Shame the government into doing the right thing. It worked in the case of NSA whistleblower Tom Drake, the target of a retaliatory Justice Dept. prosecution that finally died last Friday, after collapsing under the weight of groundswell public protest (and a lack of evidence by the prosecution - when presiding Judge Bennett forced the Justice Department to show its cards days before the trial and, empty handed, DOJ acquitted Drake of all criminal charges).
Franz Gayl, Marine Corps Science Advisor and former Marine, exposed the fact that the Corps ignored an urgent request from troops in Iraq for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) – state-of-the-art vehicles that prevent the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government responded by paralyzing Gayl professionally through suspension of his security clearance. GAP and our sister organization, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), are calling for an end to this retaliatory treatment.
Gayl is currently under professional house arrest, after a taxpayer funded DOD IG witch-hunt including allegations that he placed an unsecured flash drive into his work computer – a claim that, akin to Drake's case, lacks any verifiable evidence. In fact, GAP has obtained confirmation from the manufacturer of this alleged flash drive that the serial number cited by the DOD IG report does not exist.
Notwithstanding that the IG can't account for the pretext of this reprisal action, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta should be alarmed that the subject of the retaliatory investigation is also the informant for lifesaving information that his predecessor relied on. In a recent USA Today article that included one of Robert Gates' final interviews as Defense Secretary, he attributed the immediate deployment of MRAPs to media coverage prompted by Gayl's disclosure
Gates, who retires Thursday, said he pushed to get more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to the front after a 2007 article in USA TODAY reported that no Marines had been killed in 300 attacks on MRAPs in Iraq..."Nothing was happening," said Gates, who pushed the Pentagon bureaucracy to speed production of the vehicles.
Gayl engaged in protected activity under the Whistleblower Protection Act by disclosing unclassified information to the media – and only after his warnings were repeatedly stonewalled within the chain of command, as detailed in the Washington Monthly's "Unquiet Life of Franz Gayl." However, the WPA does not protect whistleblowers from getting their security clearances yanked after retaliatory investigations, which are used as a quick and dirty method of suspending the whistleblowers' security clearance and effectively stripping them of their job duties.
The greatest injustice is that Gayl, like most whistleblowers, found himself the target of retaliation because he acted as a public servant, instead of a bureaucrat. Unwilling to turn a blind eye to corruption that resulted in a quarter of combat deaths in Iraq, his disclosures caused what the Pentagon Joint Program Office for MRAPs estimates to be as many as 40,000 saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite this official vindication, Gayl has been subjected to Pentagon strong-arming tactics the past four years, and now the DOD is trying to put the final nail in his professional coffin by formalizing the removal of his security clearance. GAP and POGO are asking the public to step up again, and send a message to Secretary Panetta, demanding he reinstate Gayl's security clearance, so that Gayl can get back to doing what he does best – serving our country.
Shanna Devine is the Legislative Campaign Coordinator at the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.