On the heels of the largest whistleblower rights victory for federal workers in decades, the momentum for advancing an agenda of government accountability and transparency has never been stronger. And while many federal employees now have strong whistleblower protections thanks to this week's passing of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), GAP is teaming up with TakePart – a digital division of Participant Media – to demand essential whistleblower protections be given to millions of federal contractors, who largely lack any protections.
As you know, GAP is in the middle of the 2012-13 American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, our collegiate program designed to raise awareness of whistleblower issues among university students and the public. TakePart/Participant Media – which teamed up with GAP on our 2010 groundbreaking presentation on the essential role of whistleblowers Anyone Can Whistle – has graciously offered to collaborate with GAP on different stops of this year's Tour.
You can watch the video featuring GAP's Tom Devine below:
Summary: Yesterday, President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) into law. GAP has been fighting for these stronger whistleblower protections for the better part of 13 years. The WPEA will afford greater protections to federal workers who expose fraud, waste and abuse. For more specifics, please see GAP's press release, and the WPEA pages on our website.
Key Quote: Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, said, “This reform took 13 years to pass because it can make so much difference against fraud, waste and abuse. Government managers at all levels made pleas and repeatedly blocked the bill through procedural sabotage.”
Summary: Yesterday, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, appeared in a pre-trial hearing in Fort Meade. His lawyers argued that some of the charges against him should be dropped on the grounds that he was mistreated while in Quantico, the marine base in Virginia. If that fails, the lawyers are seeking at least a reduced sentence and to qualify his treatment at Quantico as pretrial punishment. The trial continues today and Manning is expected to testify later in the week. He faces a full court martial in February.
After 13 Year Campaign, Federal Workers Get Long-Overdue Upgrades
(Washington, DC) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is praising President Obama's signing of S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), into law earlier today. The legislation provides millions of federal workers with the rights they need to report government corruption and wrongdoing safely. The bill reflects an unequivocal bipartisan consensus, having received the vote of every member in the 112th Congress, passing both the Senate and House of Representatives by unanimous consent over the past couple of months. The text of the bill can be read here.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented:
"This reform took 13 years to pass because it can make so much difference against fraud, waste and abuse. Government managers at all levels made pleas and repeatedly blocked the bill through procedural sabotage. But once there were no more secret 'holds,' the WPEA passed unanimously, because no politician in a free society can openly oppose freedom of speech. Over the years, earlier versions of this law had been called the Taxpayer Protection Act. Nothing could set a better context for fiscal cliff negotiations than a unanimous, bipartisan consensus to protect those who risk their careers to protect the taxpayers. This victory reflects a consensus ranging from President Obama to Representative Darrell Issa. The mandate for this law is that the truth is the public's business."
Among other key reforms, federal employees now are protected (in addition to already-existing scenarios) from reprisal if they: are not the first person to disclose misconduct; disclose misconduct to coworkers or supervisors; disclose the consequences of a policy decision; or blow the whistle while carrying out their job duties.
Over the past 13 years, GAP has led efforts to pass the WPEA, heading a coalition of hundreds of groups demanding these protections. Intensive dialogue between the Make It Safe Coalition (MISC), which GAP coordinates, the Obama administration, and both chambers of Congress has paved the way for this development.
Summary: Bradley Manning – the soldier accused for giving classified information to WikiLeaks – will speak publicly for the first time since he was arrested in 2010. He is scheduled to testify at his pre-trial hearing today. Manning’s lawyer is seeking to have the soldier’s sentence reduced based on the fact that Manning suffered “pre-trial punishment” at Quantico when he was held there for nine months. Manning’s full court martial is scheduled for early February.
Summary: This blog post calls on the World Bank to be more transparent in its efforts to counteract the racial inequality at the institution. In particular, the post cites a GAP report that studied this subject.
Key Quote: At issue is the conspicuous under-representation of African-Americans at senior levels of the bank. In 1978 William Raspberry reported in the Washington Post that there were only three black Americans, out of 619 Americans working at the World Bank. Thirty years later (in a report titled "Racial discrimination at the World Bank: a review of the treatment of black employees in recruitment, retention and justice decisions" (pdf)) the Washington-based Government Accountability Project (GAP) reported that of more than 1,000 American World Bank staff of professional grade, four were African-Americans.
The memo serves to reinforce the Obama administration's woeful confusion of whistleblowing with espionage. (See the now-collapsed Espionage Act cases against whistleblowers Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou).
The memo is completely redundant as agencies already have internal policies on classified information and secrecy agreements. Meaning, these "insider threat" programs will more likely be used as a pretext for targeting whistleblowers who are - as Drake did - using proper channels to report government waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, mismanagement, or dangers to health and public safety than they will be used to stop actual threats to national security.
The memo equates dislcosure of classified information with "violent acts against the government" and "Espionage," a certainly inapt and chilling comparison considering:
that all experts agree that the classification system is broken and hopelessly plagued by overclassification,
This year the whistleblower community has something special to be thankful for – the House and Senate’s unanimous approval of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). After a 13-year campaign, federal whistleblowers will now have a fighting chance when depending on free speech rights for professional survival. GAP's and other press releases made the obligatory rounds offering appreciation to national leaders and NGO’s, who deserved it.
As one who was at the eye of the storm, it’s just not possible to stay cynical after depending on the extra efforts that made this victory possible – a common commitment, pit bull persistence and extra effort from ideological constituency extremes; bipartisan legislators working in teamwork during partisan gridlock; a President and White House staff uniquely supportive of rights for those attacking the administration; and most important, whistleblowing profiles in courage who are the foundation for – and soul of – these free speech rights. This is my message of thanks, and credit is due to the whistleblowers in our community. You have been the point of this campaign, because you make a difference that society needs. But you also have been on the front lines of making a difference. Since we are a transparency coalition, this also is a disclosure of why I think you deserve thanks.
Experience: You not only risked your professional lives and made a difference, you shared a breathtaking scope of experiences. As illustrative examples, over the years you’ve given me permission to share lessons learned from committing the truth, and to spotlight you as poster children for free speech reform after you ended government secrecy about:
prescription drugs that kill the patients
the risks behind plans to eliminate federal inspection of government-approved meat and poultry
cover-ups of air safety violations that have caused unnecessary crashes with mass fatalities
blanket domestic surveillance of all electronic communications
torture and other violations of human rights conventions
arbitrary detention, body cavity searches and hospital laboratory testing for drugs imposed on foreign visitors at airports
Summary: A former Education Management Corporation admissions officer has filed a whistleblower suit, alleging the company deceives students in marketing materials by inflating postgrad job statistics. The company runs more than 100 colleges across the country.
Summary: A Chinese dairy industry whistleblower was killed earlier this month in mysterious circumstances, although police are saying the death was related to a domestic dispute, as opposed to a revenge attack. The whistleblower revealed public safety violations in the dairy industry in 2006.
Summary: This editorial calls for University of North Carolina officials to heed the recent whistleblower allegations that the school is tolerant of cheating by varsity-level athletes. The school needs to do a full investigation and “pursue a thorough housecleaning.”