Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gulf War Whistleblower Says He knew His Life Would Never Be The Same


Accusations made by a whistleblower against President Trump are at the center of an impeachment inquiry. We don't know who the whistleblower is. We don't know what the full impact of his or her claim will be, but we do know that this person will be at the center of this political drama for a long time to come. Now, there's a law in this country that is supposed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, but filing this kind of complaint is still really risky. Former CIA analyst Patrick Eddington certainly understands that. He's on the line with me now.

Thanks for being here, sir.

PATRICK EDDINGTON: It is my pleasure.

KING: You were a whistleblower. Tell me what you did briefly.

EDDINGTON: Well, going back to the 1991 Desert Storm war, you know, there were reports coming out within the years after that of chemical agent exposures among Desert Storm veterans. And I worked the war at the CIA at the time, from the imagery military analyst standpoint. And long story short, it became very clear to me that the allegations were credible. My wife was working on Capitol Hill at the time. She was also a CIA detailee up there.

And between the two of us, we kind of became this de facto CIA equivalent of Mulder and Scully from "The X-Files" as we began to kind of unravel what had happened - actually happened during the war. And we ultimately, you know, tried to raise these concerns internally at CIA - got nowhere. I was actually subjected to a counterintelligence investigation - at least one and probably more. And we finally realized that we were not going to be able to get this story out and help American Desert Storm veterans unless we went public. So that's what we did in October of 1996.

KING: How - as you've watched this whistleblower complaint come forward - we still don't know who this person is - how would you compare what happened to you to what is happening now?

EDDINGTON: Well, what I'll say is that this particular episode that we're discussing is very atypical overall of what I will call the national security whistleblower experience. So if you look at Dan Ellsberg, he had direct access to the Pentagon Papers. Edward Snowden had direct access to the files that showed that unconstitutional warrantless surveillance had been committed against the American people. In my case, I had direct access to files and records that showed that chemical agent alarms had gone off and that possibly even chemical weapons had been detected in theater.

In this circumstance, this particular individual who wrote the nine-page memo did not have direct access to the information in question. So the memo itself is composed of hearsay as well as, you know, a press chronology essentially. That hearsay, however, is incredibly detailed, incredibly specific and, in my judgment, incredibly important and very credible in and of itself. So I think you're right. You know, this is going to spool out over the course of the next several months as we go into the presidential primaries. And it's - I think it's going to be something on the order of a Clinton-Lewinsky kind of media frenzy.

KING: How did your life change after you blew the whistle? What happened?

EDDINGTON: Well, for every whistleblower who goes through this kind of experience, you always look at your life, essentially, in before and after phases, right? You wind up losing people who you thought were friends, and along the way you pick up people who you never possibly imagined would become friends and encounter. You know, in our case, you know, we wound up having to sell our house. And it was an extremely traumatic experience.

But if you're a person of conscience and you see something like this going on, at the end of the day, you either act or you can't live with yourself. You know, that's how we always looked at it. That's how we look at it to this day. And I think that this person who has elected to step forward in this circumstance - I hope they did their homework ahead of time to really understand what they were getting themselves into because this person's life will never be the same going forward.

And I should point out it's not just this person that we're talking about. This individual named a number of other persons, in one case, by name, a state department official. But he referenced other individuals within the White House and elsewhere in our government who have knowledge of these events. Those folks, in the end, are not going to be able to remain anonymous in this episode either. The committees are going to want to hear from them. So this is going to become, I think, quite the drama over the...

KING: For a...

EDDINGTON: ...For the next several months.

KING: For a lot of people. Yeah.


KING: Ex-CIA analyst and whistleblower Patrick Eddington, thank you.

EDDINGTON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.