From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
VIDEO: Whistleblower uses YouTube to tell his story
An article in this morning’s Washington Post reveals that for the first
known time, a whistleblower working on a US Government contract has
posted a video on YouTube making his case about a problem inside
The Washington Post story tells the case of Michael De Kort, an
engineer for Lockheed Martin, who worked on a US Coast Guard contract
to replace the patrol boats used by the service. The contract is worth
billions of dollars. In the video, De Kort, a 41-year old, fails to
give his name, but commented in an interview after being contacted by
The Washington Post notes that De Kort appears to be the only known
whistleblower to use YouTube to date. Nonetheless, they add “The video
also has caught the eye of people in high places. De Kort’s video has
been covered by defense trade magazines, and yesterday, Rep. Bennie
Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security
Committee, wrote a letter to the Coast Guard asking for an answer to De
Kort’s “extremely distressing” allegations.”
Michael De Kort’s YouTube video on a Coast Guard cutter project had
been viewed more than 8,000 times as of late yesterday.
On YouTube, Charges of Security Flaws
Ex-Lockheed Worker Takes Concerns Over Coast Guard Ships to the Web
By Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 29, 2006; Page D01
Michael De Kort was frustrated.
The 41-year-old Lockheed Martin engineer had complained to his bosses.
He had told his story to government investigators. He had called
But when no one seemed to be stepping up to correct what he saw as
critical security flaws in a fleet of refurbished Coast Guard patrol
boats, De Kort did just about the only thing left he could think of to
get action: He made a video and posted it on YouTube.com.
“What I am going to tell you is going to seem preposterous,” De Kort
solemnly tells viewers near the outset of the 10-minute clip. Posted
three weeks ago, the video describes what De Kort says are blind spots
in the ship’s security cameras, equipment that malfunctions in cold
weather and other problems. “It may be very hard for you to believe
that our government and the largest defense contractor in the world
[are] capable of such alarming incompetence and can make ethical
compromises as glaring as what I am going to describe.” In response to
De Kort’s charges, a Coast Guard spokeswoman said the service has
“taken the appropriate level of action.” A spokeswoman for the
contractors said the allegations were without merit.
A Web site normally reserved for goofy home-movie outtakes and Paris
Hilton parodies may seem an odd place to blow the whistle on potential
national security lapses that require complex technical explanations.
But receiving millions of hits a day and carrying the intimacy of
video, YouTube.com and other sites have become an alluring venue for
insiders like De Kort who want to go directly to the public when they
think no one within the system is listening.
“This is an excellent example of the democratization of the media,
where everyone has access to the printing press of the 21st century,”
said Dina Kaplan, co-founder of Blip.tv, a site that hosts grass-roots
Kaplan, like others, was hard-pressed to think of another video like De
Kort’s. “We have some people that come to mind that like to complain
about government conspiracies,” she said. “But in terms of something
truly substantive and credible, nothing springs to mind.”
De Kort knew his strategy for raising concerns about communications and
surveillance systems on a 123-foot Coast Guard patrol boat was
unorthodox. That was the point.
“My thought was, ‘What could I do that would be novel enough that it
draws attention to itself, and through drawing attention to itself,
something gets done?’ ” De Kort said in an interview from his home in
Colorado. He is unemployed after being laid off by Lockheed Martin days
after he posted the video. Lockheed said that the video did not
influence the decision to lay off De Kort and that he had had been
notified earlier this year that he would be out of a job.
As of late yesterday, his video had been viewed more than 8,000 times.
That is low by YouTube standards, where a 42-second clip of a cat on a
wheel received more than 800,000 views. But it is higher than might be
expected for a video that features nothing more than a bearded,
middle-age engineer talking into a camera and periodically glancing
down at his prepared text.
The video also has caught the eye of people in high places. De Kort’s
video has been covered by defense trade magazines, and yesterday, Rep.
Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security
Committee, wrote a letter to the Coast Guard asking for an answer to De
Kort’s “extremely distressing” allegations.
“I want to make sure that the product we paid for is a product that
does not jeopardize our men and women in service,” Thompson said.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office had
launched an investigation into De Kort’s allegations before the video
was released, and spokeswoman Tamara Faulkner said that inquiry should
be completed in the next few months. Although De Kort said he believed
the Coast Guard was not cooperating, Faulkner said she did not know of
Both Lockheed Martin and the Coast Guard have said the ship is safe.
Eight of the cutters are now in use, and all were converted from
obsolete ships as part of the Coast Guard’s $24 billion Deepwater
program to rehabilitate ships.
“We’ve been aware of [De Kort’s] concerns for some time,” said Mary
Elder, spokeswoman for the program. “In each case we’ve reviewed them
and taken the appropriate level of action. The Coast Guard takes
seriously any concerns related to safety and national security.”
Margaret Mitchell-Jones, spokeswoman for the consortium between
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman that runs Deepwater, said
Lockheed Martin had investigated and “found the accusations to be
“Anybody with a webcam and something to say, regardless of whether it’s
true or not, can say it on YouTube,” she said, adding that the company
would not ask the site to take the video down.
Another Lockheed Martin spokeswoman confirmed that De Kort had
worked for the company and had been an engineer on the Deepwater
De Kort said he realized within about a month of beginning work on the
ship that the project had serious flaws. Among them, he said, was that
the ship’s surveillance system had blind spots that exposed crew
members to the possibility of attack. He also said that the ship’s
supposedly secure communications system was susceptible to
eavesdropping and that some of its equipment will not work in extreme
cold despite a requirement that everything function at minus 40
De Kort said he tried to alert the chain of command at the Coast Guard
and at Lockheed about the problems but was rebuffed by supervisors who
told him to keep quiet because the program was behind schedule and
over budget. De Kort was eventually transferred off the project, and he
was laid off earlier this month. A company spokeswoman said he was laid
off for financial reasons, but De Kort insists it was in retaliation for
“The formal systems that whistle-blowers are expected to use have
failed. That’s why you’re seeing people be creative like this,” said
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government
Oversight. “This is a tremendous way for someone brave enough to do it
to say something directly and not have to go through a filter.”
Other watchdog groups were less impressed.
Patrick Burns, spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, said suing for
fraud is ultimately a lot more effective than being “the serious guy in
a room full of clowns.”
“I recommend buttoning up your lip, Xeroxing paper and filing a case,”