Tag Archive: National Security Whistleblowers


From Government Exec.com

 

Security agency whistleblowers seek stronger protections

By Chris Strohm cstrohm@govexec.com February 14, 2006

Whistleblowers who have alleged misconduct or criminal activity at national security agencies told lawmakers Tuesday that they have been retaliated against for their disclosures, and urged stronger rights for both federal employees and contractors reporting wrongdoing.

In an unusual move, whistleblowers from the FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Department and Energy Department were allowed to testify before the House Government Reform National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations Subcommittee. Congressional committees usually hear from senior agency managers, not rank-and-file employees.

The whistleblowers recounted their allegations and how they were retaliated against, in some cases by having their security clearances revoked or their careers ruined. They said agency managers seemed more focused on cover-ups and retaliation than investigating allegations or addressing exposed problems.

“I became a whistleblower not out of choice, but out of necessity — necessity to tell the truth,” said Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who said he was retaliated against after reporting pre-9/11 intelligence failures.

Shaffer is scheduled to testify in a closed session Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said the session will be “a hearing that is going to change . . . the nature of this city.”

Weldon said Congress needs to pass legislation to protect workers who come forward with critical information.

“If we don’t fix the problem . . . then we’re sending a signal to every other employee in the federal government not to speak up,” Weldon said. “If we don’t take action, we’re all in danger.”

Other whistleblowers said their allegations were never fully investigated.

“I’m here today to tell you about a system that is broken,” said Mike German, who resigned from the FBI after reporting that bureau agents and managers mishandled a major counterterrorism case in 2002 and falsified records. The Justice Department inspector general confirmed German’s allegations that the case was mishandled and records were falsified, and that he was retaliated against after making his allegations. But the IG said the case was not a counterterrorism case.

“I am here not because I think you can help me,” German said. “I am here because your actions are needed to fix a broken system before another counterterrorism investigation is about to fail.”

He added: “This is not a question of balancing security interests against liberty interests. It’s a mater of competence and accountability.”

Army Spc. Samuel Provance said he believes the military has covered up the extent of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and has not adequately investigated those abuses. Provance was one of the first military soldiers to come forward with allegations of abuse at the prison.

“I am concerned about what the Army is becoming,” he said. “Honor cannot be achieved by lies and scapegoating. Honor depends on the truth.”

Several lawmakers said they would support new legislation to give stronger protections to employees and contractors at national security and intelligence agencies. Those employees are exempt from protections under the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act.

“Seldom in our history has the need for the whistleblower’s unfiltered voice been more urgent, particularly in the realms of national security and intelligence,” said subcommittee chairman Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. “But those with whom we trust the nation’s secrets are too often treated like second-class citizens when it comes to asserting their rights to speak truth to power.”

By a party-line vote, the House Government Reform Committee rejected a measure last fall that would have provided stronger protections for national security whistleblowers. At the time, committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said he did not know enough about national security issues.

Some whistleblower advocates were outraged over Davis’ statement, especially since his committee includes a subcommittee on national security.

“My hope is that … we can work together on a bipartisan basis to introduce new legislation that will provide national security whistleblowers with basic protections,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said during Tuesday’s hearing. “No one with a security clearance should have to fear that his or her clearance can be pulled in retaliation for truthfully reporting corruption or abuse.”

Link to original:  http://www.govexec.com/story_page_pf.cfm?articleid=33398&printerfriendlyvers=1

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This article by Shanna Devine is excellently written and right spot on.  This is exactly what federal employees, in fact a growing number of federal employees have been experiencing.  Few ever seem to get real justice and are made whole again. 

One huge problem is security classification creep.  I am referring to when certain people purposefully misclassify something in order to hide it, as they know it will get them into trouble or mess up their business practices if it is discovered.  They try to keep these things secret by putting them behind the curtain.  During the past decade, it seems many with authority to affect this kind of behind the scenes change in policy were using the claim of “National Security” to hide many things, including illegal activities committed by themselves, their cronies in the government, or their cronies in industry, including defense contractors.  (Sometimes the wrongdoing was done in collusion between all of them.)  This has corrupted the whole meaning and implementation of  “classified.”  While there are things that truly are classified for good reason and are necessary to keep out of public view for real and legitimate national security concerns, there are many things which have been abominations which need to be identified and formally outted, taking the greedy and unethical wrongdoers who used such improper classifying of these things to hide theft, fraud, bribery, etc. into custody and begin prosecution.  GFS

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The Birmingham News – Congress Should Protect National Security Whistleblowers

 

The following op-ed was written by GAP Legislative Officer Shanna Devine and was published in Alice Echo News (TX), Daily Sun News (WA), and Madison Capital Times.

