A Case Study of Corruption in a Federal Oversight Agency and the Impact on a Federal Employee

I have come to see that the majority of whistleblowers are dedicated and ethical employees, who work hard and try to do their jobs responsibly and competently. So, the question is, how can how can these kinds of employees suddenly find themselves being labeled a whistleblower and treated like a case of leprosy?

Here is one story, about a former federal employee, whom I will call Mr. Smythe, which will help illustrate this problem. (I have changed all names of persons herein included to protect both the innocent and the guilty at this point in time, as I believe investigations are still ongoing.)

Mr. Smythe is a veteran federal employee. He worked in an agency, (I will refer to as “The Agency”), responsible for security involving defense contractors and defense contracts. Mr. Smythe is an intelligent, articulate, well-educated professional, very knowledgeable about his job and very good at what he did in his work for The Agency. This job required a security clearance indicating a high level of credibility and trust of the federal government. He had received many performance awards over the years for exemplary work in The Agency. Then, THE investigation and the ensuing case report happened that changed all of that.

Mr. Smythe found evidence of criminal behavior on the part of a defense contractor, (The Defense Contractor from here on out), and also involving certain managers within several oversight agencies of the federal government, including nearly a dozen government agencies of the 3 or 4 letter acronym variety, including some who have television shows about them, and some who’ve been in the news lately for having credibility and corruption problems.

This was really serious stuff. It is the type of thing that would make the “Boeing Tanker Deal” look like small potatoes. Mr. Smythe had to complete the investigation and write up the report as a required part of his job. The final report was the culmination of many months of investigation and work. It was thorough and competently done. The report was submitted up the command chain, as is the normal procedure. And then it hit the fan.

The DC office supervisor, (several levels above Mr. Smythe in The Agency), began trying to get Mr. Smythe to change his report. What he wanted was to minimize what was in the report, and especially to remove incriminating evidence, which would make it possible to prosecute the criminal activity. It seems likely that the DC supervisor was receiving quite a bit of pressure from his former supervisor, Mr. Coole, who had left the agency and directly taken a lucrative job as FSO (Facility Security Officer) for The Defense Contractor. (There have been prohibitions as a matter of federal policy for a long time against employees of defense oversight agencies leaving their agencies and directly taking jobs with defense contractors, particularly defense contractors they had oversight of personally, and for whom they may have had decision making authority about. This is the same kind of mess Darlene Druyun was convicted of not long ago. It was held up in the courts that this was a conflict of interest and criminal.)

Mr. Smythe was harassed and harangued repeatedly by DC supervisor and through Mr. Duke, Mr. Smythe’s immediate supervisor. When Mr. Smythe repeatedly refused to change (i.e. whitewash) his original report, his management began to do its own dirty work. Mr. Smythe received direction from higher managers through Mr. Duke exactly what he was to change his report to say. Mr. Smythe refused to do this, as doing so would have caused him to lie and commit fraud against the federal government.

The management, (without the permission of Mr. Smythe) took Mr. Smythe’s legitimate report, and rewrote it themselves, taking out most of the useful information, and in particular removing all of the documented material which would make the case prosecutable, thereby protecting The Defense Contractor from the logical consequences of their alleged criminal behavior, and the incriminated federal managers. They then directed Mr. Smythe to sign the falsified report. He again refused to lie and commit fraud.

Since these managers were unsuccessful in trying to intimidate Mr. Smythe into signing the falsified report, DC Supervisor turned in the falsified report himself, making sure Mr. Smythe’s report never progressed any further in The Agency chain of command and personally briefed the user agency with his own version of the report. Fortunately, Mr. Ford, the government program security officer, had a copy of Mr. Smythe’s original report. Apparently, thinking they had their problem contained, then the managers began escalating retribution against Mr. Smythe.

These managers played games with the local office work to personnel ratio, cutting back on the number of personnel as the actual work load increased; overloading and understaffing the “Big City” office, with the worst load being on the plate of Mr. Smythe, who was carrying about four times the amount of work than any other person assigned the same job description in the entire region. The Agency managers ignored complaints from “Big City” office employees, and continued to stick it to Mr. Smythe and to a lesser extent some of his co-workers.

