Archive for November, 2008


POGO Releases Report on Federal Air Marshal

Problems with the Office of Special Counsel

 

 

 

November 25, 2008

 

 

Today the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is releasing a report, Breaking the Sound Barrier: Experiences of Air Marshals Confirm Need for Reform at the OSC, recommending to the incoming Administration a major overhaul of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). 

 

This investigative report seeks not only to set the record straight on former Special Counsel Bloch’s actual accomplishments, but also to provide lessons learned for the next Special Counsel. As a case study, POGO focused on the OSC’s handling of federal air marshal cases for two reasons: President Bush has pointed to the critical role in homeland security played by air marshals, and Bloch himself has touted his work with air marshals as evidence of the success of his tenure. 

 

POGO decided to investigate.

 

In addition to POGO’s recommended reforms of the OSC, POGO is also calling upon the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) to foster an organizational culture where employees are not only encouraged by management to express safety concerns, but in which they are protected when they do so.

 

“As many of us travel for Thanksgiving, we should remember the federal air marshals upon whom we are relying to keep us safe. We have not kept up our end of the bargain. When they blew the whistle on misconduct, there was no one keeping them safe from retaliation. Air marshals deserve a system that both listens to their concerns and protects them, the way they are protecting us,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, POGO.

 

Despite contacting almost a dozen current and former air marshals who blew the whistle, POGO could not identify one instance where the OSC upheld its responsibility to provide a secure whistleblower disclosure channel for the resolution of workplace improprieties, to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, and to hold accountable those responsible for whistleblower retaliation.

 

“The POGO report describes in great detail what actually happens to federal air marshals when they do come forward to root out misconduct and criminal behavior –– they are retaliated against, and in most cases terminated,” P. Jeffrey Black, a Federal Air Marshal from the Las Vegas field office. 

 

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more accountable federal government.

 

 

# # #

 

 

 

See Original Article Here:

http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/homeland-security/hs-aviation-20081125.html

 

 

Whistleblower Office Fails to

Protect Federal Air Marshals

 

 

 

By Michael Grabell

 

November 25, 2008 – 7:00 a.m. EST

 

After a ProPublica investigation found that dozens of air marshals have been charged with crimes, the director of the Air Marshal Service sent an agency-wide e-mail stating, “We must dedicate ourselves to root out and report any instance of misconduct or criminal behavior.”

 

But a new report being released today (Tuesday, Nov. 25) by a government watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, (POGO) says that current and former air marshals have been shut out and retaliated against when they tried to report problems to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that protects whistleblowers.

 

“The POGO report describes in great detail what actually happens to federal air marshals when they do come forward to root out misconduct and criminal behavior,” said P. Jeffrey Black, a Las Vegas air marshal and whistleblower. After he testified before Congress in 2004 about security breaches, Black says the air marshal service launched an investigation into whether he released sensitive security information.

 

Air marshal spokesman Greg Alter said his agency had not yet reviewed the POGO report. In an e-mailed statement, he said the agency has “zero tolerance” for retaliation.

 

“Any Federal Air Marshal Service employee who in good faith reports waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement or a violation of law or agency policy shall not be subjected to any form of harassment, adverse employment consequences or other form of retaliation,” he said.

 

The Office of Special Counsel is supposed to be a refuge for government whistleblowers — a place where complaints of corruption, abuses of power and security lapses are aired and exposed. POGO cited interviews with nearly a dozen current and former air marshals to assert that the agency has closed cases without investigating and failed to shield whistleblowers from retaliation.

 

The report places much of the blame on Special Counsel Scott Bloch.

 

Bloch went on administrative leave in October, five months after the FBI raided his home and office as part of an investigation into obstruction of justice. One of the accusations is that Bloch hired Geeks on Call (instead of the agency’s computer technicians) to perform a “seven-level wipe” and erase all the files on his office computer. Bloch has said he was trying to get rid of a virus.

 

In his resignation letter, Bloch quoted the Greek poet Sophocles in saying, “No one likes the bearer of bad news.” Bloch highlighted the office’s achievements exposing airline inspection problemsair traffic control cover-ups and defective New Orleans levee pumps

 

He also has cited his success in protecting air marshals.

 

POGO decided to have a look-see and found that several air marshals felt the special counsel hadn’t helped. In some cases described in the report, the office did follow-up, but the whistleblowers weren’t satisfied with the extent of the investigation or the result. 