What makes America safe? This fundamental question lays at the heart of current Congressional debate over whether national security employees who expose wrongdoing should have the right to fight against retaliation.

Some in Congress believe that protecting national security whistleblowers translates to an eventual dangerous dissemination of classified information. This is fear mongering. The efforts of past intelligence whistleblowers have increased our safety when government managers are missing in action.

If you look at these employees who have been fired or harassed, you do not find people who sought to reveal state secrets. Instead, you meet patriots trying to do their jobs protecting the public by acting as professionals, not bureaucrats.

Richard Barlow had a distinguished CIA career, where he helped the agency find and convict two agents in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development department. Subsequently, he joined the Office of Nonproliferation in the Department of Defense (DoD). In 1989, Barlow then learned that his bosses were misleading Congress by failing to disclose that the planned sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan could potentially help that country deliver nuclear bombs. When he raised those concerns within his agency, he was stripped of his security clearance and labeled a risk. A DoD investigation exonerated him as a threat, but the Pentagon never reinstated his security clearance – successfully destroying his career without any independent appeal rights. Barlow did all he could to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, keep Congress informed, and make the world a safer place. And how was he thanked? To this day he has been denied government pension or health insurance. Pakistan now has its nuclear weapons, but Barlow has yet to get his vindication.

In 2006, 30-year Air Force mechanic George Sarris followed what government posters said was his duty – to contact the Inspector General about bureaucratic misconduct. He challenged maintenance breakdowns for American reconnaissance aircraft over Afghanistan and Iraq. One real risk were potential in-flight fires, caused by not replacing fuel hoses 15 years past expiration. In response, the Air Force IG accused him of committing a crime by “stealing” evidence which they initially demanded he produce to prove his charges. The IG put Sarris under criminal investigation, stripping all job duties by suspending his security clearance. Reassigned to the employee break room, his job was to fill space as an example to others.

Franz Gayl, a retired Marine major, is a civilian Marine Corps Science and Technology Advisor. In 2006, he served in Iraq, where he witnessed over 700 combat fatalities caused by an 18-month delay in providing armored vehicles that withstand roadside bombs. Gayl’s whistleblowing to Congress led to delivery of the mine resistant vehicles, and the unnecessary fatalities ended. However, Marine officials suspended Gayl, took away his key job duties, denied him further training, and placed him under criminal investigation.

These stories, and numerous others, are not just tragedies for the whistleblowers involved. They send a powerful signal to all national security employees: Keep your head down. If you see anything wrong, keep it to yourself.

The climate of fear within our national security agencies is the biggest threat to our national security. As noted FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley observed: “Bureaucratic breakdowns and needless disasters keep recurring, in huge part, because government whistleblowers have been silenced.”

We will never be safe until national security whistleblowers can tell the truth. That cannot happen until Congress gives them normal rights against retaliation, a reform stalled since last year by secret procedural holds that haven’t even been challenged. It is time for the politicians to get serious about protecting those who protect us.

Shanna Devine is Legislative Officer for the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organization based in Washington, D.C.

For further information, please contact Robert MacLean:
Phone: 310-218-6176
Email: RJMACLEAN@GMAIL.COM

– Press Release –
Thirteen national security whistleblowers on Monday, May 11, sent
President Barack Obama an open letter asking that he take immediate
steps to end the “second-class status” of federal employees like
themselves and to criminalize bureaucratic retaliation against
government workers who exercise their free speech rights in the public
interest.

The group applauded Obama’s long-standing interest in and advocacy for
whistleblower rights, saying that it was also “heartened by your special
relationship with America’s young people and by your call on them to
make a significant contribution to their country through public service.”
However, the group noted in their letter, “A call to public service without
needed whistleblower protection can only – at some future date – put at
risk those most inspired by your leadership.”

