It's never been easy to leak institutional secrets, though. There has always been the risk of financial ruin, at the very least, and a whistleblower who didn't experience devastating loss for revealing the truth is the rare exception.
Now Alex Ferrer, the once-host of Judge Alex, a reality TV court show, is helming a new series called Whistleblower on CBS featuring folks calling out corruption and depravity.
Episodes feature interviews with leakers who exposed spoiled food in public schools, electronic medical records mixing up patient profiles and faulty bulletproof vests sold to cops. Most run half an hour.
Tomorrow's episode, which will center a pair of whistleblowers who investigated embezzlement and corruption at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2002 before getting pushed out by higher-ups, will get a full hour of air time.
"Everything" about the story is compelling, Ferrer tells SFR. "This is where all our top nuclear secrets are kept and new inventions in our national security defense strategy comes from. Yet when you hear whistleblowers talk about the lack of security, it's almost like you're walking into Walmart."
It can be too easy for locals to gloss over the endemic corruption, dangerous practices and general shadiness emanating from The Hill, but the stories of whistleblowers Glenn Walp and Steve Doran, who were brought on in 2002 in the wake of a scandal involving alleged spy Wen Ho Lee, present an exceptional story.
Former LANL investigator Chuck Montaño, another whistleblower who was interviewed by CBS producers for the Los Alamos episode, says the stories of Walp and Doran are the main course in his tell-all book released in 2016.
"The whole reason for getting the book out is the story I tell about what happened to [Walp and Doran] and how they were pushed out in the middle of a criminal investigation derailed by lab officials. … There was an active attempt and successful effort to stop them from finding out that there was a direct link between" perpetrators of fraud and high-level lab officials, Montaño tells SFR.
In his book, Montaño writes about a man named Peter Bussolini, who allegedly pilfered hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods and stored at least some of them at a property owned by lab Deputy Director Richard James Burick. In January 2003, Burick was shot to death in the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area parking lot, under strange circumstances that moved Walp and Doran to believe he had been murdered.
Los Alamos police concluded that Burick, who may have been compelled to snitch on Bussolini and others involved in corruption, killed himself. So did the FBI, after years of Walp asking the bureau to review the death. But Walp still thinks the matter needs scrutiny.
“My position on this whole thing is, it’s an investigation that was not complete,” Walp tells SFR. “I’m not saying what it was, I don’t know, it could have been a suicide or a homicide.”
It's a huge, sprawling story, one which SFR has covered in the past, and you'll have to tune in tomorrow to see what CBS included in a final cut.
Ferrer says that the thing connecting all the episodes together is the resolve of whistleblowers, which can come at a steep price.
"They're almost always fired," Ferrer says. "Their marriages break up, they're blackballed, they lose their homes. But that's who these people are; they do things many of us would never do for the benefit of everybody."
Editor's note: Chuck Montaño's book came out in 2016, not last year. We have updated the story to reflect this correction.