If American whistleblowers are shut down – how do we find out the truth? The importance of government transparency – and a look at two historic Supreme Court decisions. I'm Susan Barnett and this is 51% the women's perspective.
A decade ago, whistleblowers who brought the Enron scandal and the mishandling of intelligence prior to the 9-11 attacks to light were hailed as heroes. Today, Bradley Manning is on trial, facing possible execution for leaking documents about the US torture of
prisoners. Edward Snowden faced a international manhunt after handing a reporter documentation of US surveillance of international leaders and US citizens communications. Beatrice Edwards is Executive Director and International Programs Director for GAP - the Government Accountability Project. GAP focuses on supporting citizen activists and protecting whistleblowers.
Up next, a look at what was the Voting Rights Act...and a movie that explores discrimination against a group that, until this summer, wasn't entitled to married rights under federal law.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to strike down key requirements of the Voting Rights Act – opening the door for states to change their election laws without federal approval. Those in favor say the legislation didn't reflect contemporary reality. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in a rare and very public dissent from the bench, said that the decision was a disservice to justice.
Other critics describe the ruling as cutting the heart out of legislation that has helped ensure equal access to the polls. In 1966 a young mother traveled from New York City to Alabama to document the lives of ordinary people in the aftermath of the voting rights struggle. She wasn't a journalist – she just wanted to go. Charmian Reading discovered people living in tents; plantation owners had evicted African Americans from their homes in retaliation for registering to vote. One of her photos is on permanent display at a Park Service visitor center exhibit along the National Historic Trail in Lowndes County Alabama. Producer Kezia Simister interviewed Reading in her NYC home three years ago.
The Supreme Court also made history this June with a decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. That means legally married same sex couples now have access to marriage benefits once denied them under federal law. But equal rights don't happen in an instant. Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson's film, “Out in the Silence”, documented the firestorm that erupted when Wilson put the announcement of their wedding in Wilson's hometown newspaper. Reporter Amy Costello of Human Rights Watch has more.
That’s our show for this week. Thanks to Katie Britton for production assistance. Our theme music is by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio. Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock.