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On The Media: A New Whistleblower Law
Summary: GAP Legal Director Tom Devine talks to the NPR program On The Media about the recent passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) – a bill that will significantly improve protections for federal whistleblowers. On The Media has been a key supporter in getting the WPEA passed. Last year, GAP and On The Media teamed up to discover which senators were behind theanonymous "secret hold" that had effectively killed the WPEA during the final hours of the 111th Congress in December 2010.
Related Articles: The Epoch Times, St. John Valley Times (ME)
Al Jazeera: How Does the US Treat Its Whistleblowers?
Summary: Inside Story Americas from Al Jazeera takes an in-depth look at the case of Bradley Manning and the treatment of whistleblowers by the US government. GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack is a featured guest.
Radack also blogged this morning on recent public statements made by Manning’s attorney about his harsh treatment while at Quantico, the marine base in Virginia.
Washington Post: Watchdog Wins Reprieve for Commerce Department Agents under Gag Agreement
Summary: The Merit Systems Protection Board has issued a stay order against the Office of the Inspector General in the Commerce Department, lifting gag agreements that prevent senior officials from speaking out against the agency. The Office of Special Counsel, who requested the order from the MSPB, argued that the senior officials had been coerced into signing nondisclosure agreements, violating whistleblower laws.
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Bradley Manning's attorney David Coombs spoke publicly about Manning's case for the first time last night. Coombs is in the midst of litigating a motion to dismiss the charges against Manning due to illegal pre-trial punishment conditions, including being kept in a cage in Kuwait and months of abusive solitary confinement in the brig at a Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia.
Josh Gerstein of Politico – one of the few reporters actually covering the case – reported:
“Brad’s treatment at Quantico will forever be etched in our nation’s history as a disgraceful moment in time,” David Coombs told about 100 Manning supporters at a Washington, D.C., church Monday night. “Not only was it stupid and counterproductive — it was criminal.”
Coombs isn't the first to call Manning's abhorrent pre-trial treatment "stupid and counterproductive." U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley was forced to resign after using the same accurate description for Manning's treatment, treatment that was eerily similar to the Bush administration's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against terrorist suspects.
Coombs rightly recognized the larger implications of Manning's case on whistleblowers:
Coombs suggested it was ironic that Obama signed legislation to protect whistle-blowers last week, just as Manning’s hearing was under way.
“How can you reconcile that? I don’t know the answer to that,” Coombs said.
Coombs' is a valid point.
(On Al Jazeera yesterday I also discussed the administration's attitude toward whistleblowers in light of Manning's case.)
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RT: NSA Whistleblower – Everyone in US Under Virtual Surveillance, All Info Stored, No Matter the Post
Summary: RT talks with NSA whistleblower and GAP client Bill Binney about the declining virtual privacy in the US and how whistleblowers are fighting back. Binney, along with fellow whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Kirk Wiebe, has been speaking out about the rise of domestic surveillance among the federal intelligence agencies, despite concerns about privacy violations of US citizens.
Sydney Morning Herald: Whistleblower’s Treatment Exposes Dark Side of Obama
Summary: Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald argues that the treatment of Bradley Manning “is one of the disgraces of Obama’s first term.” Manning is accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, and faces life in prison if convicted on all counts. He spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest in 2010 at his pretrial hearing last week, recounting his excessively harsh treatment while being held at Quantico, the marine base in Virginia.
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack blogged this morning on the overall lack of mainstream media coverage of Manning’s trial.
Some federal officials, however, do not recognize Manning as a whistleblower, and therefore say he is afforded none of those protections. Even Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a generally staunch whistleblower advocate and Senate champion of workplace truth-telling, has said that Manning does not qualify as a whistleblower.
Related Article: Democracy Now!
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One of the most important trials of the decade is unfolding just outside of Washington, D.C. at Ft. Meade, MD: the court martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for allegedly disclosing information to Wikileaks.
Typically, the only reporters consistently attending and covering the dramatic pre-trial proceedings have been far outside the MSM. Alexa O'Brien, Kevin Gosztola, and Nathan Fuller have provided excellent and critically important coverage of Manning's secretive pre-trial proceedings, but major national newspapers have afforded the hearings limited summary attention at best. Now that Manning has been testifying about his abhorrent pre-trial confinement conditions, some in the MSM have woken up, but only to do brief stories that usually rely heavily on the Associate Press reports rather than doing their own independent nvestigating.
The MSM reports tend to sanitize Manning's treatment in pre-trial confinement conditions, and do little to explain what it means to be kept in a cell 23 hours a day, only being allowed out for 20 minutes of "sunshine time" during which guards would escort a shackled Manning around an exercise yard.
