersummit.com and also to learn more about the Government Accountability Project, you can go to whistleblower.org. Tom Devine, that was an incredibly riveting [00:38:00] story that Rick Parks just shared with us. Could you talk to us a little bit about some of the things going on in Congress that might be able to address some of these issues?
Tom Devine: It’s the things that haven’t been going on. Congress has been pretty much letting the NRC have the field to itself in terms of how carefully to enforce the nuclear safety laws, and this is playing with a lot more than fire it’s playing with nuclear disaster. If Rick hadn’t stopped the Three Mile Island cleanup and the polar crane had dropped the 170 ton reactor vessel head, it could have triggered a meltdown that would’ve taken out Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington, DC, with massive evacuations for years. And we’re seeing a similar, the NRC is turning its head and just looking the other way about similar risks today. About a quarter of the nation’s nuclear power plants are located downstream from dams, upstream dams. And if there’s a dam break, they’re not able to withstand the [00:39:00] floods and those floods could cause meltdowns that would cause multi-state multi-year evacuations. And the NRC has known about this since the 1990s and even after a whistleblower named Larry Criscione was backed by the government whistleblower agency, the Office of Special Counsel said that there’s a substantial likelihood it’s a threat to public health and safety. The NRC responded with what they call a post-Fukushima reform by lowering the requirements for flood walls from 18 feet to four and a half feet, which is where they are currently, which means that we are at the mercy of any hurricane that comes near a nuclear power plant for taking out large regions of our country and the NRC is just sitting there watching and letting it happen. We need to have effective congressional oversight to keep this industry honest, because it’s a lot worse than playing with fire.
Mickey Huff: Tom Devine. That’s extraordinary to hear and we’ve certainly done many shows on Fukushima on some of the known [00:40:00] dangers with nuclear power and here in California, like New York, we have the threats still looming and people fighting about what to do about them as the danger still looms and lurks. Robert MacLean, we want to bring you in. I mentioned you before that you were on The Project Censored Show. So your case is ongoing, involving the Transportation Security Administration and of course your case clearly illustrates the need for whistleblower rights that allow you to seek justice from a jury. But this also involves the Department of Homeland Security, the war on terrorism, terror threats. So remind our listeners, Robert MacLean about your case and what’s happening right now.
Robert MacLean: Thanks for having me on. Because of the 9/11 attacks, almost $2 trillion have been lost, wasted or spent and hundreds of thousands of lives were killed or maimed after the 9/11 wars, both military and civilian. And Mickey, I [00:41:00] always ask the question. Do you know how the cockpits were breached? Most people don’t know. They believe the TSA narrative that the cockpits were opened under duress by the pilots because they wanted to save the flight attendants from their necks being cut. That’s absolutely preposterous because six of the eight pilots were seasoned military veterans who attended survival school and the terrorists knew that it would’ve been a ridiculous risk to have a hostage standoff when one of those pilots could have simply said, I’m not opening that cockpit, I’m going to emergency land this thing, we’re over land, but I’m not letting anybody into my cockpit. And that would’ve foiled a multi terrorist plot that was in the making. The other myth [00:42:00] is that the cockpits were broken open. That’s also absurd because 13 months before 9/11, a man tried to break down a cockpit door on a Southwest 737 and he failed, and the reason was because the passengers crushed him to death when they thought, hey, we could all be killed if this guy gets in. So I’m pretty certain that the masterminds of 9/11 read that in the New York Times and everywhere and go, well, trying to break open the doors, that’s probably going to be stupid and the next absurd myth is that they forced the flight attendants to give them keys to unlock the cockpit doors. That’s also absurd because a lot of airlines don’t have keys. Some do, some don’t, and the terrorists would have to risk that the keys were misplaced, lost, or didn’t [00:43:00] work. So that would be dumb. So the easiest way, and it’s right in the it’s on page 5, 158 and 245 of the 9/11 Commission Report. They simply waited for the pilots to need to use the lavatory or get their breakfast. This is why they chose those flights. These were six hour nonstop flights. They knew at least one of those pilots was going to unlock that door, either to chat with the flight attendant about issues, get a food tray, get coffee, get water, but primarily to use a lavatory and that’s how they got in. And 20 years later, we are still in the same situation and I use the analogy is, if today we had no radar systems around Hawaii and we parked the entire Pacific Naval fleet in Pearl Harbor. That’s essentially what we’re doing today. And one of the biggest things that we couldn’t put [00:44:00] into my Supreme Court arguments was that three months before my disclosure in July of 2003, the pilots went public that the airlines and the government failed to put in a secondary barrier system and instead they spent millions and millions of dollars on armoring the doors, making them bulletproof, and making them impossible to break down, even though they were already impossible to break down, they just made it harder. But the pilots went public to Associated Press and CBS News in April of 2003, once again, three months before my disclosures, that those multimillion dollar armored doors, they still open up throughout the flight. So for the past 20 years I’ve been screaming and yelling: using flight attendants’ bodies and drink carts to protect unlocked [00:45:00] cockpits is provably absurd and I found a secret report that was issued in 2011, that the TSA and the FAA refused to go public about. They were making a report about doors that we see all day long opened on a flight, that is secret and we can’t read that. And in that report, it said even federal air marshals couldn’t stop an attack on unlocked doors, just like what happened