Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Military Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2013 ("MWPEA"), legislation introduced by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.). The legislation was proposed earlier today in response to the ongoing problem of continued sexual assaults within the military.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented: "Sexual assaults in the military continue for the same reasons as other human rights violations – secrecy coupled with weak or nonexistent rights to challenge abuses of power. For 25 years, the Military Whistleblower Protection Act has been so weak that GAP has advised soldiers not to file complaints under it. This legislation would replace token rights with those equivalent to the civil service Whistleblower Protection Act."
GAP led the campaign for the original Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988, as well as additional rights for disclosures within the chain of command and due process to challenge forced psychiatric examinations. But political compromises gutted the legislation to the point where it has created more reprisal victims than it helped. The Warner-Kaine bill is properly customized for the military services, but upgrades core provisions for legitimate rights through:
- expanding protection to include disclosures of sexual harassment, testimony in law enforcement or legal proceedings, and exercise of appeal rights.
- expanding protection against the full scope of harassment, including a hostile working environment.
- eliminating the same loopholes for whistleblower protection that Congress closed last year in the civil service Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
- normalizing a one year statute of limitations to assert rights.
- mandating administrative due process proceedings, adding to Inspector General investigations that previously were the only enforcement option.
- implementing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act burdens of proof.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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HuffingtonPost: Prominent Journalists to File Suit to Lift Veil of Secrecy Over Trial of War Crime Whistleblower
In an effort to increase transparency in the trial of military whistleblower Bradley Manning, a group of high profile journalists and activists has filed a lawsuit in a civilian federal district court in Baltimore, hoping to overrule last month’s decision by the United States Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces, which denied the same group’s request to make the court files public. The renewed lawsuit aims to open journalist access to the military trial, in which Manning faces 22 charges and possible life in prison. The coalition advocating for transparency include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. They hope for the release of currently secret court files and transcripts and all future documents resulting from the upcoming trial.
The Virginian–Pilot: Bill Would Widen Military Whistleblower Protections
The high number of reported sexual assaults in the military – and the high level of retaliation facing those who report – has led to a bill being introduced today in the U.S. Senate to increase protection for military whistleblowers who raise complaints of any kind. The issue has been hotly debated in the legislature since the Pentagon released the results of an annual survey this month, which stated that only 3,374 cases of sexual assault were reported out of an estimated 26,000 cases just last year. The bill would facilitate the process of whistleblowing, strip unit commanders of the authority to dismiss major assault complaints, toughen penalties, and allow more time for those considering coming forward.
Key Quote: Debra Katz, a Washington-based attorney and expert in employee protection law, predicted that, without the whistleblower improvements, sexual assaults in the military might decrease temporarily but would rise again as news reports fade.
"You cannot change a culture as entrenched as the military without drawing a clear line in the sand, so when people have the courage and temerity to come forward and report these problems, they know we will protect them," Katz said.
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Al Jazeera: The US Disconnect Over Climate ChangeClimate Science Watch Director Rick Piltz
This in-depth investigation into the American stance on climate change features GAP’s Climate Science Watch Director and White House Climate Science Program whistleblower Rick Piltz. Piltz, who himself battled against the misinformation campaign on climate change under the Bush administration, is joined by two prominent scientists as they attempt to determine why the American public refuses to acknowledge both the scientific consensus on, and the immediate effects of, climate change. At the center of the discussion is a 2013 Yale survey that determined only 63% of Americans believe in climate change, with 33% believing there is still widespread disagreement among scientists on the issue.
Key Quote: [GAP Climate Science Watch Director Piltz said], “Senator John Kerry just said, ‘climate change is a matter of life and death.’ But does the public see the highest level political leadership acting as though they regard this as a problem of urgency or national security? Because if they don’t there are plenty of other places for the media to direct their attention…”
Fox News: DOJ Invoked Espionage Act in calling Fox News Reporter Criminal ‘Co-Conspirator’
When the Justice Department seized Fox News reporter James Rosen’s emails, alleging his co-conspirator status in a 2009 leak case involving former State Department contractor Stephen Kim, it did so under the Espionage Act, a law designed to prosecute spies. While the reporter has not been indicted, his case represents the ongoing persecution of journalists and whistleblowers by the Obama administration’s Justice Department. Unfortunately, the World War I-era law has been a choice tactic for the White House, with more indictments made than all other administrations combined, including two GAP clients, and counting. GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack is quoted.
