Fri 27 April
Last Friday, a small meeting brought together whistleblowers past and present and their supporters in Denbigh as part of a three week series of events in Wales in solidarity with accused whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has now been detained by the US without trial for nearly two years, eleven months of which were endured under conditions of torture. Bradley faces life without parole or even the death penalty if eventually convicted at court martial of the charges against him. Meanwhile, President Obama, Commander-in-Chief of the military (which is carrying out the court martial), has already declared Bradley guilty in advance of any due legal process.
Bradley Manning supporters are calling for all charges to be dropped and for Bradley’s immediate release.
Eight whistleblowers, along with friends and supporters, met in a room at the Welsh Language Centre in Denbigh to discuss whistleblowing issues from the personal to the global. Several of those present have very recently blown the whistle and are suffering the consequences. With whistleblowing at all levels, the rhetoric is protection, the reality persecution.
The meeting was chaired by whistleblower Mair Jones who exposed the damaging bullying culture in the Children’s Commissioner’s Office for Wales, a body set up to stop bullying and other abuse of children in the wake of the North Wales Child Abuse Inquiry and Waterhouse report.
Genny Bove, who continues to blow the whistle on corruption and cover up in and around a local ‘umbrella’ charity in Wrexham, AVOW, introduced the background to Bradley Manning’s case and made connections between the experiences of local whistleblowers and that of Bradley Manning, between the way Bradley Manning has been treated and the way all whistleblowers are treated. She also stressed the need for openness and transparency at all levels, since Bradley Manning would never have been in a position where he was privy to so much ‘secret’ information had others not gone along with covering it up in the first place. A culture of lies, silence, complicity and ‘turning a blind eye’ from the very bottom of every organisation upwards supports corruption and wrongdoing. There was a discussion about the way in which many workers remain silent through fear of losing their jobs.
No one present had been arrested, detained without trial and held in long term solitary confinement, woken every five minutes day and night, denied exercise, forced to stand naked in front of guards, all treatment that Bradley endured while held in Quantico Brig until April 2011. However, the stories that were shared involved repeated themes of bullying, isolation, marginalisation, fabricated counter-allegations, as well as loss of health, well-being, self-esteem, career opportunities and livelihood.
Chris Clode, previously national co-ordinator for the now disbanded ‘Freedom to Care’ whistleblowing organisation, spoke about his experiences of blowing the whistle at Flintshire County Council and offered some ideas and advice for whistleblowers. Mark Isherwood, AM, who has supported and sought justice for Welsh whistleblowers for years gave an overview of his efforts in the Welsh Assembly and the various scandals in which whistleblowers have been vilified, their concerns ignored, with lessons apparently not being learned from one sorry case to the next.
At the end of the meeting, the group decided to keep in touch and to plan a further meeting in the coming months. Several more whistleblowers have expressed an interest in getting involved since the meeting.