Good news! In case you hadn't heard, the Senate passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) yesterday by unanimous consent! The legislation will provide millions of federal workers with the rights they need to safely report government corruption and wrongdoing. The bill reflects an unequivocal bipartisan consensus, having received the vote of every member in the 112th Congress. The House unanimously approved the bill in September, and the Senate immediately followed suit during the lame duck session. It now heads to the president's desk for signing into law.
Thank you for your help in making this goal a reality! Your actions of signing petitions, contacting Congress, and supporting GAP have made the difference!
Over the past 13 years, GAP has spearheaded 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.
For more on the bill and its protections, read GAP's press release.
Hannah Johnson is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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The November 8 Fairness Hearing for the BP class action settlement was supposed to be an opportunity for members of the settlement to voice their concerns about the settlement terms and to listen. The medical component of the settlement could affect a number of witnesses in GAP's ongoing investigation into the public health impact of the BP oil spill on cleanup workers and Gulf residents.
Many sick cleanup workers and residents have opted out of the settlement, explaining to GAP that it would barely dent their mounting medical bills, and they do not want to waive their right to sue BP for more just compensation. Others cannot afford to roll the dice in hope of receiving what they are due … many are too sick to work and with families to feed, they have opted for the little bit of immediate relief that medical damages offer.
Whether they opted in or declined the settlement, the whistleblowers in GAP's investigation share a determination to speak out about the public health threats that plagued the oil spill cleanup and have prompted the need for medical compensation. Several of them have been subject to retaliation and threats, on and off of the job, for refusing to remain silent about public health and safety threats caused by BP, and in many cases authorized by the federal government.
GAP would like to highlight the following article, “BP Disaster Survivors Removed from Federal Courtroom During Fairness Hearing,” by Ada McMahon of the community journalism group Bridge the Gulf. In this piece, she recounts the unconstitutional and flagrant retaliation that several BP oil spill whistleblowers were subjected to at last Thursday’s Fairness Hearing, when they were forced to leave the federal courtroom under the false pretext that one of them was “live streaming” the hearing. The piece originally appeared on the Bridge the Gulf blog.
Bridge the Gulf (BTG) has been a key source of information for GAP from the onset of our investigation. With a network of dedicated contributors and activists, BTG provides frequent updates about BP oil spill awareness events and keeps the nation informed about abuses of power in the Gulf that betray the public trust.
BP Disaster Survivors Removed From Federal Courtroom during Fairness Hearing
By Ada McMahon, Bridge the Gulf
Three BP oil disaster survivors and community advocates were forcibly removed from the fairness hearing on the BP class-action settlement last Thursday, moments before the federal court heard objections to how that settlement would compensate people made sick by the disaster. The fairness hearing allowed U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to hear arguments from those who negotiated the deal, as well as those with objections to the class action, before the settlement is accepted or rejected.
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Associated Press: Congress Expands Whistleblower Protections in Bill
Summary: Last night, the Senate passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and the bill will now go before the president to be signed into law. The legislation will significantly improve protections for federal employees who expose fraud, waste, and abuse and will also make it easier to reprimand supervisors who retaliate against these employees.
GAP has worked for 13 years on this legislation to improve whistleblower protections. While the bill lacks all the improvements GAP sought, it is a major step in the right direction.
Key Quote: The legal director of the Government Accountability Project, Tom Devine, said: "After a 13-year roller coaster campaign, Congress unanimously has given whistle-blowers who defend the public a fighting chance to defend themselves. This is a major victory for taxpayers and public servants, but a major defeat for special interests and bureaucrats. Free speech rights for government employees never have been stronger."
Related Article: Washington Post
Food Safety News: New Whistleblower Protections Could Impact Food Safety Oversight
Summary: The recently-passed WPEA will cover USDA inspectors and FDA employees, hopefully improving food safety oversight. Thanks to this legislation, as well as the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, many food workers are protected when they speak out about problems. However, as GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign’s press release stated, “USDA-regulated product industry workers still lack protections. These workers — who monitor our beef, poultry, pork and egg products — still cannot safely speak up for the public welfare.”
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After Decade Long Campaign, Federal Whistleblower Bill Sent to President’s Desk
After a decade long campaign to restore federal whistleblower protections, the Make It Safe Coalition applauds yesterday’s Senate passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, S. 743 (WPEA), by unanimous consent. The House of Representatives approved this measure in September, also by unanimous consent. Congress’ sweeping endorsement of S. 743 demonstrates the strong bipartisan support for this government accountability legislation to expand protections for federal employees who disclose wrongdoing and protect the public trust. Longtime whistleblower champion and retiring Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) was joined by his cosponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in advocating for passage of this crucially needed reform legislation. A full list of Senate cosponsors can be viewed here. We cannot thank these champions and their staff enough for their marathon commitment to the WPEA.
