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Pantagraph Editorial - Whistleblowers have a Right to Protection

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It takes a brave person to stand up for what's right, particularly when it's about your boss and you're telling your story on a national stage.

But that's just what two Virginia Air National Guard pilots have done, with the support of another Guard pilot who happens to be a Central Illinois congressman.

The pilots, profiled last Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," refuse to fly F-22 fighter jets because something in or connected to the planes can cause dizziness and blackouts. The planes previously were grounded; with some mechanical tweaks and medical devices, the Air Force now says they are safe to fly.

Not so, say the pilots, one of whom was given a choice of flying or finding another job. Instead, they told their story to U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Manteno Republican and former McLean Country Board member, who represents the 11th Congressional District and is congressman-elect for the new 16th District.

Kinzinger said, and the Air Force and Virginia Guard have agreed, that the pilots deserve protection under military whistleblower rules.

The lessons and practice for a private pilot's license requires intelligence, dedication and money. Multiply that by a thousand, and you find out what is needed to pilot a fighter jet.

Setting aside concerns from even one of those pilots is akin to ignoring a lit match at a gas refinery.

Whistleblowers of all stripes play an important role in our country. They've been instrumental to reforming industries ranging from agriculture to banking -- and, of course, politics -- among others, and federal law gives them a cloak of protection against powerful forces that don't want to publicly share their secrets.

Even at the most local level, many company policies ban any sort of retribution against employees who report malfeasance conducted by their co-workers.

That's as it should be.


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