10 most corrupt and least corrupt countries in the world

In some countries, business owners can go their way in the happy knowledge that government officials won’t be hitting them up for bribes or tossing them in jail on trumped-up charges. But in other parts of the world, public sector corruption is a fact of life. Hoping to shine a light on this widespread problem, Transparency International, a watchdog NGO, has published its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013. The index ranks countries around the world by perceived level of government corruption, with a score of 100 signaling an absence of official corruption and a score of 0 indicating a country that is hopelessly corrupt. Of the 177 countries and territories listed on the index, less than one-third managed to break 50.

Here are the 10 least corrupt countries in the world, according to the index:

1-2. Denmark & New Zealand (tied)

3-4. Finland & Sweden (tied)

5-6. Norway & Singapore (tied)

7. Switzerland

8. Netherlands

9-10. Australia & Canada (tied)

The United States, the world’s largest economy, sits at No. 19 with a score of 73, while the United Kingdom is ranked No. 14. U.S. neighbor Mexico is far more corrupt with a score of 34, ranking it at No. 106.

At the positively wretched end of the scale, tied for last place are Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia, all having scored a measly 8 on the index.

Here are the world’s 10 most corrupt nations, starting with the worst:

1-3. Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan (tied)


5.South Sudan



8-10. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Syria (tied)

– edited from Entrepeneur, December 3, 2013
PeaceMeal, March/April 2014

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Millionaires in Congress

It’s official! Congress is a millionaires’ club. For the first time ever, most members of Congress are worth at least a cool million. Lawmakers’ average net worth in 2012 nosed above the seven-figure mark to $1,008,767, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, up from the none-too-shabby $966,000 the year before.

The analysis shows Rep. Darrell Issa, with a $464-million fortune, is triumphantly back at the top of the list of wealthiest members, a spot the California Republican and car-alarm mogul had enjoyed for years, before being bumped by Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas). McCaul’s dip in value was due to a change in reporting rules for spouse’s assets. His wife is the daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Lowry Mays.

Of the top ten richest members of Congress, three are Republicans and seven are Democrats.

– edited from The Washington Post, January 9, 2014
PeaceMeal, Jan/ February 2014

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

jessalyn_radack.jpg (3652 bytes)When government whistleblowers suffer

Jesselyn Radack, Homeland Security Director, Government Accountability Project

Revealing government misconduct shouldn’t be a crime. The case of Thomas A. Drake, a former National Security Agency official indicted last April on charges of providing classified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter, is painfully familiar. In 2002, I became the target of a leak investigation stemming from America's first post-9/11 terrorism prosecution.

As a Justice Department ethics attorney, I had inadvertently learned of a court order for all copies of Justice’s internal correspondence about the interrogation of the so-called American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. Although I had written more than a dozen e-mails on the subject, the Justice Department had turned over only two of them, neither of which reflected my conclusion that the FBI committed an ethics violation in its interrogation and that Lindh’s confession might have to be sealed because it was obtained under duress. I checked the hard-copy file, which had been a thick, stapled stack of paper. It had been reduced to three rather innocuous e-mails and fax cover sheets from my boss to senior Justice officials.

I resurrected the missing e-mails from the bowels of my computer archives, gave them to my boss and resigned. I also took home a copy of them in case they “disappeared” again. As a criminal case proceeded against Lindh—and the Justice Department, by all appearances, still had not turned over the e-mails—I decided to give them to the media.

The Justice Department then unleashed an investigation that had nothing to do with ascertaining why someone would divulge government documents, and everything to do with plugging the leak. Anonymous senior Justice officials smeared me in the media as a “traitor,” “turncoat” and “terrorist sympathizer.” They told my new employer, a private law firm, that I was a criminal and would steal client files. They leaned on the firm to fire me. The firm put me on unpaid, indefinite administrative leave instead. When I was awarded meager unemployment benefits, the government assisted the firm in contesting them.

As someone who has been the target of a ruthless leak investigation, I believe, and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 says, that government employees should be protected, not retaliated against, when they disclose conduct evidencing illegality, fraud, waste or abuse.

The worst scandals of the past decade—including government torture and warrantless wiretapping—came to light because of whistleblowers, derisively labeled “leakers.” The bigger the crime, the more likely that the evidence of it was classified, privileged or subject to one of the more than 150 hybrid secrecy categories that ballooned during the George W. Bush years. Although a judge later deemed my e-mails nonclassified, their unclassified status didn’t prevent the Justice Department from criminally investigating me, referring me to the state bars in which I’m licensed as a lawyer and putting me on the “no-fly” list. I am still under investigation by the Washington D.C. bar after seven years.

I submit that Drake, the former NSA official, did not leak. He made valid disclosures revealing the failings of several major NSA programs that use computers to collect and sort electronic intelligence. These mistakes cost billions of dollars. He also described how the agency had rejected a program that would collect communications while protecting Americans’ privacy. Such disclosures are clearly in the public interest. They evidence a violation of law, a gross waste of funds and a patent abuse of authority—the very definition of a protected disclosure under the whistle-blower law.

Unfortunately, the terms “leaking” and “whistleblowing” are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety. But far too often, whistleblowers are retaliated against, with criminal prosecution being one of the sharpest weapons in the government’s arsenal.

For example, Daniel Ellsberg, the patriarch of whistleblowers in modern times, disclosed the Pentagon Papers, a secret government study of the Vietnam War, to The New York Times in 1971. The publication of the papers helped to end the Vietnam War, but Ellsberg was still prosecuted.

In contrast, when I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, unmasked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, he was not trying to disclose evidence of wrongdoing; in fact, quite the opposite. He put at risk national security and people’s lives to undermine a critic. He was trying to punish former Ambassador Joseph Wilson by outing his wife. Libby was leaking, not whistleblowing. His disclosure to the media had no intrinsic public value whatsoever, and he was rightly prosecuted and convicted.

The common denominator of whistle-blowers is the same: They disclose information of significant public importance that reveals illegal, unconstitutional or dangerous conduct, often at the highest levels of government. The government should not be allowed to hide illegal conduct under official-sounding labels such as “classified,” “privileged” or “state secrets,” which confer an aura of legitimacy on alleged crimes, and whistleblowers should not be prosecuted. The billions of dollars wasted on modernizing the NSA’s vast eavesdropping system is what needs to be investigated, not Drake.

Speaking truth to power is hard enough. Government employees should not have to choose their conscience over their career—or their very freedom.

The Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit public interest group based in Washington D.C. This op-ed, slightly edited here, appeared in the Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2010, and in PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2011.

[Editor’s note: John Walker Lindh was indicted in February 2002 on 10 separate charges having a potential penalty of three life sentences plus 90 years. Three weeks after Jessalyn Radack’s disclosure was made public, the prosecution imploded. In order to avert an evidence suppression hearing, at which Lindh would have been able to testify about the torture to which he claimed he was subjected, the Justice Department made a surprise deal under which Lindh pleaded guilty to two of the lesser charges and was sentenced to 20 years without parole. He is currently serving his sentence in the federal prison at Terre Haute, Indiana.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)