Whistleblower advocates from across the ideological spectrum celebrated this government accountability and taxpayer protection measure:
"AFGE is proud to join a bipartisan group of lawmakers and a coalition of worker, good government, and civic advocates in applauding passage of S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act by the Senate. For far too long managers in the federal workplace have faced little or no accountability when they retaliate against federal workers who blow the whistle on fraud, waste and wrongdoing on the job," said Beth Moten, Legislative Director for American Federation of Government Employees. "The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act marks the beginning of a new day of free speech and due process rights for federal workers such as Transportation Security Officers who protect our nation’s airports, food safety inspectors, government scientists, and others when they speak up on behalf of the public."
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After 13 Year Campaign, S. 743 Sent to President's Desk
(Washington, DC) – The Government Accountability Project (GAP) hailed today's Senate passage of S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), by unanimous consent. The legislation would provide millions of federal workers with the rights they need to safely report government corruption and wrongdoing. The bill reflects an unequivocal bipartisan consensus, having received the vote of every member in the 112th Congress. The House of Representatives unanimously approved S. 743 in September, and the Senate immediately followed suit during the lame duck session. The text of the bill can be read here.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented: "After a 13 year roller coaster campaign, Congress unanimously has given whistleblowers who defend the public a fighting chance to defend themselves. This is a major victory for taxpayers and public servants, but a major defeat for special interests and bureaucrats. Free speech rights for government employees never have been stronger.
"It would be dishonest to say our work is done, however, or to deny that government whistleblower rights are still second class compared to those in the private sector. House Republicans blocked two cornerstones of the legislation: jury trials to enforce newly-enacted protections, and extension of free speech rights to national security workers making disclosures within agency channels."
Devine singled out retiring Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) as the pioneer in the thirteen year legislative campaign to pass the WPEA, stating "Senator Akaka has run and won a marathon victory for whistleblowers and taxpayers."
Other pioneer and current champions include Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (I-Ct.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Carl Levin (D-Mi.). A full list of Senate sponsors can be viewed here. House passage was led by Republicans Darrell Issa (Ca.) and retiring member Todd Platts (Pa.) – who has sponsored the House bill for over a decade – as well as House Democrats Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Elijah Cummings (Md.).
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Wired: Cisco VP Vows to Make Hunting Secret-Leaker His ‘Hobby’
Summary: An employee of Cisco, a networking and IT company, leaked a number of internal documents to a blogging site. The documents showed the major expense of Cisco upgrades, specifically for California State University, and the relative cheapness of networking gear built by a different company.
In response, a Cisco vice president has vowed to track down the whistleblower. The VP sent an angry memo after the leak, saying, “I will now make [finding the ‘leaker’] my ‘hobby.’ Ask around you will find out that I like to work on my hobbies.”
The blogger who received the documents believes the tipster was attempting to make Cisco better “by exposing the hubris and arrogance.”
Related Article: Gizmodo
Foreign Policy in Focus: Protecting Whistleblowers at the UN
Summary: GAP International Program Officer Shelley Walden has written an article for Foreign Policy in Focus highlighting the problems at UN peacekeeping missions with protecting whistleblowers. Specifically, Walden talks about GAP's recent study, Tipping the Scales, that found significant issues with the treatment of whistleblowers at numerous peacekeeping missions.
For more information about the study, and to read the full findings, click here.
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On Thursday, Nov. 29, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) will bring its acclaimed program, the American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, to Whitman College. The stop will feature prominent Hanford Nuclear Facility whistleblower Walt Tamosaitis and Hanford cleanup advocate Liz Mattson.
GAP's Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating the public – particularly university students – about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This event will feature a moderated discussion and is free to all. A full description of the Tour can be found at www.WhistleblowerTour.org.
This Tour stop is sponsored by GAP and the Whitman Events Board, in collaboration with the Student Engagement Center, the Politics Department and the Environmental Studies Program. The event will last from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at the College’s Maxey Auditorium.
Walt Tamosaitis was the Deputy Chief Process Engineer and Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Nuclear Facility in Eastern Washington – the nation’s biggest environmental remediation project and most contaminated facility, containing two-thirds of the country’s high-level nuclear waste. Dr. Tamosaitis alleges that he was terminated from the site’s cleanup project by Bechtel, a contractor, after raising concerns about the safety and design of the nuclear waste processing plant as well as the hostile safety culture at Hanford. He has filed suits in Washington State against Bechtel and in federal court against another contractor (URS), both of which are now in the appeal stages. Meanwhile, reviews by Congress, the Department of Energy, and others have validated Dr. Tamosaitis’s concerns as a result of his whistleblowing, along with a flood of new high-level employees who have come forward with other safety issues.