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Washington Post: Obama Issues Whistleblower Directive to Security Agencies
Summary: Yesterday, President Obama signed a Presidential Policy Directive that extends certain whistleblower protections to national security and intelligence employees – workers who were not included under the bill currently awaiting Senate passage, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
GAP praised the directive, but emphasized that the action is only a breakthrough in principle.
Key Quote: But for all it does, the directive “only is a landmark breakthrough in principle,” according to another organization, theGovernment Accountability Project (GAP).
“Until agencies adopt implementing regulations, no one whose new rights are violated will have any due process to enforce them,” said Tom Devine, GAP’s legal director. “Further, there are only false due process teeth on the horizon,” because, according to GAP, regulations to enforce whistleblower rights will be written by the same agencies that routinely are the defendants in whistleblower retaliation lawsuits.
Related Articles: GAP Press Release, Federal News Radio, Associated Press
Chicago Sun-Times: Walsh, Duckworth Trade Barbs over Whistleblower Lawsuit
Summary: When she was head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth was named in a whistleblower suit that alleged Duckworth told the whistleblower to keep quiet after she filed a complaint against her supervisor at the agency. The original suit was dismissed from federal court, but was re-filed in state court.
Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised a Presidential Policy Directive signed by President Obama to create free speech rights for national security whistleblowers. The action largely restores many of the rights and remedies that the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence removed from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) last month – an action performed to allow a vote approving the remaining reforms.
Last year, the White House promised to consider action on federal whistleblower rights where Congress failed. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented, "For the first time, intelligence community employees have free speech rights to challenge fraud, waste and abuse within agency channels."
Devine emphasized, however, that the policy directive only is a landmark breakthrough in principle, stating "Until agencies adopt implementing regulations, no one whose new rights are violated will have any due process to enforce them. Further, there are only false due process teeth on the horizon. Regulations to enforce whistleblower rights will be written by the same agencies that routinely are the defendants in whistleblower retaliation lawsuits."
Devine added: "This policy directive represents a significant breakthrough, but it is no substitute for Congress to legislate permanent rights for national security whistleblowers, with third party enforcement the same as for other employees. That is the case in the Privacy Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Act, two other remedial employee laws that provide intelligence employees access to the same boards and courts as all other federal workers."
The Directive includes the following major advances in national security whistleblower rights:
- Extension of Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) free speech rights banning retaliation against intelligence community employees for disclosures within institutional channels, including their supervisors. These are workers at organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and intelligence units in nearly all other government agencies.
- Extension of WPA free speech rights and protection against retaliation to all federal workers for decisions on access to security clearances.
- Extension of anti-retaliation rights to intelligence committee employees for exercise of appeals and grievances.
- Requirement that each agency issue consistent due process rights certified by the Director of National Intelligence, in intra-agency appeals of security clearance decisions.
- Provision for "make whole" relief for those whose rights are violated, including reinstatement, reassignment and compensatory damages.
- Provision of appeal rights to a committee of Inspectors General for review of agency compliance with the Directive.
- Requirement for agency regulations within 270 days to implement the new rights.
- Requirement of agency programs for outreach, education and counseling on the new rights.
- Requirement for Offices of Inspector General to issue dedicated procedures for protection of whistleblowers against retaliation.
- Reassurance that everything in the Directive is additive to current employee rights and remedies, not substitutive.
The Directive does not include –
- Any independent, third party due process to enforce the rights.
- Protection for pre-clearance "suitability" decisions on whether an employee can apply for a security clearance, which permits retaliatory firings before clearance actions begin.
- Any change in current law to provide protection for disclosures to Congress or the public, even of unclassified information, which currently are unprotected.
Devine put the new reform in perspective: "President Obama has crafted a significant 'anti-leaks' reform, because employees finally have a legally-protected alternative. Whenever they bypass agency channels they lose their rights against harassment. Now that the President has done his share, Congress needs to finish what he started."
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Hurricane KatrinaThe Advocate (LA): Court Revokes Gag Order in Post-Katrina Whistleblower Case
Summary: An appellate court has removed a gag order that had been placed on a post-Hurricane Katrina whistleblower lawsuit. The suit alleges that contractors were giving kickbacks to Louisiana state officials to secure contracts to elevate homes in New Orleans after Katrina.
Charleston Daily Mail: W. Va. DHHR Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleges Pattern of Failure
Summary: Two lawyers from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources have filed two separate whistleblower suits, claiming the agency “shows a pattern of failure.” The two whistleblowers, along with another employee, were put on leave after questioning a multimillion-dollar marketing contract that was awarded to the highest bidder, when there were at least three equally effective, but cheaper bids.
Toronto Sun: Whistleblower Links Quebec Liberals to Illegal Financing
Summary: A former contractor, in testimony before a Quebec inquiry commission, is alleging that the Quebec Liberal Party raised thousands of dollars through illegal contributions from contractors using aliases.
New York Post: Fired LaG Whistleblower Slaps Back at PA
Summary: A former Port Authority supervisor at La Guardia Airport has filed a whistleblower suit, claiming he was fired for reporting misconduct by coworkers. Allegedly, his colleagues were stealing granite tiles intended for terminal use, and “devised schemes” to increase overtime pay.