It asked the president to take “concrete steps in favor of national security
whistleblowers that will help to restore time-honored values of openness,
honesty and transparency to the federal service – and help those
entrusted with the nation’s secrets to do their jobs in a manner
consistent with the public interest.”

“In the years before your presidency, each one of us undertook a largely
solitary battle in favor of the values we share with you,” they noted. “And
in doing so, each one of us, together with our families, and sometimes
our friends and colleagues, have paid a heavy price for our ethical
dissent.

“As the federal government of necessity grows in response to the many
crises that you have inherited from your predecessor, the lack of
protection currently afforded to whistleblowers means that federal
workers – the front line in the fight against fraud and waste, and best
guarantee that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and government works
effectively – must either sit on the sidelines or, still forced to look over
their shoulders for signs of reprisal, risk their careers.”

The group pointed out that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB),
charged with adjudicating federal worker claims, has found only one case
of illegal retaliation in 56 decisions on the merits. And only three
whistleblowers out of 212 prevailed in decisions on the merits in the
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals since October 1994, when the current
whistleblower “protection” law last was modified.

The letter pointed to the “special vulnerability” of people like those who
signed it, who do not have any “real safeguards” against retaliation.
“Instead, for protecting this nation, we and others face having our
security clearances yanked, as well as a rosary of humiliation,
demotions, threats, punitive polygraphs and myriad other intimidatory
measures.” Meanwhile, even as independent agencies and organizations
corroborate whistleblower complaints, the letter noted, “wrongdoers are
mostly allowed to retain their posts – and many even receive promotions.”

“For all that you have accomplished in little more than 100 days in office,
we are sure you would agree that ensuring true transparency and
accountability means the enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy for
repression and retaliation, and the guaranteeing of the legal rights of
every federal employee,” the group concluded.

One of the letter signers, Martin Edwin Andersen, called on President
Obama to endorse a proposal by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has
reintroduced legislation (HR) 985 – supported by the president during
last year’s campaign – that would allow national security whistleblowers
federal court access, full due process and jury trials.

“For too long national security whistleblowers have been left to feel that
they are the contemporary ‘300’ of American bureaucratic Sparta,”
Andersen said, referring to the epic film about King Leonidas and a force
of 300 men who fought to the death against an army of autocratic and
decadent Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.

“The Van Hollen approach would at least provide us with real shields
rather than paper shields when doing battle against entrenched
bureaucratic wrongdoing.”

The signers of the letter to President Obama include:

Martin Edwin Andersen
Former senior advisor for policy planning at the Department of Justice’s Criminal
Division; Winner of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s 2001 “Public Servant Award”
Mark Danielson
Department of Energy Special Response Team (SRT) whistleblower
Page 3 of 3
Michael DeKort
Former Lockheed Martin program manager/systems engineer; exposed waste, fraud
and abuse on Coast Guard Deepwater program and major security/safety issues
Bogdan Dzakovic
Aviation Security whistleblower regarding the 9-11 attacks, as well as current issues
within the Transportation Security Administration
Richard E. Hoskins II
Formerly of the Federal Air Marshal Service; Only Non-Air Marshal to report corrupt
behavior and violations of veterans rights to the Office of Special Counsel and Congress
Robert J. MacLean
Former Federal Air Marshal, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
National Whistleblower Liaison, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA)
Spencer A. Pickard
Former Federal Air Marshal, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Coleen Rowley
Retired FBI Agent (retired 2004) and former Minneapolis FBI Division Legal Counsel
Craig R. Sawyer
Former Tier-1 level U.S. Navy SEAL Operator, decorated for “Heroic Service” in combat;
“Original 33” Federal Air Marshal and whistleblower, as an ATSAIC (manager) in the
Federal Air Marshal Service, against gross mismanagement and retaliation.
Lt. Eric N. Shine
Graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point [1991]; Federal
maritime engineering watch officer
George R. Taylor
U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Air Marshal Service
Frank Terreri
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) director of labor relations;
FLEOA Federal Air Marshal Agency President
Russell D. Tice
Former intelligence analyst and capabilities operations officer for Special Access
Programs (SAP) Information Warfare, National Security Agency (NSA)
(Non-National Security Whistleblower Category)
Peter D. Nesbitt
FAA Whistleblower Alliance