Later, Mr. Smythe was called back from out of state travel and facility/program inspection in another state, remote from his home state, and ordered to report directly to yet a third state, where he was stood up on a stage in front of his peers at a quickly pulled together regional The Agency meeting, and stripped of his assigned Special Access Programs, and in other words, beaten and humiliated in public. Every possible ugly thing was done to try to humiliate him and destroy his professional reputation. He returned from that trip absolutely in shock at the viciousness of their attack. It appeared to Mr. Smythe’s family members and some of his also severely shocked co-workers that these supervisors in the agency were either trying to kill him off, or chase him out of the agency, destroying his career and with the slanderous and libelous activities they continued and destroying his honorable reputation in the process. The amount of intimidation and fear reached record levels among the employees not only in “Big City” office, but regionally.

Through out a lot of this time, another issue was fermenting. “Big City” office had been downgraded from a Field office to a Resident office and the last “Big City” Industrial Security Office Chief had been forced out, (he went to a job at The Defense Contractor), and the office had been handed over to be managed for a time by Mr. Davidson, the Agent in Charge of the “security clearance side of the house.” Over a period of several years, (while turf wars and fights for control of the monies went on at the highest levels of the agency and at the local levels between those who were Security Clearance Investigators and those who were Industrial Security Specialists) there was a confusion of chain of command with the Security Clearance Investigation mission co-opting control of the operating funds of the Industrial Security mission accomplished by Mr. Davidson of the “Big City” office, and some of his cronies nationwide. This period also brought along a lot of mismanagement and noted, and in some cases outrageous, unethical activities by Mr. Davidson and his cronies, but that is another story. Suffice it to say, that the Industrial Security mission was severely handicapped and damaged during this time period.

Eventually, it became apparent that an office chief for the Industrial Security side of the house was necessary again, due primarily to the fact that after years of struggling and competition between factions within The Agency, the Security Clearance Investigations mission was being moved to OPM and OPM oversight, and the Industrial Security mission was being separated out on its own again. In any case, the office chief position in the Industrial Security office was coming open and finally was to be filled.

Much talk ensued about the need to fill the Big City office chief position. Mr. Smythe was the highest skilled and qualified senior employee and was viewed by the other employees in the office as the natural next office chief. This was particularly the case, since Mr. Smythe was doing a lot of it anyway because there was no official office chief, (yet things needed to get done), and someone local had to show the leadership ability to help be sure they did. Also, junior Security Specialists needed some help, assistance and training as a normal course. As the agency cut back on training for the new employees it became more important for Senior Security Specialists to help, advise and assist the junior ones, so they could learn their jobs and fulfill the mission of the agency. Mr. Smythe, when needed, willingly did this in order to help the office keep functioning.

Mr. Foofighter, (West Region Deputy Director), DC office supervisor, (Chief, Special Programs Division), and Mr. Harley, (West Region Director), no doubt suspecting they would have to consider and possibly appoint Mr. Smythe to the position, because in fact he was the most qualified candidate, backed away and refused to post the announcement for the office chief position. While “Big City” office employees were scratching their heads in frustration, these upper agency managers eventually assigned an office chief in another state, remote to Mr. Smythe’s “Big City” agency office, to act as the Chief of the “Big City” office in addition to his own “Much Warmer” local office. All the while, Mr. Smythe, being the most senior employee in the “Big City” office, by default had to perform many of the related duties on the work site, working closely with the acting chief who was trying to manage long distance from another state, to help be sure the office could function and the rest of the less senior employees got the help and support they needed to do their jobs. Time went by and things continued on awkwardly with increasing frustration to both the “Big City” office Industrial Security Specialists as well as the acting Chief, Mr. Duke, who was trying to do the job on top of his other full time assignment as Chief of the “Much Warmer” office in another state.

Then, when it seemed that The Agency could not avoid posting the position any longer, they listed it again. And when the logical and best qualified candidate was Mr. Smythe, (whom everyone in the local office expected would be awarded the job on merit), the posting was withdrawn without being filled. This went on for some time and was a frustrating situation for the assigned chief in absentia, as well as the local chief-less “Big City” office. There was a lot of pressure to legitimately fill the position with a local office chief, not a phone-in chief, due to the growing workloads and complexity of work in the office, but the agency continued to assign staff from other regional offices to manage it long distance.

As time went on, the pressure and stress on Mr. Smythe continued to be quite horrific.