According to another article, the recent disclosures of DOJ investigations of journalists a dangerous turn for the administration. Radack hopes the recent events act as a game-changer in the Obama administration’s back-door targeting of journalists, though with the ever expanding and invasive powers of the Executive branch, nothing is certain. If the targeting of journalists under the Espionage is permitted to continue, she says, “that really spells out the death knell for free reporting in this country.”
Key Quote (Fox News): “Radack, director of national security and human rights with the Government Accountability Project, represented former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was charged under the act but eventually got the charges dropped, and CIA official John Kiriakou, who is currently serving time…
Though Rosen was never charged with any crime, Radack said the feds are using a "very dangerous shortcut" if they only invoked the Espionage Act in order to access his emails.
"That means he's a target of a federal criminal leak investigation on one of the most serious charges that can be leveled against an American," she said. "It is a huge problem."
She added: "We should take a hard look at how the Espionage Act, a favorite tool of Nixon, is being used to go after any organization who's saying things the administration doesn't like."
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Inner City Press: Investigative reporting from the United Nations
Last month, UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom (represented by GAP on advocacy issues) along with GAP International Officer Shelley Walden, publicly criticized the United Nations’ attitude toward whistleblowers at a press conference in New York City. Wasserstrom was subject to severe retaliation after he raised his concerns about corrupt dealings within the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The UN responded to his case with a ruling of retaliation, but a financial reward so meager that he could not even cover his legal fees.
Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon filed an appeal to the decision, maintaining the organization’s extremely threatening stance toward whistleblowers. While a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon says the UN Secretariat has engaged a third-party judge to review UN whistleblower policy, in the meantime, employees continue to understand that speaking out is dangerous.
The Kojo Nnamdi Show: Thomas Drake – The Case of a Whistleblower
GAP client and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake appeared with GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack yesterday on WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Drake told his story of being a senior executive at the NSA and discovering billions of dollars of waste dealing with the agency’s secret surveillance programs. He is one of a record number of national security workers prosecuted under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration.
In related news, GAP National Security & Human Rights Counsel Kathleen McClellan appeared yesterday on the Real News Network and explained President Obama’s current persecution of national security whistleblowers in the context of the recent AP/DOJ scandal. The discussion focused on the administration framing whistleblower disclosures as actions posing a threat to national security, when most often they contain information pertaining to embarrassing misconduct by the US government.
Key Quote (Real News Network): "Well, absolutely there's properly classified information. And the regulations and the statutes that govern classified information define it pretty well. The problem is everybody in government is incentivized to classify, but they're not incentivized to declassify or to not classify. And so there's rampant overclassification plaguing the system.
Of course there are things that should be secret. The problem is the temptation to classify things that are embarrassing or that cover up misconduct is too great, and the consequences for overclassifying are nothing. There are no consequences, really, for overclassifying, despite the fact that government regulations require consequences for overclassifying, just like they require consequences for failing to classify or disclosing classified information."
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Bloomberg: Sarbanes–Oxley Whistleblower Shield Gets High Court Review
In a case that will determine the reach of Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower protections, the Supreme Court has announced it will determine whether the contractors of publicly traded companies receive the same protections that regular employees do.
The case arises from two whistleblower appeals; one from a private parent company and another from a subsidiary company that help run the Fidelity mutual fund family. Both whistleblowers (contractors, as is common in the mutual fund industry) claim that they were fired from their positions after reporting fraud.
The 1st Circuit Court determined that the plaintiffs do not enjoy such protections under Sarbanes-Oxley, made law after the Enron and WorldCom debacles of 2002 and generally recognized as a monumentally important whistleblower protection law. The Court will set a date for the hearing in the future.