 

In others, air marshals said the office stood by while they were harassed, disciplined or fired.

 

The report cites the case of one air marshal who took a photograph of a suspicious individual at an airport in August 2004. He pressed his supervisors to forward the photo to the FBI for further investigation. After they didn’t, he complained to Bloch’s office in March 2005.

 

As the air marshal waited for OSC to start investigating, the report says, he was subjected to hostility at work, including several attempts to fire him. The OSC completed its investigation in February 2007 and decided not to take any action, according to the report.

 

The air marshal was fired three months later after the service discovered he had obtained a fake degree from a diploma mill, although he never used it when he applied to become an air marshal.

 

POGO says such cases discouraged other air marshals.

 

“The horror stories from everybody else’” convinced air marshal Spencer Pickard to go to ABC News in 2006 with concerns about the air marshals’ dress code rather, than complain to the special counsel, the POGO report says. After Pickard and others argued that mandatory business attire blew their cover, Congress investigated and the service relaxed the dress rules.

 

Pickard, who is no longer an air marshal, was placed on administrative leave a few weeks after speaking out.

 

Bloch’s attorney, Paul Orfanedes, said POGO has an ax to grind. In 2005, the group joined a whistleblower complaint alleging that Bloch had retaliated against his own employees, which Bloch’s attorney denies.

 

“I think he is very proud of his work with the Air Marshal Service and in doing what really the law allows the OSC to do, which sometimes isn’t enough for advocacy organizations,” said Orfanedes, who has represented whistleblowers. “There’s always a fair amount of unrealistic expectations of what the law allows and, therefore, dissatisfaction with the result.”

 

OSC spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the office didn’t want to dwell on the past and is focused on getting prepared for the next administration.

 

“Look forward to tomorrow,” he said. “Yesterday’s gone.”

 

 

 

To Download the POGO Report

 

>>> CLICK HERE <<<

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Original Article Here:

http://www.propublica.org/article/report-whistleblower-office-fails-to-protect-air-marshals-1125

 

 

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This is certainly not the only agency with these types of problems.  Other agencies, which oversee government defense contracting,  have proven to have similar problems and more.  -GFS

——————————————————————————————————

Link to original:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1152ap_inside_washington_easy_audits.html

Last updated November 9, 2008 7:00 a.m. PT

INSIDE WASHINGTON: Auditors go easy on contractors

By RICHARD LARDNER
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

 

 

A Bechtel Co. sign is shown on an old streetcar in front of 50 Beale Street in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. Instead of seeing red, Pentagon audit managers saw business as usual after being told that Bechtel failed to open all its books for review. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

WASHINGTON — Instead of seeing red, Pentagon audit managers saw business as usual after being told that a major military contractor failed to open all its books for review.

At a meeting of Defense Contract Audit Agency staff in California last May, auditor Acacia Rodriguez used a 24-page PowerPoint briefing to describe how she and her co-workers struggled with the Bechtel Group’s “chronic failure” to provide the financial records required to prove tax dollars were being spent properly.

“Mtn View, we have a problem!!!” said one of Rodriguez’s briefing charts, a shorthand reference to the audit agency’s branch office in Mountain View, outside San Francisco.

If her bosses were upset over the contractor’s foot-dragging, they didn’t show it, according to an auditor who attended the meeting, which included Christopher Andrezze, director of the agency’s Western region.

Five days later, the agency issued a report rating Bechtel’s internal accounting procedures as “adequate,” a passing grade that meant defense auditors could ease up on the company. The report made no mention of the records delays.

DCAA is the first line of defense for the public in policing billions of dollars in defense contracts awarded by the government’s top-spending department. In theory, the audit agency has extensive powers, including withholding payments and issuing subpoenas, to force contractors to provide the necessary information.

The reality is quite different.

The Bechtel episode illustrates how tolerant the agency can be when defense contractors slow the government’s access to paper records and databases. There is no way to know how often DCAA withholds payments because it does not keep track. And it has not used its subpoena power in 20 years.

“We have been basically on the trust system for years,” said the auditor who attended the May meeting. “It did not work on Wall Street and it is not working for federal contracts,” said the two-decade veteran of the agency who spoke on condition of anonymity because DCAA employees are not allowed to publicly discuss their work.