on 9/11. And I mentioned to you drink carts. We have two airlines, major airlines, that don’t even have drink carts on their flights. And I’ve seen it repeatedly after I was reinstated from the Supreme Court decision, flight attendants, they have their backs turned. I even saw on one flight they allowed the passengers to line up behind the forward area while the cockpit was open. And last month, [00:46:00] the chairman of the house transportation committee, it’s on video because I captured it, he said that while he was flying, it was Peter DeFazio, while he was flying from Oregon to DC he said the flight attendant left the door open for almost 15 minutes, chit chatting with the pilot. At the same time, looking behind her back to make sure that nobody’s attacking. So, okay. Let’s just say a terrorist is not crazy enough to jump in a cockpit and kill everybody. Well, on December 16th, 2020 in a U.S. Department of Justice indictment, it said Cholo Abdi Abdullah was obtaining flight training in Philippines. He also conducted research into the means and methods to hijack a commercial airline to conduct the planned attack, including security on commercial airlines and how to breach a cockpit door from the outside and information about the tallest building in the United States. It gets [00:47:00] better, Khalil El Dahr observed, on a Jet Blue, door open and he grabbed a flight attendant by her collar and tied with one hand while using his other hand to grab the overhead compartment to gain leverage to kick, the FBI affidavit says. As the Jet Blue flight attendant was kicked in the chest, El Dahr yelled for the flight crew officer to shoot him. The pilot actually had unlocked the door and he’s asking for the pilot. Well, it gets better. Last month, The Wall Street Journal came out with an exposé. They concluded that in March, there was a China Eastern Boeing jet, brand new, that took a straight nosedive. The investigators are leaking to The Wall Street Journal that that was intentional. So bottom line is, I’m blowing the whistle and just to finish off, this is pretty much just like the Ford Pinto scandal. Ford spent all [00:48:00] this money engineering and manufacturing the Ford Pinto, which was marketed for poor people, but they figured out that this thing was a bomb and they knew it. But the lawyers said, hey, it’s cheaper that we just pay out injury and wrongful death claims than to fix the problem. So Congress recently tried to fix the problem about unlocked cockpit doors. They issued a law. So now the terrorists could just read the law on the books. In 2018, they said we’re only going to put secondary barriers on newly built aircraft. So now you just told all the terrorists don’t bother with the new jets that were just built, attack the old ones.
Mickey Huff: Part of your story too, is that you’ve been terminated from two positions for speaking out?
Robert MacLean: Right after the Supreme Court decision, and I was reinstated, they were coming after me with everything. So I had a perfect law [00:49:00] enforcement officer career, numerous awards, all kinds of commendations. And for the Supreme Court case, they only could get me on one charge. This time, they got me on 13 charges ranging from being this serial sexual harasser, obstructing their investigation into me, and while they’re withholding all this information, they can influence witnesses, they can destroy evidence. They altered an exhibit that they used to fire me. They literally went in there and took whiteout, they spliced something together, they put it on a photocopier, and they used that exhibit to fire me. That’s a felony. That’s how far they went. They tried to have me criminally prosecuted. They wanted me in federal prison.
Mickey Huff: So Robert MacLean, this case is still going on. Is that correct?
Robert MacLean: It’s been over three years since they fired me again. So that goes to show you, and I’m back in the United [00:50:00] States Merit Systems Protection Board that was empty for three years, which couldn’t stop my termination. And when we got through the discovery, the guy who fired me, he made the decision to fire me, he had the draft in his possession for five months. So why did he sit on it for five months? Because he knew the Trump administration wasn’t going to put any people on the Merit Systems Protection Board, and all of the Merit Systems Protection Board members, they got forced out, and days after they fired me, because they would’ve stopped my termination.
Mickey Huff: That’s an incredible story, Robert, thank you for sharing it with our listeners here on The Project Censored Show. Great thanks to the whistleblowers we’ve had on the program today for their courage and their willingness to speak up and speak the truth and speak truth to power, even though it obviously has negative repercussions for their own positions, their own lives. Tom Devine, let’s bring you in here. What’s going on in [00:51:00] Congress around Robert MacLean’s issue in the TSA. Any bills, anything we could talk about?
Tom Devine: The pioneer whistleblower law that was first passed in 1978 is now up for its fifth generation. These are timeless struggles and the law, which was a pioneer law, is a dinosaur right now. The whistleblowers don’t have access to a jury of citizens to who they’re purporting to defend when they risk their careers to seek justice. Robert right now is before an administrative judge who used to be part of the DHS team that tried to fire him the first time. And now is the judge for when they’re firing him the second time. There’s no chance for justice there. We’ve gotta get access to jury trials. If we’re going to be having credible rights. There is no protection in current law against retaliatory investigations. And so Robert was put under six criminal investigations immediately after the Supreme Court reinstated him. It went on for several years until they’d [00:52:00] accumulated enough garbage that they could assemble a series of pretexts and he couldn’t defend himself against those investigations until they fired him. And then there’s to get a real chance for injunctive relief, for temporary relief. These cases drag on routinely for three to five years and even if a whistleblower survives the gauntlet of political bias and actually wins, it may be too late. They’ve already lost their home, their family, they’re bankrupt, their professional reputation is irrevocably destroyed. We need credible rights for federal employees. If we expect them to defend the public, they’ve gotta be able to defend themselves.
