The Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize
Rick Bright is a Senior Advisor to the NIH Director. In May 2020, Dr. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging his warnings over the novel coronavirus were disregarded by Trump administration officials and his reassignment from BARDA to the NIH was an act of retaliation.
Against the backdrop of urgent concerns about the U.S. Government’s immigration policy, Dr. Scott Allen, Dr. Pamela McPherson, and Scott Shuchart will receive the 2019 Prize for their truth-telling about family separation and child detention at the border, on April 15th in Washington, D.C.
The mayor of San Juan will be honored for her courageous commitment to Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Mississippi student and DREAMer Daniela Vargas has spoken out against the deportations of undocumented immigrants at great personal risk, participating in a press conference after watching federal agents remove her brother and father from their small home in February. Immediately after speaking out, Vargas was herself detained for nine days in a Louisiana US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility.
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who exposed the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and kicked off a nationwide conversation about lead exposure, is the 2016 recipient of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. Dr. Hanna-Attisha and her team found that the percentage of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled in Flint — and in some neighborhoods even tripled. Given the public health emergency, she skipped the typical approach of publishing her findings in a medical journal and instead called an immediate press conference to alert the public. She told the press that her team “had an ethical, moral, and professional responsibility to alert our community about this crisis.”
Aicha Elbasri is the winner of the 2015 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. Her disclosure of secret documents — including thousands of pages of emails, police reports, internal investigations and diplomatic cables — exposed the failure of the UN peacekeeping mission to protect millions of civilians under its care, and the mission’s complicity with the Sudanese government in concealing an ongoing war that thrust non-combatants onto the front lines. Her heroic stand, including her public resignation in protest, resulted in a series of articles in Foreign Policy Magazine that obliged the UN chief Ban Ki-moon to act.
Former intelligence officer and whistleblower Edward J. Snowden, whose actions exposed the warrantless surveillance of millions of people living in the US by the National Security Agency, is the 2014 co-recipient, with Laura Poitras, of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling.
Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker and journalist, is the 2014 co-recipient, with Edward J. Snowden, of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. She decrypted emails from and was the first to communicate with Snowden, leading to the exposure of the National Security Agency’s vast government surveillance operation.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of the immigration awareness organization Define American, is the 2013 recipient of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling because, like Ron Ridenhour, Vargas had a choice: to remain silent and safe or reveal his truth and risk sanctions. For Vargas those risks included the loss of a promising career and even deportation. In taking the latter course, he practiced the type of moral courage that Ridenhour Prize winners exemplify.
Whistleblower Eileen Foster, the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, exposed systemic fraud at the nation’s largest mortgage provider, Countrywide Financial. Her actions go a long way in exposing the fact that fraud on the part of commission-hungry loan officers — not borrowers lying on their loan applications — fueled the increase in toxic mortgages, which in large part gave rise to the 2008 economic crash.
Lt. Col. Daniel Davis is the recipient of the 2012 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling for bravely speaking out against senior military leadership and their deceptive portrayal of the war in Afghanistan. To date, he is the only active duty serviceperson to have detailed the gross discrepancies between the reality on the ground in Afghanistan and the message of progress that is communicated to the US Congress and the American people.
Thomas Drake, 2011 recipient of The Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, was a senior official at the National Security Agency (NSA) who blew the whistle through the proper channels and exposed massive waste, fraud and abuse as well as illegal and unconstitutional behavior at the hands of NSA management post-9/11. While the Bush administration targeted him as part of a wasteful criminal “leak” investigation into those who revealed Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, suspended Drake’s security clearance and led him to voluntarily resign from the NSA, the current administration has been even more aggressive. Drake was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Espionage Act in April 2010 in order to silence him and send an ominous message to future whistleblowers, that not only could you lose your job, you could lose your very freedom. He is due to begin trial on June 13, 2011.
Matthew Hoh, 2010 recipient of The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling, was the State Department official who resigned in protest from his post in Afghanistan. At a time when Afghanistan was still looked at as the “good war,” Hoh came forward, very publicly and at great risk, to question the war’s fundamental rationale.
Thomas Tamm, 2009 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, was a former Justice Department lawyer who exposed the existence of a secret warrantless wiretapping program to The New York Times. Tamm imperiled his own future liberty to preserve the liberties of all Americans.
Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, 2008 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, was a former JAG officer who, while stationed at Guantánamo Bay, was the first person to release the names of the prisoners at the detention camp. He was recognized for his profound loyalty to the United States and its enduring constitutional principles.
Donald Vance, 2007 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, was an American contractor in Iraq who was detained by American troops and held at the notorious Camp Cropper for over three months before being released without explanation. He was recognized for coming forward to tell his story and call for accountability.
Rick Piltz, 2006 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, is a science policy expert who served for a decade in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Office. There he witnessed Bush administration efforts to manipulate and censor the communication of scientific findings on global climate change. He was recognized for revealing this to the press and public.
Kristen Breitweiser, 2005 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, is a 9/11 widow and activist. She was honored for her role in pressuring official Washington to provide a public accounting of what went wrong on September 11th.
Joseph Wilson, recipient of the inaugural Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize, was an ambassador to two African nations and the senior American diplomat in Baghdad during the first Gulf War. He was recognized for challenging the assertion in President George Bush’s State of the Union address that Iraq had sought to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Africa.