Negotiation, not confrontation, is the usual method for prying hard-to-get data loose from companies that make weapons or support troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the numbers show that approach is too cozy when the need for tough oversight is greater than ever.

In 2007 alone, DCAA performed nearly 34,000 audits covering $391 billion in contractor costs. Of that total, auditors challenged $4.6 billion, or 1.2 percent, as lacking necessary documentation. The question is, how much more could they have caught?

“I start salivating thinking about how much money is involved and the savings that are potentially there,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said at a congressional hearing in September.

Compared with other federal oversight organizations, such as the Government Accountability Office, DCAA’s return on investment is weak. For every dollar GAO spends, it saves taxpayers $94. At DCAA, the ratio is $5 saved for every one spent.

DCAA officials declined to be interviewed for this story. In an e-mailed response to questions, Pentagon spokesman Darryn James said contractor delays and refusals to provide records are not extensive problems.

He acknowledged there are times when contractors have to be reminded to provide information. Records disputes are handled at the lowest possible level by the nearly 3,500 defense auditors in the U.S. and overseas, James said. Officials at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., have had to step in just four times since 2003, he said. All four disagreements were settled without going to court.

“It should be considered a success that DCAA has been able to get the information it needs without having to resort to subpoena authority,” James said.

James described the Bechtel situation as an unusual case that was resolved after the agency and the company worked out a way to answer auditor requests for records more promptly.

But an e-mail exchange between DCAA employees in early 2006 indicates the problems with Bechtel were long-standing. “This is the slowest responding (contractor) that I’ve been at,” reads the message from early 2006, provided to The Associated Press on the condition that the employees not be named. “You would be unnerved to know that some of my data request (sic) here have been outstanding for more than six months!!!”

Based in San Francisco, Bechtel is an engineering and construction company that has won just under $10 billion in Defense Department work since 2000, according to FedSpending.org, a Web site created by the public-interest group OMB Watch to track government contracts.

Bechtel spokesman Francis Canavan said the company has a “long record” of working with DCAA. He said there have been occasional delays in locating older records. “We’re not aware of any findings that these delays adversely impacted the audits,” Canavan said.

Bechtel is not the only trouble spot, according to internal agency documents.

-In September, two auditors traded e-mail complaints about Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of military weapons. “It is not possible to do quality audits under such an environment,” one message said. “It is an endless battle,” a second said. Raytheon did not respond to a request for comment from the AP.

-Northrop Grumman, which did more than $20 billion in business with the Pentagon in 2007, has refused to give DCAA access to minutes from meetings of the audit committee that reports to the company’s board of directors, according to an internal DCAA memo dated Oct. 29. Randy Belote, a Northrop Grumman spokesman, declined comment, saying the issue “is part of an ongoing legal review within the company.”

DCAA, formed in 1965, has long been viewed as a bulwark against waste and fraud. Its reputation took a hit this summer after an investigation by the GAO found that supervisors improperly influenced audits to favor contractors. Auditors also were pressured to close audits early in order to meet productivity goals, the GAO report said.

The report mentioned records access problems only in passing. Boeing, a defense giant, did not give auditors the necessary detail to trace costs on a $1 billion space-launch contract, it said. Boeing spokesman Joe Tedino said the company did nothing improper.

“In the end, contractors are getting away with murder” because they know auditors are pushed to complete audits quickly, Diem Thi Le, a senior auditor at DCAA, said at a Sept. 10 congressional hearing on the GAO report. In November 2005, Le reported allegations of misconduct by managers. Her complaints led to the GAO inquiry.

DCAA Director April Stephenson told lawmakers the agency is taking the report seriously and addressing the shortcomings.

The fault isn’t all DCAA’s, procurement experts say. The agency doesn’t always press contractors hard because its actions may not be backed up at the top levels of the Defense Department.

That’s especially true for high-profile contracts supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In one example, department officials overruled auditors who objected to nearly $1 billion in payments to KBR, the Houston-based contractor that supplies U.S. troops with food and housing.

“DCAA finds few friends,” said Richard C. Loeb, an adjunct professor of government contract law at the University of Baltimore Law School. “Their work is not appreciated the way it should be.”