Mickey Huff: Indeed, Tom Devine. And where can we go to get more information about these cases? Of course, Tom, you are legal director at the Government Accountability Project. You’ve been there since 1979. You’ve been involved with some 7,000 whistleblowers defending themselves against retaliation. [00:53:00] And of course I think our listeners can tell, the folks that have been on this show today have made significant differences and they’ve put those differences in the public interest, above their own personal interests. And that’s something that we always talk about when we talk about whistleblowers on The Project Censored Show, whether it’s Rick Parks or Robert MacLean or Frank Serpico or Julian Assange or Reality Winner or Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, we could go on and on, John Kiriakou. The list is long Tom and there’s a lot to do, but can you tell us where to get more information? whistleblower.org is the Government Accountability Project. Rick or Robert do you have any sites or any places you want to direct people to? Of course, Rick, you have directed us to the new Netflix series Meltdown: Three Mile Island. Is that among the better places to go?
Rick Parks: That is.
Mickey Huff: And Robert MacLean, anything you’d like to share as far as contacts, connections, where [00:54:00] to follow the case?
Robert MacLean: Call your members of Congress, your house representative, both of your U.S. senators, call them on the phone. Don’t email them, the emails go nowhere. Call them on the phone, blow up their lines. H.R.911, 9/11, needs to be passed. H.R.911 would mandate secondary barriers on all cockpit areas, just like Israel has had since the seventies. That’s why nobody’s hijacked in Israeli jet when they were hijacked left and right in the fifties and sixties. So H.R.911, and I’m looking at it right now, we have 52 co-sponsors. That is huge. If anybody knows, Tom knows, 52 co-sponsors on that bill shows that we’ve got a serious problem because it’s going to cost a lot of money to put in those secondary barriers, but it needs to be done. And you could find me real easy, to get a briefing on this, is my Twitter [00:55:00] account: Robert MacLean, M A C L E A N, and my Twitter handle is R as in Robert, J as in James, and then my last name, MacLean, M A C L E A N [@rjmaclean] and you will see my tweets that’ll make your toes curl, but we could all fix this by passing H.R.911.
Mickey Huff: Robert MacLean, thanks so much for joining us and for your work. Rick Parks, thank you for joining us on The Project Censored Show today. Thanks too to Frank Serpico, who joined us earlier and Tom Devine, last words from you today. Obviously much more to do and more to say but wanted to leave you with the last words on the hopes for protecting whistle blowers and why we need them.
Tom Devine: Thanks Mickey. If your listeners want to help, they should go to the Take Action page at GAP’s website, the Government Accountability Project’s website, whistleblower.org. And it’ll give you instructions for the bill numbers, which members of [00:56:00] Congress to contact, and the message to make and we need your help to get real rights for these people. The politicians need to catch up with the public. Right before the last election, there was a Marist poll and 86% of likely voters said that Congress should pass stronger whistleblower laws. But unfortunately since the impeachment trials and president Trump saying that whistleblowers were traitors who should be hanged, we’ve gone from always having unanimous support for these rights, to it being a partisan issue. So your listeners should, if they’ve got a Republican Congressman or Senator, they should be demanding that they make their first loyalty to the voters, not to Trump, and being loyal to the voters means having a safe channel for the truth about what’s happening with their lives. And for the Democrats, if you’ve got a Democratic Congressman or Senator, demand that they fight for those who expose the truth, [00:57:00] because otherwise we’re not going to get it.
Mickey Huff: Tom Devine, thank you so much for the work you’re doing, protecting whistleblowers since 1979, Government Accountability Project. And again, Robert MacLean, Rick Parks, Frank Serpico, thanks to all of you for your work and thank you for joining us to share these stories on The Project Censored Show today.
And that does it for another episode today, you’ve been listening to The Project Censored Show on Pacifica Radio, established in 2010. I am Mickey Huff, executive producer and co-host of the program, along with co-host and associate producer, Eleanor Goldfield. Special thanks to Anthony Fest, our longtime senior producer, and the man behind the curtain.
The Project Censored Show airs on roughly 50 stations around the United States from Maui to New York. You can find any of our previous archive programs by going to [00:58:00] projectcensored.org, please follow and like us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram before we get deplatformed and be sure to subscribe to The Official Project Censored Show on your digital tethering device’s podcast application. Please feel free to share your feedback or learn more about our work at projectcensored.org and see our new publishing imprint, The Censored Press at censoredpress.org. Last but not least, thanks to you our listeners for tuning in. We’ll see you next time.
Image by Daniel Bone from Pixabay