When the MSM describes "pre-trial detention," substitute "solitary confinement." Manning – an American citizen yet to be tried or convicted of any crimes--was held in his cell, sometimes naked, for 23 hours a day despite the fact that all of his psychologists (plural) believed the confinement conditions to be totally unnecessary and actually detrimental to Manning's mental and physical health.
From testimony over the weekend, we learned that he military leadership and guards at Quanico – who had no medical training or degrees – substituted their judgment for that of multiple trained psychologists so that they could keep Manning on an unnecessary, punitive "suicide watch" or "prevention of injury" (POI) status. [Note how in Orwellian fashion, the names for this type of confinement suggest that it was being done for Manning's own good.] Their amateur judgments were based on things like rumors about Manning's sexual orientation or "observations" that Manning was not talkative enough, despite a rule that Manning could only talk at a "conversation volume level" to other detainees, who were too far away to hear anything Manning said at a "conversational volume level." Yet the leadership at Quantico relied on the guards' and amateur "counselors" armchair-diagnoses rather than the well-informed opinions of multiple well-credentialed psychiatrists, all of whom agreed that Manning did not need to be on POI status.
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Politico: WikiLeaks – Bradley Manning Testifies on Harsh Jail Conditions
Summary: Yesterday, Bradley Manning spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest in 2010. At his pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland, Manning, the soldier accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, largely testified about his treatment while in holding at Quantico, the Marine Corps base.
According to Manning, he was allowed only 20 minutes of “sunshine call” each day, and was kept under suicide watch despite military psychiatrists saying he didn’t require such surveillance. While under suicide watch, he was not allowed any articles of clothing, and only one specific blanket for his bed. On a couple days, he even had to stand naked during the morning inmate count.
According to reporters, Manning’s demeanor was “focused and polite,” which contrasted with the “deeply troubled and emotionally volatile” picture that had been painted in earlier hearings. Manning faces a full court martial in February and could face life in prison if convicted of all charges. His lawyers are seeking a significantly reduced sentence, arguing that his holding at Quantico amounted to pretrial punishment.
Related Articles: NBC News, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian (UK)
The New York Times: New Protections for Whistleblowers
Summary: This New York Times editorial praises the recent passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which will improve protections for federal employees who expose government waste, fraud and abuse.
Related Article: Washington Examiner
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Editor's Note (January 7, 2013): In response to IDB reaction to this blog post, the text of this blog has been edited slightly. For GAP's full reaction to the IDB reaction, click here.
On October 31, 2012, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced the release of a revised whistleblower protection policy and Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Although the IDB claims that its new whistleblower policy maintains “alignment with international best practices,” in reality the policy violates all best practice cornerstones, as detailed in GAP’s review.
In December 2011, President Obama signed into law the U.S. 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act. According to this law, the U.S. Treasury Department must certify that the IDB is “making substantial progress” toward “implementing best practices for the protection of whistleblowers from retaliation, including best practices for legal burdens of proof, access to independent adjudicative bodies, results that eliminate the effects of retaliation, and statutes of limitation for reporting retaliation,” before the Congress will disburse funds to the IDB for its General Capital Increase.
Unfortunately, despite some minor advances, the revised policy does not fully meet any of these standards. According to GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, “this policy cleanly flunks all relevant criteria for a lawful appropriation to the Bank.” The IDB’s policy also fails to adopt several recommendations made by Global Compliance, the company that the IDB hired to review its ethics system.
Key shortcomings include:
- Flawed burden of proof: Although the burden of proof initially appears to meet best practice standards, it is severely undermined by loopholes, including those in sections 2.4.2 and 2.4.5.
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GAP Teams Up with TakePart to Demand Accountability!
Summary: On the heels of the major Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) victory, GAP has teamed up with TakePart – a digital division of Participant Media – to demand essential whistleblower protections for federal contractors.
You can visit TakePart.com/whistleblower to view the videos featuring GAP’s Tom Devine and sign the petition demanding whistleblower rights for federal contractors!
This campaign coincides with the American Whistleblower Tour stop at Whitman College today in Washington state.
Related Article: Tri-City Herald
Business Insurance: Bill Giving Whistleblower Protections to Federal Employees Signed into Law
Summary: More coverage of President Obama’s signing of the WPEA on Tuesday. The law will improve protections for federal employees who expose government wrongdoing.
Related Articles: KHON Channel 2 (HI), The American Conservative, WCSH Portland 6, York Dispatch (PA)
The Guardian (UK): Second Postmortem on Russian Whistleblower Found Dead in Surrey
Summary: A second postmortem test has been done on a Russian whistleblower who died in the UK after having fled to escape a Russian crime syndicate. Police are now awaiting the results of toxicology tests. The whistleblower had accused Russian government officials of involvement with one of the largest tax scandals in the country’s history. His death has so far been described as “unexplained.”
Related Articles: Reuters, The Daily Telegraph (UK)