Finally, The Agency managers not only drove Mr. Smythe out of the agency, and the job he enjoyed, but also the other Senior Security Specialist and eventually, other employees, some whom Mr. Smythe had helped train. One of those employees had been assigned The Defense Contractor (after agency managers punitively debriefed Mr. Smythe from all of his Special Access Programs, which were housed at The Defense Contractor), and was starting to receive a lot of pressure and harassment himself as he was trying to hold The Defense Contractor accountable for their lack of responsibility in how they handled the government defense contracts and security. Mr. Smythe accepted another Security position with another federal government agency. The position was and is primarily commercial in nature and exercises very little of Mr. Smythe’s specialized expertise. Effectively Mr. Smythe’s career path was ended.

There is some evidence that Mr. Coole, (formerly The Agency Deputy Director, Industrial Security, who moved to The Defense Contractor) was trying to slander, libel and undermine Mr. Smythe in both his current job area, and in another potential specialty area as well, as he was quoted as saying Mr. Smythe did not know anything about Counter Intelligence, even though Mr. Smythe had been successfully fulfilling requirements in that area for the agency for years as a part of his Security Specialist assignment, and had been encouraged to move into that branch of The Agency, by colleagues working there. Mr. Smythe had been told several times over several years, that an opening was going to be posted for CI in the “Big City” office of The Agency, but somehow, it always got stopped from being posted. Coole, it appears was actively trying to undermine Mr. Smythe’s efforts to be promoted into that area of the agency’s mission and the same managers were preventing any more jobs Mr. Smythe was qualified for from being posted.

The attempts by these managers to purge the “Big City” office of The Agency continued. In fact, they not only drove out the people who were experienced, well trained, and knew how to do the job and had some knowledge of the corporate history, they began hiring very young people, and then stopped offering them the comprehensive training that had always been customary in The Agency in the past. The new employees did not receive (and are still not receiving) the help, assistance, and training they need in order to competently do their jobs. They were pretty much out there on their own, and in fact sometimes called Mr. Smythe at his new agency to ask for assistance, as they didn’t really have anywhere else to turn. This situation in fact, made The Agency Industrial Security Specialists entirely too dependent on asking the very defense contractor they were supposed to be policing, for help in managing their inspections. This was a major conflict of interest and gave certain elements at The Defense Contractor entirely too much influence and control over the whole inspection and reporting process.

In fact, during a part of this period of time, as Mr. Smythe was investigating and dealing with the repercussions of his report, the Office chief of the “Much Warmer” Agency office, Mr. Duke, who was a part of the management hierarchy and was serving as Mr. Smythe’s direct supervisor, understood the wrong doing, and tried to stand up and support Mr. Smythe, but was pretty well trashed by the upper management himself.

In fact, about the time Mr. Smythe left the agency to take a different job, Mr. Duke had decided to also leave in disgust, and had accepted a job overseas in order to finish his career, out of this mess. Unfortunately, his wife became ill right before they were supposed to leave, which caused him to have to go back to The Agency so she could stay and undergo medical treatment in the United States. After Mr. Duke had announced he was leaving, and Mr. Smythe was leaving, there was some grumbling and questions being asked about the number of employees leaving “Big City” office and The Agency in general, particularly since it was the most knowledgeable employees leaving. It created some pressure for the upper management of The Agency. In response, it seems the bad actors began a disinformation campaign blaming the ills and misfortunes of the agency on those that were no longer going to be around to defend themselves, in order to prevent from being held accountable themselves for the mess. The agency allowed Mr. Duke to return to a job, but not his old office chief job. So when Mr. Duke came back, he was treated as though he’d been responsible for all the problems, was very publicly busted back to a field personnel position and was kept out of sight, while he continued to deal with his wife’s illness.

It has become quite evident to this observer that there are some very corrupted people in The Agency and that current managers intend to keep the employees from having the knowledge and skills to hold any of the defense contractors, particularly The Defense Contractor, accountable for not following federal requirements, policy or law. And that they have changed the policies and protocols enough to assure that the new Industrial Security Specialists replacing the ones The Agency had driven out will not be able to report wrongdoing, even if they do find it, without pretty much destructing their own careers and probably losing their jobs. (No doubt the influence here comes at least in part from Mr. Coole, the former Agency manager, who jumped ship to work as a highly paid FSO of The Defense Contractor, which had in fact committed the wrong doing that Mr. Smythe discovered and reported. It is believed that Coole continued to tap the federal managers he used to supervise at The Agency, now lobbying, manipulating, and intimidating them from his industry position into further damaging the agency’s oversight authority over The Defense Contractor, where he, Mr. Coole, was now employed.

