2015 Whistleblower of the Year Candidate Stories

Aicha Elbasri

Aicha Elbasri is the former spokesperson for the United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) who resigned from her post in 2013 after calling out what she describes as the “conspiracy of silence” of UNAMID and the UN in failing to report on the atrocities committed by the Sudanese government against its people: “Systematic mass rape and other instances of violence went unreported, un-investigated and covered up, forcing me to blow the whistle.”  In an open letter she wrote earlier this year to Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Elbasri implored the court to re-open its now-dropped investigation of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir and bring justice to the people of this war-torn country.  This followed a scathing piece she had previously written in Foreign Policy denouncing the UN for hiding “through a web of lies” Darfur’s “horrible war on civilians.”  Her goal in all this is to rouse the public to action against the horrible conditions in Darfur.  Learn more about Ms. Elbasri.

Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov

Yuliya and Vitaly Stepanov are the Russian doping duo who together took a bold stand against what they saw as major corruption in the recently revitalized Russian sports machine, exposing one of the biggest international doping scandals in sports history.  Yuliya, an elite middle-distance runner serving a suspension for doping, and her husband, Vitaly, a former employee of Russia’s anti-doping agency, over almost two years, secretly recorded coaches and athletes describing their use of performance-enhancing drugs.  The couple’s evidence featured in a German documentary broadcast in December 2014 that alleged that top Russian sports officials provided banned substances to athletes and covered up positive tests in exchange for a percentage of winnings.  The film sparked a wide-ranging investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that culminated in a scathing investigatory report published in November 2015.  Learn more about the Stepanovs.

Dr. Walter Tamosaitis

Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, a manager at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington, was designing a way to immobilize millions of gallons of toxic and radioactive liquid waste when he discovered the Energy Department’s plans to treat the waste were extremely unsafe, potentially leading to a spontaneous nuclear reaction.  He brought his concerns to his employer, government contractor URS, and within a few days – despite spending 44 years at the company – he was removed from his management position at Hanford, escorted off the property, and assigned to a basement office at URS where he was assigned no meaningful work for nearly a year and a half before he was eventually fired.  After filing a federal lawsuit for retaliation and speaking with government investigators, the Energy Department in 2013 finally heeded Dr. Tamosaitis’ concerns and ordered a halt to the construction of two massive processing facilities at Hanford fearing safety concerns over the plant’s design.  Learn more about Dr. Tamosaitis.

The VA Whistleblowers

The VA whistleblowers are the continually growing group of healthcare providers and other insiders at the Veterans Affairs Department who have come forward to identify the horrendous treatment of our veterans at the hospitals that are supposed to take care of them.  Dozens of our military veterans have died just waiting to be seen for simple screening procedures, and others have been relegated to a black box of never knowing when they might receive care, or delayed care that exacerbates their medical problems and pain.  These whistleblowers, some of them named — such as doctors Sam Foote and Katherine Mitchell and scheduling clerk Pauline DeWenter, all of the Phoenix VA Hospital, and others reporting anonymously — have shed light on these practices and have continued to push for reform for years, which unfortunately seems to be a battle that must still be waged in the New Year.  Learn more about the VA Whistleblowers.

Craig Watts

Craig Watts is one of the 30,000 contract farmers in the U.S. who work with the handful of Big-Ag poultry producers, like Perdue Farms, that control what goes into the vast majority of chickens we eat.  They also dictate how these chickens are treated.  And after more than twenty years in the business, working on the farm that his family has owned since the 1700s, Watts decided he no longer could be silent in the face of what he saw as Perdue’s gross mistreatment of his feathery charges.  So in December 2014, he invited animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming to come to his farm and document first-hand the sordid conditions in which the 700,000 Perdue chickens he raises each year exist.  After spending months with Watts investigating how Perdue really treats its chickens, Compassion in World Farming released its own video, exposing the real truth of the horrid life of a Perdue chicken.  After the video went viral, with more than two million views, Perdue was forced to account for its alleged animal abuse and hypocrisy.  Learn more about Mr. Watts.

Dr. Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu is the pathologist who exposed the link between repeated head trauma suffered by football players and the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy that affects mood, emotions, and executive functions in ways similar to Alzheimer’s disease.  He is also the inspiration for the upcoming movie Concussion.  Needless to say, the National Football League was not pleased with Dr. Omalu’s findings.  They reportedly tried to stifle his research and pressured him to say he made it all up.  But Dr. Omalu persisted and by doing so, stood up not only for current and former NFL players, but also for the children just beginning to play the game.  Learn more about Dr. Omalu.

The 2015 Whistleblower of the Year is Perdue Chicken Farmer Craig Watts! Read more here.