On the Net:

Defense Contract Audit Agency: http://www.dcaa.mil/

 

Link to Original  Full Story:  http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/printer2/index.asp?ploc=t&refer=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/388557_boeingfuelpump20.html

 

 

FAA orders some 737 inspections

Last updated November 19, 2008 5:23 p.m. PT

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered emergency inspections on some next-generation Boeing 737s because of possible faulty fuel pump wiring that could lead to a fire or explosion of the fuel tank.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/chronicle/6119459.html

 

Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales indicted in S. Texas

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN

 

McALLEN — A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick

Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on state charges

related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County’s federal

detention centers.

 

The indictment, which had not yet been signed by the presiding judge,

was one of seven released Tuesday in a county that has been a source of

bizarre legal and political battles in recent years. Another of the

indictments named a state senator on charges of profiting from his

position.

 

Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra himself had been

under indictment for more than a year and half before a judge dismissed

the indictments last month. This flurry of charges came in the twilight

of Guerra’s tenure, which ends this year after nearly two decades in

office. He lost convincingly in a Democratic primary in March.

 

Cheney’s indictment on a charge of engaging in an organized criminal

activity criticizes the vice president’s investment in the Vanguard

Group, which holds interests in the private prison companies running

the federal detention centers. It accuses Cheney of a conflict of

interest and “at least misdemeanor assaults” on detainees because of

his link to the prison companies.

 

Megan Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Cheney, declined to comment on

Tuesday, saying that the vice president had not yet received a copy of

the indictment.

 

The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his position while in office

to stop an investigation in 2006 into abuses at one of the

privately-run prisons.

 

Gonzalez’s attorney, George Terwilliger III, said in a written

statement, “This is obviously a bogus charge on its face, as any good

prosecutor can recognize. Hopefully, competent Texas authorities will

take steps to reign in this abuse of the criminal justice system.”

 

Willacy County has become a prison hub with county, state and federal

lockups. Guerra has gone after the prison-politician nexus before,

extracting guilty pleas from three former Willacy and Webb county

commissioners after investigating bribery related to federal prison

contacts.

 

Another indictment released Tuesday accuses state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr.

of profiting from his public office by accepting honoraria from prison

management companies. Guerra announced his intention to investigate

Lucio’s prison consulting early last year.

 

Lucio’s attorney, Michael Cowen, released a scathing statement accusing

Guerra of settling political scores in his final weeks in office.

 

“Senator Lucio is completely innocent and has done nothing wrong,”

Cowen said, adding that he would file a motion to quash the indictment

this week.

 

Last month, a Willacy County grand jury indicted The GEO Group, a

Florida private prison company, on a murder charge in the death of a

prisoner days before his release. The three-count indictment alleged

The GEO Group allowed other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to

death with padlocks stuffed into socks. The death happened in 2001 at

the Raymondville facility, just four days before de la Rosa’s scheduled

release.

 

In 2006, a jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa’s family $47.5

million in a civil judgment. The Cheney-Gonzalez indictment makes

reference to the de la Rosa case.

 

None of the indictments released Tuesday had been signed by Presiding

Judge Manuel Banales of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region.

 

A second batch of indictments targeted public officials connected to

Guerra’s own legal battles.

 

Willacy County Clerk Gilbert Lozano, District judges Janet Leal and

Migdalia Lopez, and special prosecutors Mervyn Mosbacker Jr. — a former

U.S. attorney — and Gustavo Garza — a long-time political opponent of

Guerra — were all indicted on charges of official abuse of official

capacity and official oppression.

 

Garza, the only one who could be immediately reached Tuesday, called it

a sad state of affairs.

 

“I feel sorry for all of the good people this unprofessional prosecutor

has maligned,” Garza said. “I’m not at all concerned about the

accusations he has trumped up.”

 

Banales dismissed indictments against Guerra last month that charged

him with extorting money from a bail bond company and using his office

for personal business. An appeals court had earlier ruled that Garza

was improperly appointed as special prosecutor to investigate Guerra.

 

After Guerra’s office was raided as part of the investigation early

last year, he camped outside the courthouse in a borrowed camper with a

horse, three goats and a rooster. He threatened to dismiss hundreds of

cases because he believed local law enforcement had aided the

investigation against him.

 

On Tuesday, Guerra said the indictments speak for themselves. He said

the prison-related charges are a national issue and experts from across

the country testified to the grand jury. Asked about the indictments

against local players in the justice system who had pursued him, Guerra

said, “the grand jury is the one that made those decisions, not me.”

