Pillar Human Rights Award
International Person's of Conscience
As whistleblowers, we are a community outspoken activists and advocates who frequently speak Truth to Power. We are trans-partisan and view whistle-blowing not in terms of Left verses Right—but instead as Right versus Wrong. The Pillar Award is a way for our community to give credit and recognition to the individuals and institutions that form the foundation that supports our community, in particular First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment protections.
We traditionally present Pillar Awards to courageous lawmakers who have sponsored or co-sponsored important legislation, or who have supported our community in other tangible ways. Since it takes Democrats and Republicans to actually pass legislation into law we often recognize the sponsors and co-sponsors of important legislation from both sides of the isle. Additionally, we have recently given Pillar Awards to other exemplary individuals and organizations who support Civil Rights, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, including Media Organizations, Journalists and Community Activists.
On June 17, 1972 a security guard foiled a break-in at the luxurious Watergate Hotel. Frank Wills was doing his job and performing his duty by reporting this breach, which became known as the infamous Watergate scandal, and ultimately ended the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon. The publisher, the Washington Post, won the Pulitzer Prize and became more influential. The journalists, Woodward and Bernstein, became rich, famous and best selling authors, being depicted in the Hollywood movie All The Presidents Men. Even the Watergate burglars became well-known broadcast celebrities, (e.g., G. Gordon Liddy). Tragically, whistleblowers often help publishers and journalists “break” important news stories, however the whistleblowers themselves often become “broken” in return. The “Frank Wills” award will honor unsung heroes and highlight the tension between journalists and their sources.
We are also proud to announce the “Frank Wills & Martha Mitchell” Award for Whistleblowers and Unsung Heroes. This award is given to whistleblowers and others who suffer great tragedy and setbacks for speaking truth to power or otherwise doing the right thing. Frank Wills was the security guard who reported the break in at the Watergate Hotel and Martha Mitchell was the wife of John Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon who kept the Watergate story alive due to her frequent phone calls to reporters and colorful comments on the state of the nation, until it was eventually picked up by the Washington Post and several high-profile magazines. Their courage eventually brought down the Presidency of Richard Millhouse Nixon. Everyone benefited from the Watergate story, including the criminals—except the Whistleblowers, i.e., Frank Wills suffered retaliation and died destitute, while Martha Mitchell who was divorced, committed to a mental health institution and died of multiple myeloma three years later. This award honors his memory and highlights the tension between how whistleblowers are used regularly by media outlets but are then readily discarded when the news cycle ends.
Civic Activism Award
Grace Lee Boggs is an American author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist. A prominent activist her entire adult life, Grace Lee was born in Rhode Island in 1915, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, receiving her Ph.D. in 1940. Her studies in philosophy and the writings of Marx, Hegel, and Margaret Mead led not to a life in academia, but rather to a lifetime of social activism. Lee´s activism began in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights, and then the Workers Party, a splinter group of the Socialist Workers Party. In these associations, as well as in her involvement with the 1941 March on Washington, Lee focused on marginalized groups such as women and people of color. In 1953, Lee married black auto-worker and activist James Boggs and moved to Detroit, where she remains an activist today, writing columns for the Michigan Citizen. James died in 1993. She believes that it is by working together in small groups that positive social change can happen, not in large revolutions where one group of power simply changes position with another. The "Grace Lee Boggs" award will honor civic activism and grassroots engagement.
Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus
Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-MN)
House Whistleblower Protection Caucus
Honorable Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Honorable Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
Honorable Mike Coffman (R-CO)
Honorable Rod Blum (R-IA)
Arkansas Legislative Assembly Representatives
Honorable Vivian Flowers (D-17)
Honorable Kenneth “Ken” Ferguson (D-16)
Honorable Charles Blake (D-36)
Mayor Karen Weaver, City of Flint Michigan
—Documentary (Docudrama) Film—
Will Smith and Peter Landesman (Director)—Concussion
Best Portrayal and Most Important Whistleblower Film
Ron Fonger, First Reporter on Flint Water Crisis
—Frank Wills & Martha Mitchell Whistleblower Award—
Sheila White—Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad vs White
William “Bill” Harrod—Pay Day Loan Whistleblower
—Grace Lee Boggs Award for Civic Activism—
Berta Caceres, Indigenous Honduras Activist
Delores Huerta, Co-founder United Farm Workers
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) earned the Pillar Award for authoring the Military Whistleblower Protection Act and co-founding the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. “As the author of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, I am proud to join Senators Grassley and Wyden as a founding member of the bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Caucus. I look forward to continuing to build on past efforts to protect whistleblowers from harassment and retaliation,” said Senator Boxer. Senator Boxer joined with Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa (chairman) and Ron Wyden of Oregon (vice-chairman) as one of the founding members of the Whistleblower Protection Caucus. The caucus will foster bipartisan discussion on legislative issues affecting the treatment of whistleblowers and serve as a clearinghouse for current information on whistleblower developments of interest in the Senate. It will also coordinate training and consultation for any Senate office in need of assistance in responding to whistleblower disclosures or retaliation allegations.
Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) earned the Pillar Award due to his courageous stand against the Confederate Battle Flag, which is contained within the Mississippi State Flag. Additional consideration was given for Representative Thompson’s leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, sponsorship of H.R. 1008 “Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2009” and support for H.R. 50 “Federal Bureau of Investigation First Amendment Protection Act of 1993” and H.R. 11 “NSA Oversight Act.” Finally, Thompson was honored for his support for whistleblower protection and/or equal employment opportunity in the past.
—Grace Lee Boggs Award for Civic Activism—
Dr. Riki Ott Marine biologist who has fought oil spills and dispersants—first, the Exxon Valdez, then British Petroleum's Gulf Coast Disaster received the first "Grace Lee Boggs" Award for Activism. Acceptance Speech Grace Lee Boggs is an American author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist. She believes that it is by working together in small groups that positive social change can happen, not in large revolutions where one group of power simply changes position with another. Dr. Riki Ott witnessed first-hand the ecological destruction and social chaos from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska––and became an “accidental activist” in its wake. A trained marine toxicologist and former commercial fisher woman, she has written two books on oil spill impacts to ecosystems, people, and communities and starred in Black Wave, an award-winning feature film. In 2009, Ott co-founded Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute, and the national grassroots coalition MoveToAmend.org. In May 2010, Ott brought her expertise to the Gulf of Mexico, volunteering for one year to expose a public health crisis of chemical illness and to help with local community organizing. For her work in the Gulf, Huffington Post named Ott a 2010 Game Changer. On the one-year memorial of the BP disaster in 2011, she co-hosted a national webcast teach-in, Changing the Endgame, to expose the high costs of America’s fossil fuel dependency––and show how communities are reducing their carbon footprint. Ott advocates ending corporate rule and creating sustainable communities. She lectures nationally and internationally, inspiring students from fifth grade through universities and adults to take action and showing by example how one person can make a difference.
—Frank Wills Whistleblower Award—
Jeffrey Sterling earned the “Frank Wills” Unsung Hero Award, which is named in honor of the African-American security guard at the Watergate Hotel who died destitute from whistleblower retaliation after reporting the infamous break in that brought down President Richard Millhouse Nixon. Jeffery Sterling, a former CIA Whistleblower, was accused of telling New York Times reporter James Risen about a CIA operation that had provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000. Those charges are unproven. However, no one disputes that Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about the CIA action, dubbed Operation Merlin, which Risen's book later exposed and brought to light as dumb and dangerous. While ostensibly aiming to prevent nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked advancing it. When he informed staff of the Senate oversight committee about Operation Merlin, Sterling was going through channels to be a whistleblower. Now he faced 10 felony counts that included seven under the Espionage Act. Sterling’s prosecution was political payback for whistleblowing to Congress.
We herald the importance of the independent press to American Democracy and social movements. Fredrick Douglass toured the country with William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists, giving speeches and selling subscriptions to "The Liberator" and "The Anti-Slavery Standard" a similar periodical. The father of the Black Labor movement, A. Philip Randolph understood the importance of the independent press to the labor movement and published “The Messenger” Magazine. W.E.B. Dubious the founder of the NAACP also understood the value and importance of the independent press to the Civil Rights Movement and published “The Crisis” Magazine. Today, we want to recognize the importance of new technology and the independent press and therefore honor “This Is The Movement” Newsletter for its behind the police barricade coverage of the Ferguson Protest and Black Lives Matter Movement.
This Is The Movement Newsletter
DeRay Mckesson (Social Media Activist) citizen journalist and national spokesperson
Brittany Packnett, Executive Director of St. Louis Teach for America
Johnetta Elzie (Day 1) citizen journalist and national spokesperson
Justin Hansford, Law Professor at St. Louis University
Tom Engelhardt, editor and founder of TomDispatch – under the auspices of The Nation Institute frequently covers whistleblowers and issues relating to whistle blowing. Tom Engelhardt launched TomDispatch in November 2001 as an e-mail publication offering commentary and collected articles from the world press. In December 2002, it gained its name, became a project of The Nation Institute, and went online as "a regular antidote to the mainstream media." TomDispatch is intended to introduce readers to voices and perspectives from elsewhere (even when the elsewhere is here). Its mission is to connect some of the global dots regularly left unconnected by the mainstream media and to offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works.
Abigail Suzanne "Abby" Martin is an American journalist and former host of Breaking the Set on RT America network, working from the Washington, D.C. bureau. Martin is also an artist and activist, and founded the citizen journalism website, Media Roots.She serves on the board of directors for the Media Freedom Foundation which manages Project Censored. (2014 Pillar Award Recipient). Martin appeared in the documentary film Project Censored The Movie: Ending the Reign of Junk Food News (2013),and co-directed 99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (2013). On the final episode of Breaking the Set, Abby Martin, discussed the power of grassroots activism in getting the FCC to uphold net neutrality.
Dennis Bernstein is an American producer and co-host of the radio news program, Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica Radio. When Oliver North and the CIA were in the process of cutting a deal with cocaine traffickers to illegally fund the Nicaraguan contras in 1986, Dennis Bernstein was on top of the story, tracking the traffickers and attempting to hold the CIA accountable. His award-winning Contragate/Undercurrents investigative radio show, co-produced with Robert Knight, featured thousands of hours of original material on the Iran-Contra scandal and related government abuses of power.Flashpoints originates from Pacifica Radio's flagship radio station, KPFA, listener-sponsored, noncommercial FM radio that is also carried on the Internet.
Michael Cuesta for Kill the Messenger, Based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb. A reporter becomes the target of a vicious smear campaign that drives him to the point of suicide (purported) after he exposes the CIA's role in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Several demonstrations were sparked by this reporter's Pultizer Prize winning. It also strikes very close to home because this Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gary Webb, lost everything for daring to connect the dots.
- Winner—Best Whistleblower Film: Whistleblower Summit for Civil & Human Rights (2015)
- Nominated—Joe Barber Award / Best Portrayal of Washington, DC: Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Awards (2014)
- Nominated—Best Actor (Jeremy Renner): Women Film Critics Circle Awards (2014)
- Nominated—Best Male Images in a Movie:Women Film Critics Circle Awards (2014)
"Focus Features and the cast and crew of KILL THE MESSENGER thank the Whistle Blower Summit for Civil & Human Rights for our movie’s Pillar Award for Best Whistle Blower Film, and salute all the Whistle Blowers past and present." --Jason Simos
Senator John Boozman (R-AR) received the Pillar Award due to his call for transparency and accountability in the government and a historic demand for criminal prosecutions at the Veteran’s Affairs administration. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the second largest federal department, serves as the primary medical backup to the military health care system during and immediately following an outbreak of war or national emergency. The recent cover up and manipulation of records by the VA has earned the censor by President Obama and calls for criminal investigation by Senator Boozman who serves on four committees in the Senate: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Appropriations; Environment and Public Works (EPW); and Veterans’ Affairs.
Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) received the Pillar Award due to his sponsorship of the All Circuit Review Extension Act (H.R. 4197) that ends the monopoly of the Federal Circuit for federal whistleblower cases. The Steering Committee for the Make It Safe Coalition of more than 50 NGOs supporting whistleblower rights applauds the passage of the Act (H.R. 4197) by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Primary sponsor and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced the legislation, the measure was approved by voice vote, without dissent. Congressman Cummings currently serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. As the main investigative committee in the House of Representatives, Oversight and Government Reform has jurisdiction to investigate any federal program and any matter with federal policy implications. As the Committee’s Ranking Member, Congressman Cummings fights to hold the Presidential Administration to a high standard of excellence and to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the actions of the government of the United States.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) earned the Pillar Award due to her support of Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancements.The National Defense Authorization Act of FY2014 included nine of the Congresswoman’s amendments, including six amendments to address military sexual assault. Speier’s amendment modernizes the protections available to whistleblowers and victims of sexual assault by protecting disclosures up the chain of command, establishing reasonable legal burdens to demonstrate retaliation available to other federal whistleblowers against reprisal, providing a reasonable amount of time to report wrongdoing, requiring discipline against those who retaliate against whistleblowers, and providing a review process that will give victims and whistleblowers the ability to have their records corrected if they have experienced reprisal. In 2012 Newsweek named Jackie Speier to its list of 150 “fearless women” in the world.