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The Atlantic Wire: Meet the Whistleblower Pressing the White House on Diplomatic Security in Libya
Summary: A former US security official in Libya is claiming that the State Department refused to increase security personnel while US officials were being threatened prior to the attack on the US embassy in Libya. According to the whistleblower, former Ambassador Christopher Stevens – who was killed in the attack – had requested that his security detail remain in the country past August, though the request had been denied.
Related Articles: ABC News, CBS News, The Hill
Omaha World-Herald: UNO Audits – Center Mishandled $58,000 in Grant Funds
Summary: Audits of the Business Development Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha are showing that the facility misused federal grants, allegedly mischarging computer equipment for a different purpose. The audits came as a result of whistleblower complaints filed last spring against the center.
Casper Star-Tribune (WY): Wyoming Medical Center Reaches $2.7 Million Settlement over Medicare Fraud Allegations
Summary: The Wyoming Medical Center will pay $2.7 million to settle whistleblower allegations that the hospital overbilled the federal government on Medicare claims. The suit was filed by a former hospital employee-turned-whistleblower who will receive a portion of the settlement.
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At a campaign event yesterday, Obama mentioned that the candidates have yet to discuss civil liberties:
We haven’t talked about what's at stake with respect to civil liberties.
The President's absolutely right – civil liberties should be added to the debate. But, I'm surprised Obama would even want to broach the subject considering how the discussion would go. Kill lists, assassination of Americans, increased surveillance, secret laws, prosecution of whistleblowers, attacks on journalists and silencing dissent. If Obama wants to discuss civil liberties, he should be held accountable for the obliteration of the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments occurring under his watch, if not under his direction.
(1) Kill lists – the Obama administration has a secret "kill list" of people the government is trying to assassinate without charge or trial let alone conviction – usually using the drone program which the Obama administration still insists in court that it can "neither confirm or deny." The Executive branch is judge, jury, and executioner for the people who have the dubious distinction of being on the "kill list."
(2) Assassination of Americans – the Obama administration used a drone to target and assassinate American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki without a shred of due process. Attorney General Eric Holder later used Bush-era logic (think "enemy belligerents") to justify the assassination in a speech, but in court the Obama administration will "neither confirm or deny" the existence of the drone program or the legal memo authorizing al-Awlaki's assassination. (Let's not forget al-Awlaki's 16-year old innocent American son was collateral damage in a drone attack shortly after the one the that killed al-Awlaki).
(3) Expanded surveillance – just two weeks ago, an ACLU lawsuit revealed government's use of
. . . “pen register” and “trap and trace” orders, which watch only who a surveillance target communicates with rather than the content of his or her communications and therefore don’t require a warrant, were aimed at more than 80,000 Americans in 2011, a spike that means more Americans’ communications were watched by this type of communication in the last two years than in the entire previous decade . . .
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Pope Benedict XVINBC News: Pope’s Ex-Butler Paolo Gabriele Gets 18-Month Sentence in ‘Vatileaks’ Case
Summary: The Pope’s ex-butler was sentenced to 18 months in prison over the weekend, charged with stealing thousands of confidential documents that allegedly showed corruption within the Vatican and leaking some of them to the media. He will serve the sentence under house arrest while “awaiting a possible papal pardon.”
Related Articles: The New York Times, Reuters, Washington Post
Nonprofit Quarterly: A Signal to Revisit Nonprofit Whistleblower Protections
Summary: This article advises that nonprofits look at the protections afforded whistleblowers by the Dodd-Frank act, and use them as guidelines when reforming their own whistleblower protection policies. Whistleblowers in the nonprofit sector aren’t well-protected, and the author argues for organizations to start looking at whistleblowers “with the same sense of importance that our society has given whistleblowers in the corporate and government sectors.”
BC CTV News (Canada): Meat Industry Whistleblower Says Problems Persist
Summary: A former meat plant worker in British Columbia is criticizing Canada’s food safety inspection system, saying it is not reacting quickly enough to E. coli contaminations.
Here in the US, GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign is working to prevent the implementation of the USDA’s proposed poultry inspection plan that would make it harder for inspectors to do their jobs. You can sign a petition here!
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American Banker: Whistleblower Group’s Campaign Targets Bank Employees
Summary: This article covers GAP’s recently-launched ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign aimed at bank employees. Yesterday, activist volunteers in 15 cities across the country leafleted major banks, as a way to raise awareness among bank employees of the rights afforded to them, if they witness wrongdoing. More on this campaign can be read at BankWhistleblower.org.
Key Quote: Louis Clark, president of the Government Accountability Project, said that the non-profit organization helped develop what he called "state-of-the-art" whistleblower protections in the Dodd-Frank Act. But he added that many bank employees are not aware of these new rights, saying there's no indication that bank managers are providing that information within their ranks.
"We have not heard that they've informed their employees of these newly won rights, so we thought we would do that," Clark said.
Related Article: Orlando Sentinel
CNN Money: Wall Street Tipster Gets Rich Off IRS Whistleblower Program
Summary: A tax fraud whistleblower was awarded a $2 million financial reward by the IRS for exposing a tax-avoidance scheme by manufacturing company Illinois Tool Works. This is the third such major award from the IRS whistleblower program.
Related Article: Reuters