 

The indictments were first reported by KRGV-TV.

 

Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this

report.

 

 

Brought to you by the HoustonChronicle.com

Thanks, flyover_27, for highlighting my case. I still can say “bad” things about the company, as long as they are the truth. I have never strayed from telling the truth, and my blog, accessible from my website, is pretty hard hitting, most recently pointing out that not only former Assistent Attorney General Paul McNulty perjured himself before congress, but Boeing‘s CEO Jim McNerney did as well, knowingly (most likely) or not. I just can’t give out the details of what Boeing and their counsel ask me in their interviews. True, Boeing did ruin my life in an effort to go on the offensive agaunst one of their most “dangerous” (to their fraud) whistleblowers ever, trying to discredit me and imprison me in the process using illegally gathered “evidence” against me. Had I been convicted, corrupt Boeing management would have had one of their grandest back slapping parties ever in celebration, knowing they had imprisoned a whistleblower on their own crimes, knowing it was they who should have been imprisoned themselves for far worse crimes they committed than I was even accused of. Arrogant? Yes. But they do have a lock on the most arrogant, incompetent, and criminal management since Enron went down in flames.
 
Thanks again
 
Gerald Eastman
 
The Last (Boeing) Inspector
 
www.thelastinspector.com 

 

Dear Friend: 

An article published on November 13th by National Underwriter, a leading news service for the insurance industry, drove home the significance of the whistleblower provisions included in the Consumer Product Safety (CPS) Improvement Act signed into law on August 14, 2008. That law was vigorously opposed by the National Association of Manufacturers, and contains some of the best whistleblower protections under federal law.

In the article, the head of the Chicago law firm Greenberg Traurig’s product liability practice group, Frank Citera, admitted that the whistleblower provisions of the CPS Act, which cover over 15,000 products, consumer imports and materials regulated under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, has been of great concern to companies. He stated that since the Act provides real protections for workers, there is the potential for “ a ‘bit of a boon for the plaintiffs’ bar.’” Attorney Citera asserted that in a “perfect world” a “worker on the assembly line who sees a defect would prevent the product from hitting the marker sooner, ‘but historically employees reluctant to blow the whistle.’” A copy of this article is linked here.

The opposition of the defense bar evidenced the dangerous attempts by companies to take advantage of the average worker who is currently unaware of the Act’s protections. It highlighted the importance of the NWC’s new training program designed to instruct employment/plaintiff attorneys, whistleblowers and their supporters of these new whistleblower rights and how they can be effectively advocated within the legal system.

Congress passed the CPS Act in response to defective products that killed children and police officers. Congress recognized that whistleblowers are the only way the public will discover when a neglectful company endangers Americans by ignoring consumer product safety regulations. We cannot allow employee ignorance, coupled with aggressive defense lawyer tactics, to undermine consumer safety.

There is still time to register for the NWC’s crucial seminar. We urge you to attend and to inform any attorneys or whistleblower advocates you know to come to the seminar. It is critically important that the whistleblower community understand the new law and be in a position to defend the millions of workers who are now protected under its provisions. If you cannot attend, please make a donation to the National Whistleblowers Center to fund a national training program so that companies do not succeed in their efforts to keep workers ignorant and unprotected. Please click here to make a donation.

The all-day seminar will be held in the Taft Room at the Willard International Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. on Friday, November 21, 2008. To review the program or sign up click here. A registration fee of $495.00 is required. However scholarships are available. Attorneys, whistleblowers, students, community activists, members of the press, and others who support the rights of workers who wish to attend should contact 
Estelle S. Kohn
 at (202) 342-1903 or email ek@whistleblowers.org

Very truly yours,

Lindsey M. Williams
Advocacy Director
National Whistleblowers Center

Estelle S. Kohn
Deputy Director
National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund

 

( Is the Director asking air marshals to become whistleblowers? )

 

 

By Michael Grabell

 

November 17, 2008

 

The director of the Federal Air Marshal Service said Friday that he was “embarrassed” by incidents of air marshal misconduct described in a ProPublica investigation published last week with USA Today.

 

The investigation found that more than three dozen air marshals have been charged with crimes, including 18 felonies, and that hundreds of air marshals have been accused of misconduct. The cases included child sex abuse, solicitation for murder and the use of badges to smuggle drugs past security.

