Whistleblowing Former Playmate Model Wins Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award

Washington legal ethics consultant Jesselyn Radack shares the award with a former client.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Jesselyn Radack. Photograph by Beth Adelson.
Proving that there’s more than one way to please Hugh Hefner, a Washington legal ethics consultant who twice appeared in Playboy when she was an Ivy League law student has won the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award for her work on behalf of whistleblowers. Jesselyn Radack shares the award with Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency whistleblower she represented.

Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified NSA information to a newspaper reporter. “Drake’s case was the fourth time in US history that the government used the Espionage Act to go after a non-spy for allegedly mishandling classified information,” Radack says. “While the Drake case collapsed, the Obama administration has continued to use the Espionage Act to go after whistleblowers, not spies.” Radack notes that she voted for President Obama.

Radack is the national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project. She says she posed in Playboy in 1995 and 1996 and has no regrets. “I took a lot of flak for appearing in Playboy from my image-conscious Yale Law School classmates,” she says. “You could see as much skin in Vanity Fair, [but] Playboy still had different connotations attached to it. It still does today, even though pornography and celebrity sex tapes are ubiquitous, which tells us a lot about the social construction of female nudity, autonomy, and sexuality.”

The First Amendment Awards, under the auspices of the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation, were created in 1979 by Christie Hefner, the daughter of the Playboy founder.