On top of this, another low level manager, Mr. Snoopy, (office chief of another The Agency office in another state), sometime after Mr. Smythe’s departure, visited the “Big City” office and made a point of taking the junior employees aside, and very brazenly boasted to them of having “gotten rid of” Mr. Smythe, and insinuating that if they did not shut up and do what they were told to do, they too would end up like he had – personally and professionally destroyed. Although they were not pleased with the intimidation and threats, many were too new to know better or what to do about it. They were actually quite intimidated and afraid. The most experienced one, that Mr. Smythe had helped train, was chased out because he was not willing to back off holding a certain defense contractor (yes, the same one Mr. Coole was now employed by) accountable for their continued unacceptable actions on defense contracts.

Recently in June 2007, the “Big City” office chief position was scheduled to be posted, and finally filled. People he used to work with in the Big City agency office contacted Mr. Smythe. They said it was going to be posted shortly and would be an open announcement that Mr. Smythe could apply for. They reported that they had taken a vote, and wanted Mr. Smythe to apply for the office chief position. They also said that there was a new director of the agency, and that they had been promised that the hiring was going to be done at the headquarters level, circumventing the local and regional management. These same mid managers were referred to as “the polyester layer” by a previous short-term agency director, General Stote, who when he started to interfere in their empire building and other nefarious schemes, was axed just like several others before him.

Then the announcement came out, but interestingly, instead of being an open announcement, it was posted as an internal announcement only open to current employees within The Agency, effectively blocking Mr. Smythe once again from being able to apply and attain the position, as Mr. Smythe now worked for a different federal agency. This posting was a real surprise to the employees in the “Big City” Agency office, as they had been told it was going to be an open announcement and had been assured it would be handled in a professional and non-incestuous manner. One of them wrote to say that he had been told, “it would be open to all sources by order of the director,” and he commented in disgust, “so much for following the director’s orders”. It appeared the “polyester layer” was once again doing as it wished, rather than as directed.

Another person, shortly after that news came, also shared that “internal instructions circulated link Security Specialist performance ratings to facility review ratings. Obviously, if a facility review results in a rating of unsatisfactory, then the Security Specialist must not be administering adequate oversight. Therefore the Security Specialist annual performance rating would be unsatisfactory.” So to the chagrin of current The Agency Security Specialists, agency management is proposing to set it up so that if an agency Security Specialist uncovers problems, corruption or wrongdoing, and reports it, the Security Specialist will be blamed for the wrongdoing committed by The Defense Contractor and it will trash the Security Specialist’s performance rating, ruining their career standing and perhaps make it possible for Agency supervisors to fire the employee who dares to report any problems, corruption, or wrong doing.

So, it is obvious that the control of the oversight agency and the work of their Security Specialists are still being inappropriately influenced by the very Defense Contractor that The Agency is supposed to be overseeing and keeping in line. The “revolving door” which facilitated a previous upper manager, Mr. Coole, from The Agency to move directly to The Defense Contractor and to continue apparent “Quid Pro Quo” dealings is still open, and no one seems to be monitoring or enforcing violations of even the current federal prohibitions of these practices, let alone stop the door from revolving.

All of this appears to be a long-term plan by some The Agency and The Defense Contractor Managers, working together, to successfully attempt to prevent the employees of The Agency, from being able to even dream of doing their jobs freely. They work in fear of being set up and harassed for doing the job they are supposed to be doing real oversight of government contracts and of the defense contractors who are given those contracts.

From all of this it appears there is no improvement in reducing the level of corruption between federal oversight agencies and defense contractors. One can only draw the conclusion that the fox is still aggressively in charge of the henhouse and corruption still abounds both in the defense contractor ranks as well as within the federal government. Federal employees (there are many) who have run up against the corrupt players are still being abused in record numbers and have very few places to get help. It is imperative that elected officials and those in oversight who are not compromised and corrupted, must stand up and help to clean house, or the future for these whistleblowers and their families, and for our country as a whole look bleak indeed.