On Friday morning, Director Robert Bray attached the story to an agency-wide e-mail stating that, “I am sure you are just as personally and professionally embarrassed by these incidents as I am.”

“In order to maintain the trust and confidence of our fellow Americans, we must dedicate ourselves to root out and report any instance of misconduct or criminal behavior,” he wrote. “The public expects nothing less than adherence to the highest professional standards; we must demand no less from ourselves.”

The brief e-mail did not specifically address whether the agency will take additional steps to address issues raised by the story, including gaps in background checks, changes in hiring standards and whether discipline for misconduct such as drunken driving is adequate. ProPublica found several misconduct cases since 2005 involving air marshals who had been fired from prior jobs or who had a criminal record.

In a follow-up story by CNN, Bray stated that the Air Marshal Service now has “a robust process that we have a great deal of confidence in that brings good people on board.”

Bray’s e-mail to employees presented a different tone from earlier public statements in which the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the Air Marshal Service, said the ProPublica investigation presented a distorted view.”

“While sensationalizing the regrettable acts of a very few may make for good front page news, it doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of an organization,” Bray said in a statement Thursday on TSA’s blog.

Air marshal spokesman Greg Alter said Bray’s new e-mail was intended to reaffirm his confidence in the rank-and-file. “I know that the vast majority of you are dedicated professionals who consider the Federal Air Marshal Service as more than just a job, but a patriotic mission,” Bray wrote.

 

See Original Article Here:

http://www.propublica.org/article/chief-calls-on-air-marshals-to-root-out-misconduct-1117/

 

My comments are referenced to the situation ably described by the Project on Government Oversight’s (POGO) Beth Daley in her testimony at the Office of Special Council (OSC)/Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) hearing July 12, 2007.  –GFS 

 

   (http://www.pogo.org/p/government/gt-070712-osc.html)

 

It is good that talk and dialogue continues regarding the OSC and MSPB and the environment for whistleblowers in the federal government.  However it is important to realize that the sum total effect of the inactivity of real accomplishment means that real people’s lives are being affected, and in some cases, ruined and families torn apart.  One federal employee over the course of his/her career conducted a number of serious investigations with regard to the inappropriate handling and mishandling of classified national security information and technology.

 

In one investigation, the Investigator was called in by a Security Specialist from the Dept. of Energy (DOE), to investigate the refusal of DOE management to take their investigative findings seriously.  The Department of Defense (DOD) Investigator was dispatched along with a second DOD Senior Security Specialist, to investigate the allegations.  The DOD Investigator met with a DOE scientist, and the DOE Security Specialist, making the allegations.  The DOE scientist, and Security Specialist provided sworn statements and documented evidence was provided to the DOD investigator and Senior Security Specialist.

 

Upon return to the DOD field office, the Investigator and the Senior Security Specialist wrote a classified report of findings (administrative inquiry).  What had been shared with the DOD was a DOE security program out of control.  The evidence documented critical nuclear weapons design information (CNWDI), and fissionable nuclear material being improperly stored at a DOE facility.  The report was appropriately classified, and appropriately forwarded through channels to the DOD headquarters.  Several weeks later, the DOD field office received a telephone call from one of the DOD headquarters personnel who had read the report.  The comment made to the DOD investigator and Senior Security Specialist was:  And what do you expect me to do with this?

 

The field office said that they expected it to be briefed to the DOE Director, believing that the problem was extremely serious, and when disclosed, would be addressed and fixed by the DOE Director.   At that point, the DOD headquarters individual said:  If you think that DOD headquarters is gonna walk over to the director of the DOE and brief her on the fact that she has fissionable nuclear material being improperly stored, you’re out of your “God damned mind!”

 

The effect of this DOD management level person’s refusal to do his job was that good people within the DOE that wanted to do the right thing were left swinging in the wind.  For the past 10 years, these people’s lives have been holy Hell.  The scientist was forced to relocate to another DOE facility; one much more remote to his/her family, by DOE and commutes back to his/her home several times a year, time permitting.  The DOE Security Specialist that tried to do the right thing, and when all appropriate channels failed within the DOE, then reported it to the DOD, found that DOD miserably failed them also.  For the past 10 plus years, that person’s career has been lost; their life has been ruined.  They have lost almost everything they owned.  And nothing has changed.  It’s time to get past just talking about this.  It is time to DO something.