Related Article: Reuters
Los Angeles Times: Prosecutor Retaliated Against Fast and Furious Whistleblower
The Justice Department inspector general’s office announced Monday that the former top federal prosecutor for Arizona leaked internal reports regarding a whistleblower in the government’s failed 'Fast and Furious' campaign. The prosecutor’s actions – which allowed media outlets to portray the whistleblower in a negative light – qualify as retaliation. The prosecutor left the US attorney’s office in Phoenix in 2011, admitting the incidents of poor judgment motivated by “a desire to undermine [the whistleblower’s] public criticisms of Operation Fast and Furious.”
Related Articles: The Washington Post, MSNBC, Politico
US Funding to Global Fund May Be At Risk
In this update on the controversial firing of the former Inspector General (IG) for the Global Fund, GAP Executive and International Director Bea Edwards explains the impact that the weakening of the IG’s office could have on Global Fund’s financial stability.
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For the past year or more, turbulence has surrounded the independence of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Global Fund, and at GAP we have been closely following these developments. In November 2012, the Global Fund’s Board took the unprecedented step of sacking its Inspector General, John Parsons, after he had served the organization for five years. The board took this action even though in late 2011, an independent seven-member panel of outside experts, contracted by the Board to review the Fund’s entire operations, praised the OIG highly.
There’s a lot at stake. The Global Fund was supposed to address crucial health care needs in developing countries using a new aid delivery model that involved the private sector more directly than the traditional system of government-to-government aid. The Global Fund’s quasi-private model was to avoid the delays, bureaucracy and corruption often associated with the public-sector delivery systems.
The 2011 Report of the independent seven member panel of outside experts (High Level Independent Review Panel on Fiduciary Controls and Oversight Mechanisms) described the mission:
The Global Fund has led a significant evolutionary step forward in all of development assistance by financing performance-based, inclusive, country-focused, public-private projects that are subject to independent technical review.
To ensure completion of the mission, the OIG was established, granted independence of Global Fund management and mandated to be transparent in its audits and investigations by publicly releasing its reports. To further ensure independence, the IG reported directly to the organization’s Board.
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The main-stream-media justifiably has its dander up about the Justice Department secretly obtaining records for AP phone lines impacting over 100 journalists.
The Justice Department seized the AP records as part of a "leak investigation," which fits nicely with the Obama administration's unprecedented crackdown on so-called "leakers," who are usually whistleblowers, using the heavy-handed Espionage Act. Espionage Act defendant Stephen Kim appears to be another whistleblower, whose disclosures that U.S. intelligence officials had warned that North Korea planned to respond to a new round of U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test, while hardly revolutionary for anyone with expertise on North Korea, were indisputably in the public interest. Putting aside Kim's status as a whistleblower, his case is another "leak" investigation that the government used as the basis for spying on a journalist.
The Washington Post reported today:
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
Glenn Greenwald extrapolated
how far the Justice Department's arguments in the Kim case go:
But what makes this revelation particularly disturbing is that the DOJ, in order to get this search warrant, insisted that not only Kim, but also Rosen - the journalist - committed serious crimes. The DOJ specifically argued that by encouraging his source to disclose classified information - something investigative journalists do every day - Rosen himself broke the law. (emphasis added).
Keep in mind that all experts agree that far too much information is deemed "classified." In FY 2011 alone, government agencies reported over 90 million decisions to classify information. That's a lot of information that could potentially criminally implicate journalists. The Justice Department's directly accusing a journalist of breaking the law by encouraging a source to revealed allegedly "classified" information is even more nefarious considering that the biggest "leaker" of all is the U.S. government.
The message to journalists is clear. If the media publishes "classified" information that the government wants made public, those journalists receive increased access and can continue their work unfettered by invasive surveillance. But, if journalists write about government waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement or illegality, they should be ready for harassment, surveillance, and criminal investigation.