August 29, 2006

Whistleblowing, On YouTube [8:55 am]

A new outlet for whistleblowers: On YouTube, Charges of Security Flaws - pdf

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 congressmen.

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. [...] 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.

[...] “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 television programming.

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.

The video

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