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Sounds of U.N. silence: Stuffing whistleblowers

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Monday, April 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

A United Nations whistleblower who exposed the world body's culture of corruption has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to withhold 15 percent of the U.S. government's allocation to Turtle Bay. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration responded by stuffing cotton in its ears.

Under U.S. law, the withholding is required if the secretary of State concludes that the United Nations failed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, The New York Times reports. But while ex-U.N. staffer James Wasserstrom prevailed in his landmark case against the U.N. for retribution because of his internal criticism, a U.N. oversight panel judge awarded him a pittance ($65,000) of his claimed $3.2 million in total damages.

What this tells U.N. staff is that “even when a whistleblower wins, he loses,” says Mr. Wasserstrom, an American who spent 30 years with the world body.

As a direct result of his litigation, he's now financially worse off than if he had kept his mouth shut, according to an officer with the Government Accountability Project.

Nevertheless, the response from the State Department to Wasserstrom's request was as predictable as it was pathetic: There'll be no formal review. No taking it under advisement. A State official told The Times that Wasserstrom's claim doesn't reflect the department's position and it doesn't believe “any withholdings are required ... at this time.”

Not only deaf but exceedingly dumb is the U.S. policy that helps silence U.N. whistleblowers. And this, when the United States plays the fool by paying the largest share of the U.N.'s budget.

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