With Independence Day approaching, nearly 40 federal whistleblowers sent a powerful message to elected officials today: Honor our nation by protecting the modern day Paul Reveres through passage of the re-introduced Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).
The letter, addressed to President Obama and Congress, is signed by national heroes such as Federal Air Marshal Robert MacLean, Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl and climate change czar Jim Hansen. The piece contends:
We urge a Fourth of July patriotic resolution: Move the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act promptly upon your return from the recess. Equally significant, do not weaken last year's good government legislation. The reform mandate must pass intact, or be strengthened to justify the delays. There will be no credit for past promises if you do not act now. This issue is a weathervane of your commitment to responsibly reduce the debt. America needs your leadership to stop wasting our nation's best resource against waste.
The letter rightfully points out that the clock is ticking, and we are at the six-month anniversary of the WPEA's blockage from passage by one anonymous Senator in the 11th hour of the 110th Congress. With each month's delay, an average 16 whistleblowers lose their cases at the administrative hearing level. Further, each month as the debate over the Debt Ceiling bill draws out, we leave the most effective safeguard of taxpayer dollars unequipped to safely disclose wasteful spending. The letter captures this costly paradox:
For half a year, you have not delivered the whistleblower and taxpayer protection reform you promised. Meanwhile federal spending continues at extreme levels without adequate oversight. Billions of unaccountable taxpayer dollars are being blown as a result of federal employees being reluctant to report fraud, waste, and abuse. You tell the public that you wish to prevent our federal government's historically excessive waste -- but without the testimony of eyewitness officials out in the field and in the cubicles the government's investigators and enforcers are lame. Right now, exposing extensive waste or those abusing power in the high in the chain of command is a ludicrous risk.
Federal whistleblowers should not have to weigh the cost of putting their nation's wellbeing before their own and that of their family when debating disclosing government waste, fraud and abuse. According to the signers, however, the culture of silence within the federal government persists:
The cat's out of the bag among federal officials: "Don't be a hero -- turn a blind-eye so you can collect another paycheck to support the family."
These courageous truth-tellers are the eyes and ears to abuses of power that betray the public trust. Through the exposure of a billion dollar domestic surveillance program , to helping prevent nuclear power plant meltdowns, to warning about contaminated food before it hits our children's plates ... by protecting the whistleblower we protect our nation's integrity.
Regardless of this well known truth, federal workers have rights far weaker than those congress has passed for corporate workers since 2002. The whistleblowers, having run the legal gauntlet first-hand, attest to this disparity:
Federal whistleblowers need normal access to court, including reviews by the regional circuit courts and jury trials, the same as provided to private sector employees in every one of ten corporate whistleblower laws passed since 2002. Those protecting the taxpayers should not have second class due process rights, compared to those protecting the shareholders.
To describe the treatment of our federal whistleblowers as shameful is an understatement. The letter pulls no punches, from its citation of the unprecedented prosecution of federal whistleblowers, to the embarrassing track record at the Merit Systems Protection Board, it warns that under current law, taxpayer dollars will continue to go down the drain:
For half a year, you have allowed potentially billions of tax dollars to be wasted because all federal workers know they cannot speak up without engaging in professional suicide. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 no longer works.
However, they refuse to be victims and fall through the cracks of a broken system. Each signatory on this letter has been a pioneer of change, and they have collectively challenged their representatives to follow suit, by uniting in passage of the WPEA. Fortunately for Congress, passage of this legislation will enhance their political capital, and should not be delayed further.