Signe Swenson, Jeffrey Epstein and Accountability in Philanthropy

The secret story of MIT Media Lab’s cozy relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein is not pretty. But if there is a hero, it is former lab development officer Signe Swenson.

With hands-on help from Whistleblower Aid, Swenson had the courage to become Ronan Farrow’s source for an explosive New Yorker magazine exposé. Signe also provided evidence that Bill Gates made a secret $2 million gift to MIT “directed by Jeffrey Epstein.

Less than a day later, Mr. Ito was forced out of his academic positions at MIT and Harvard, and his board seats with the New York Times, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.

The fallout got massive coverage in the New York Times, CNN on air, CNN online, NBC’s Today Show, National Public Radio, the Boston Globe, WBUR Radio, the Guardian, MIT Technology Review, and from commentators like Kara Swisher, Evgeny Morozov, Anand Giridharadas and Farhad Manjoo.

Swenson’s disclosures also resulted in Brown University’s suspension of former MIT Media Lab Development Director Peter Cohen.

She told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that “when I started talking with John (Tye, Whistleblower Aid founder & CEO), I started feeling protected and safe.” Signe Swenson is the reason we created Whistleblower Aid.

Swenson also asked that we post this message from her, to encourage more whistleblowers to speak out:

“When I realized that I was holding important evidence, I had this overwhelming urge to act--but I felt like I was crazy and had no idea what to do, where to start, or what the repercussions could be.

When I got in contact with Whistleblower Aid I was immediately relieved that this information was in the hands of experienced professionals. I couldn't have gone through this without their support.

Becoming a whistleblower was a difficult decision but Whistleblower Aid made me confident I was not in this alone, I would be protected, and that getting the truth out there was incredibly important.”