U.S. Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner earned the first Pillar Award for “Government Reform” due to her leadership in the historic transformation at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the government advocate for whistleblowers in the federal workplace. The OSC was largely ineffectual and dysfunctional under prior leadership, especially Scott Bloch’s tenure; but has become a sterling example of government transformation under Lerner’s new leadership, including the recent MOU between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. Under Lerner’s leadership, the OSC has attended government hearings and submitted amicus briefs to the Supreme Court of the United States supporting whistleblower protections under the new Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
Sharyl Attkisson received the Pillar Award for fearless reporting in the face of government retaliation. She is an American investigative correspondent formerly in the Washington bureau for CBS News and also substituted as anchor for the CBS Evening News. She resigned from CBS News after 21 years with the network. On March 10, 2014, Attkisson resigned from CBS News, reportedly due to frustration over what she perceived to be the network's liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporting, as well as issues she had with the network’s corporate partners. She is the author of Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington regarding the difficulties of reporting critically about the administration.
Andy Lee Roth and Mickey Huff received the Pillar Award on behalf of Project Censored: The News that Didn’t Make the News. Project Censored educates students and the public about the importance of a truly free press for democratic self-government. Project Censored exposes and opposes news censorship and promotes independent investigative journalism, media literacy, and critical thinking. Promoting Media Literacy and Democracy. An informed public is crucial to democracy in at least two basic ways. First, without access to relevant news and opinion, people cannot fully participate in government. Second, without media literacy, people cannot evaluate for themselves the quality or significance of the news they receive. Censorship undermines democracy. Project Censored’s work—including an annual book, weekly radio broadcasts, campus affiliates program, and additional community events—highlights the important links among a free press, media literacy and democratic self-government.
Joseph P. Nacchio earned the first Pillar Award for “Corporate Responsibility” for taking a stand for Internet Privacy after being retaliated against after he refused to capitulate to NSA demands for customer records. Nacchio was chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Qwest Communications International from 1997 to 2002, and was the only head of a communications company to demand a court order, or approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in order to turn over communications records to the NSA. According to a Washington Post, Nacchio claimed that the National Security Agency had asked Qwest in February 2001 to participate in a surveillance program; after he declined, the NSA punished Qwest by dropping a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Nacchio was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading in Qwest stock on April 19, 2007— charges he claims are U.S. government retaliation for his refusal to give customer data to the National Security Agency in February, 2001. Andrew Krieg accepted the award on behalf of Nacchio because the Justice Integrity Project has written extensively about his public service in fighting for his customers' privacy, and the overall injustice of his prosecution. Nacchio's case is especially important to all whistleblowers because of the implications for privacy and selective prosecution against political targets.
Andy Shallal earned the Pillar Award due to his support of social justice, community empowerment and whistleblower protection. A small business owner, and candidate for Mayor for Washington, DC, Shallal is the founder of Busboys and Poets and former Board Member for Teaching for Change. Teaching for Change’s Bookstore is the Washington, D.C. area’s best source for books that encourage children and adults to question, challenge, and re-think the world beyond the headlines. Teaching for Change features a hand-selected collection of books for children and young adults that highlight children of color and social justice themes. The bookstore is located in the Busboys and Poets (14th and V Street NW) restaurant, performance space, and coffeehouse, which features a dynamic events schedule; and has hosted the Whistleblower Book signing and Documentary Film Screening during the annual Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights. Tony Norman, Vice Chair of the Pacifica Foundation accepted the Pillar Award on behalf of Andy Shallal.
—Frank Wills Whistleblower Award—
Bradley C. Birkenfeld received the first “Frank Wills” Unsung Hero Award, which is named in honor of the African-American security guard at the Watergate Hotel who died destitute from whistleblower retaliation after reporting the infamous break in that brought down President Richard Millhouse Nixon. Birkenfeld, a former banker at UBS, served two and a half years in prison for conspiring with a wealthy California developer to evade United States income taxes. By divulging the schemes that UBS used to encourage American citizens to dodge their taxes, Mr. Birkenfeld led to an investigation that has greatly diminished Switzerland’s status as a secret haven for American tax cheats and allowed the Treasury to recover billions in unpaid taxes. Mr. Birkenfeld’s $104 million whistle-blower award for revealing the secrets of the Swiss banking system, was the largest ever paid by the I.R.S., is also a milestone for the agency’s whistle-blower program, and has helped the United States recover more than $5 billion in unpaid taxes.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) received the Pillar Award for his epic [Stand With Rand] filibuster against the [unconstitutional] drone strikes and his support for the Fourth Amendment and Internet Privacy. On the Civil Rights front, we also noted his position against the “War on Drugs” and support for restoration of voting rights for non-violent felony offenders.
Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) earned the Pillar Award for her ardent support of Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and her leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) including pressing the Obama Administration to support Civil Rights thereby restoring their reputation as the Conscience of the Congress.
Senator Ronald Wyden (D-OR) earned the Pillar Award for supporting the Fourth Amendment and confronting U.S. Director for National Intelligence James Clapper for lying to Congress about warrantless Internet Surveillance by the U.S. Government. Two U.S. representatives accused Clapper of perjury for telling a Congressional committee in March 2013, that the NSA does not collect any type of data at all on millions of Americans. Senator Wyden asked for his resignation, and a group of 26 senators complained about Clapper's responses under questioning. Media observers have described Clapper as having lied under oath, having obstructed justice, and having given false testimony. Additionally, Wyden was the first politician in Congress to stand against the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) on the grounds that it would "step towards an Internet in which those with money and lawyers and access to power have a greater voice than those who don’t."Wyden delayed the PIPA in the Senate by placing a hold on the legislation in 2010, which was credited with "[g]iving time for the Internet to rally against" SOPA and PIPA.
Rob Kall received the Pillar Award in the New Media category for his pioneering work with OpEd News, a technorati top 100 blog, and the number #1 website for breaking whistleblower stories and his community activism. Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of OpEdNews.com, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), publisher of Storycon.org, and President of Futurehealth, Inc. He is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com.
Ambrose Lane earned a posthumous Pillar Award in Journalism for his lifetime achievements in public radio and his faithful and generous service to the Pacifica Foundation, the WPFW Family, and all persons who value peace and justice. An Author, Journalist and award-winning Broadcaster, Ambrose Lane supported Free Speech, Civil Rights and Human Rights as host of the award-winning program We Ourselves on WPFW (89.3 FM) the Pacifica Radio Network. Ambrose Lane, Jr. and Jim Brown accepted the award on behalf of Ambrose Lane.
Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) received the Pillar Award as recognition for his “lifetime achievements” as the Patron Saint of Whistleblowers. The author of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Grassley has campaigned to increase protection and provide support for "whistleblowers" including FBI whistleblowers, Coleen Rowley, Michael German, and Jane Turner. Senator Grassley also co-sponsored the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. In April 2014, Grassley announced plans to create a caucus in the Senate dedicated to strengthening whistleblower protections and sponsored National Whistleblower Appreciation Day in July 2013.
Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) received the Pillar Award for championing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act for over a decade. The bill was authored by Senator Akaka and President Barack Obama enacted the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 at a ceremony in the Oval Office. This landmark legislation strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act to better protect federal employees who come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoing.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) received the Pillar Award for her support of the First Amendment and sponsorship of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. (WPEA). This legislation was 13 years in the making and provided much needed fixes to the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Representative Todd Platt (R-PA) received the Pillar Award for his support of the First Amendment and co-sponsored the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). This legislation was 13 years in the making and provided much needed fixes to the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) earned the Pillar Award in Civil Liberties and Human Rights for his courageous stand against the Bush Administration and their rush into the Iraq War. Kucinich was known for consistently delivering "the strongest liberal" perspective; such as bringing Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and being the only Democratic candidate in the 2008 election to vote against invading Iraq. Kucinich opposed the USA PATRIOT Act since its inception, and voted to require the Department of Defense to present a detailed plan for transferring prisoners out of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. The American Civil Liberties Union gave Kucinich a 100% rating on civil liberties for the 2006-2007 legislative session.
Arlene Engelhardt, Executive Director for Pacifica Foundation, received the Pillar Award in Journalism/Activism for her support of whistleblowers, the First Amendment and passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Under her leadership, the Pacifica Radio Network became the first media organization to formally support whistleblowers and endorse whistleblower legislation.
Acie L. Byrd Jr., earned the Pillar Award for lifetime achievement and activism in public radio and his faithful and generous service to the Pacifica Foundation, the WPFW Family, and all persons who value peace and justice. A founder of WPFW and National Board Member of the Pacifica Foundation, Acie Byrd had a deep respect for the Pacifica mission as demonstrated by his ongoing hosting of programs concerning efforts for world peace, an end to nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and support for Americas military veterans.