Edgar Gillham's whistleblowing experience

My experience started about 15 years ago. I was an electronics engineer employed by Teledyne MEC in Palo Alto, California. I was assigned to develop a band 5 traveling wave amplifier tube to be used as the microwave amplifier in the Westinghouse ALQ-131 electronics countermeasure missile defense system. These are primarily installed in military aircraft but are also used on shipboard to protect against hostile missile attack. These devices intercept the radar that aims the projectile, modifies that signal, and sends erroneous information back to the launch site. The result is that the missile sees a "ghost" image instead of its intended target.

I was in the process of developing a prototype band 5 Traveling Wave Tube for the Westinghouse ALQ-131 missile defense system and was working late, as usual. I received a telephone call from my supervisor. He said the environmental testing for another device, the band 4 traveling wave tube, was started late and couldn't be processed during normal working hours. He asked me if I could remove the unit from the temperature/altitude chamber at the end of the processing time and perform acceptance testing procedures. I agreed and did so. Upon removal of the unit I performed the "hypot" test, that is, I applied the required high voltage to the electrodes. The unit failed the test. I was puzzled because this had never happened before and there were thousands of them in use. I began to examine the unit and discovered the output waveguide was the "culprit". Upon removal of the waveguide I discovered it was a "dummy" part, not the waveguide matched to the tube. It had no electrical contact and could not have functioned. In fact, had the tube been "turned on" with this dummy waveguide installed, the tube would have suffered catastrophic failure in a matter of milliseconds. I sat the unit aside for the time being.

The next day I sought out my supervisor and discussed the problem. He said the reason the device was not tested with the correct waveguide installed was because it would not pass the required tests. The tube had to pass the temperature/altitude testing in order to be reliable when installed in high altitude aircraft yet none of the devices had ever passed the required environmental tests that were meant to assure it would do so. The testing had been done without the waveguide, then removed from temp/alt chamber and dried off and allowed to cool down before testing was done. The waveguide was then reinstalled and the unit was packaged and shipped as fully tested and compliant. I objected. My supervisor became angry and indignant. The conversation became heated and at that time I was warned/threatened should I mention this to anyone. I had an excellent work record and was among the leaders in the field of advanced design. I assumed my reputation would insulate me from reprisals; it did not. I was not fired immediately. Instead, my supervisor began "setting me up" by totally false rumors and false accusations. I saw it happening and decided it was in my best interest to leave Teledyne and find employment elsewhere. No matter where I went, the rumors soon caught up to me and eventually the harassment was just too much for me to handle. It wasn't until years later that I began hearing rumors of the accusations leveled against me. I was never able to ascertain the exact charges but it did seem to have sexual implications. I have now been unemployed for near 15 years, having sent out nearly 2000 job applications without any serious responses.

I would have not have believed it possible for people to be punished for following their consciences had it not happened to me. We tend to think on terms of what we see on TV or read in books: everything comes out right by the end of the program/book, the "bad guys" are always brought to justice and the "good guys" get the girl/reward/honor/glory. In real life this doesn't always happen, and that is a difficult lesson to learn because it violates our most basic beliefs.

Edgar Gillham
May 1999

This document is located on the

Suppression of dissent website

in the section on Documents