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 this happen?  How can the employees suddenly find themselves being labeled a whistleblower?  Most often, in the course of doing the job they were hired to do, they came across something that should not be, something unethical or illegal.  Being the kind of person they are, they really face no other option than to do their job and report it, and as is often the case, include the incriminating evidence that “outs” the wrongdoers, in their routine report they must submit as a part of doing their job.  The inclusion of the incriminating evidence in the required report understandably aggravates the wrong doer(s), who may even be a supervisor at some level above the employee, or someone with connections to a supervisor.  At the point that the wrongdoer begins to assert pressure on the employee to change, or make the accurate and truthful report go away, the employee then faces the choice of whether to stand up or be compromised.  And if they choose to take the high road, they become a whistleblower.  If they choose to be compromised, and a security clearance is required for doing their job, they are now potentially a blackmail victim, targeted by others in whose best interests it is to cover-up illegal activities. 

 

What is not understandable is how these whistleblowers are treated, not only by the corrupted supervisors, but the whole federal system, and sometimes our society as a whole.  There is a tendency to try to kill the messenger, and to blame the whistleblower for the problem.  The incidents that employees need to report, which happen because of wrongdoing by their co-workers or supervisors appear to happen primarily because of ambition, greed, and lack of ethics of the wrongdoers.  And in the response to being “outed” the wrongdoers and anyone they can influence, exact some pretty grim retribution on the whistleblower.  This is not what should happen, and is a pretty sad situation.  But in spite of this, ethical people still stand up and do the right thing at great personal risk, and personal and professional consequence. 

 

When decisions need to be made under duress, everyone always has choices, but choices are open or closed by one’s character and level of ethics.  One researcher called this the “choiceless choice” that whistleblowers have to face.  The whistleblower’s other option is to look the other way as ordered, or even actively become involved in the cover-up for the wrongdoers.  An employee who does this, risks losing their own security clearances, jobs, and reputations if this is discovered or they may be further manipulated through threats of exposure by the corrupted supervisors later for continued nefarious purposes. This choice, for ethical people, is not really a choice.  Whistleblowers are the employees who choose to do the honest and ethical thing, and in doing that become a whistleblower.

 

In return for their integrity, whistleblowers may face harassment, discrimination, and other assorted types of retribution for just doing their job as required by law. If doing their job gets in the way of unethical people, either in their agency or in a defense contractor their agency has oversight of, then things become very ugly.  They may have their working conditions turned into a nightmare, lose promotion capability, be rated unfairly, be set up for failure by their corrupt managers, even lose their job.  They can then be “black listed” and find it difficult or impossible to get a job in their field of expertise again, and in some cases not be able to get new employment.  Due to the secrecy held by members of the defense arena, it is not easy to discover what is being done to hurt you or who exactly is doing it.  It has become even worse in recent years, as many federal employees can attest to, due to the increased secrecy practices of the Bush/Cheney administration.  This could happen to anyone, and most often happens to honest, competent and responsible people of character, because they refuse to be compromised or corrupted. 

 

There are many employees in industry and federal employees who have run up against corrupt players that are still being abused in record numbers and have very few places to get help.  It is imperative that elected officials, those in oversight who are not compromised and corrupted, and U.S. citizens,  must stand up and help to clean house, and assure appropriate protection for our whistleblowers who have the courage to do what many of us do not – stand up and do the right thing – or the future for these whistleblowers, their families, and for our country look bleak indeed.

 

 

-GFS

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Know a Good Labor or Whistleblower Attorney?

 

In communicating with various people, including readers of this blog, I’ve found that finding an attorney to assist and help protect people who are being beat up for doing their jobs, or who have elected to join the ranks of whistleblowers by doing the right ethical thing, is not a very easy thing to accomplish.   I’ve decided that there is a need to post names of good attorney’s that have served people well.  If you know an attorney who has helped you or someone you know who is working or worked in federal government, defense contractor, military, or other area and you can attest to their integrity and competence, please post their name, contact information and area of expertise.  If you can also describe testimonial style, how they were able to help you that would be great.  You may also email me using the link on this site. 

 

Thank you all for your assistance in this project!

 

-GFS