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President Obama gave an eloquent speech to the UN yesterday. Obama spoke about democracy, freedom on the First Amendment:
Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.
Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.
Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.
We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
He encouraged those with power to avoid the temptation to silence dissent:
In other words, true democracy, real freedom is hard work. Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.
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The New York Times: Under Investigation, and Doing the Investigation
Summary: This article details how, once accused of wrongdoing, most companies will hire a law firm to investigate the claims and make a report. Interestingly, government investigators frequently use these reports for their own investigation. In order to avoid conflict of interest, the article suggests expanding whistleblower programs “to reward those who report corporate violations directly to the government,” much like the IRS or SEC.
Organic Connections: Amanda Hitt – The Champion of Whistleblowers
Summary: The article profiles GAP Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) Director Amanda Hitt and various FIC efforts, including: fighting anti-whistleblower "Ag Gag" legislation; raising awareness about the controversial beef filler known as "pink slime"; and providing a platform for USDA inspectors to expose problems in poultry inspection.
Key Quote: Public health attorney Amanda Hitt is the Food Integrity Campaign director for the Government Accountability Project(GAP), and she has made it her life’s work to ensure it is safe for whistleblowers to come forward.
Another famous GAP case was that of Food Lion, a supermarket chain that was exposed when two ABC undercover reporters, posing as Food Lion employees, videotaped with hidden cameras unsanitary practices in the company’s handling of meat. The case began when Food Lion staff, seeking a way to expose the practices, started working with GAP. The resultant wide publicity informed consumers and brought further public attention to the issue of how our food is processed.
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An Insider's Perspective on USDA's Problematic Poultry Rule
Summary: A retired USDA poultry inspector, and grandmother of eight, speaks out against the agency's flawed poultry inspection proposal (known as HIMP) that she believes will compromise public health and hurt workers. "If the general public knew what was going on, I think they would protest," she said.
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) is participating in a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the rule, chiefly the plan to increase poultry processing line speeds so much that inspectors only have one-third of a second to check each bird. Learn more on the FIC blog.
Bishop John McCarthy: The Need for Whistleblowers
Summary: In this blog post, Bishop John McCarthy praises whistleblowers for their integrity and courage in standing up to wrongdoing. Specifically, McCarthy talks about the six intelligence whsitleblowers who have been charged under the Obama administration’s unprecedented use of the Espionage Act.
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack commented on how McCarthy’s post is only the latest support of John Kiriakou and the other intelligence whistleblowers prosecuted under the Espionage Act in a blog post this morning.
Key Quote: All of this was brought to my mind when I saw the other day in a publication from the Government Accountability Project that recently six whistleblowers had been charged by our government under the espionage act. I can’t cover everything here but let me just point out that one accused person, John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, publicly acknowledged the waterboarding problems in the Bush administration. Kiriakou did heroic work in Pakistan for many years before retiring in 2004.
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What do a retired Catholic Bishop, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and a United Arab Emirates' newspaper commentator have in common? They are all critical of the government's unprecedented use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers.
Yesterday, I wrote about a significant piece in the United Emirates' newspaper The National, which criticized the U.S. government's hypocrisy in declining to criminally prosecute government officials who authorized, orchestrated and committed torture during the G.W. Bush-era while prosecuting John Kiriakou – a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower who helped expose torture – under the heavy-handed Espionage Act.
Yesterday, retired Catholic Bishop John McCarthy similarly criticized Kiriakou's prosecution:
Dear Lord, something is really out of balance here. Interrogators who tortured prisoners or the officials who gave the orders, the attorneys who authored the torture memos, CIA agents who destroyed the interrogation tapes have not been held professionally accountable, much less charged with crimes, but John Kiriakou is facing decades in prison for helping to expose torture.
The hypocrisy of Kiriakou's case is enough to find common ground between a retired Catholic Bishop and commentator for the UAE's newspaper, yet the U.S. is still doggedly pursuing Kiriakou using the archaic Espionage Act, a law meant to go after spies, not whistleblowers.
Bishop McCarthy also recognized the invaluable role of whistleblowers in governmental and private institutions, including within the Catholic Church.
Nevertheless, because of that weakness, sin and corruption abounds all around us in the corporate world, the government and sadly even the Church. Because of this, there is a need for people with integrity within these massive organizations and movements to have the courage to stand up, criticize and, if necessary, publically condemn evil, dishonesty, mismanagement, theft, etc. This is very hard to do because large organizations dont like any criticism, much less public criticism and they will often move against the complainer with a very heavy hand.
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Miami New Times: Argentinean Government, Siemens Hired Goons to Rough Up Whistleblower, Miami Lawsuit Claims
Summary: According to a whistleblower suit recently filed in Miami, electronics company Siemens AG and the Argentinean government conspired to retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed alleged bribery schemes. It is alleged that the company and bribed officials hired “mercenaries” to beat the whistleblower, as well as threaten to kill him, kidnap him and burn down his house, after he had started investigating the bribery concerns.
Courier-Journal (KY): Whistleblower Who Revealed US Waste in Iraq Speaks at IdeaFestival
Summary: State Department whistleblower and GAP client Peter Van Buren spoke over the weekend at the IdeaFestival in Lexington, Kentucky about the unnecessary spending and mishandling of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
Plain Dealer (OH): More Whistleblowers Are Needed to Protect America’s Children, Especially Its Tribal Children
Summary: This op-ed focuses on the need for more social services whistleblowers who will expose child abuse, especially that of tribal children. This comes after a New York Times article from last week that detailed how the federal government had taken over the social service programs of the Spirit Lake reservation in North Dakota following whistleblower revelations of pervasive and under-investigated child sexual abuse.
Today, September 24, former DC Fire & Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) department General Counsel and whistleblower Theresa Cusick will finally get her day in court.
Cusick served as FEMS General Counsel until 2007, when she informed an Assistant US Attorney that a FEMS officer – who the attorney had been working with – was under investigation by the Washington, DC Office of Inspector General (DC OIG) for his alleged involvement in a cheating scandal at the FEMS Training Academy. Cusick raised concerns that neither FEMS nor the Office of the US Attorney should rely on the officer until he was cleared of any involvement.
Cusick also blew the whistle in 2007 to the DC OIG that then-Assistant DC Fire Chief Brian Lee ordered her not to communicate with either the DC OIG or the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG), and attempted to cover up the fact that a fire investigator was being investigated by DC OIG.
After reporting Lee's actions to DC OIG, OAG and DC Fire Chief Dennis Rubin, Cusick was transferred from her position as General Counsel purportedly at the request of then Fire Chief Dennis Rubin.
GAP has represented Cusick since 2009. In 2008, Cusick filed suit under the DC Whistleblower Protection Act (DCWPA) for reinstatement and damages. The District’s attorneys sought dismissal of the case based on a section of the law that had since been overturned, but in August 2010 a judge ruled the case could continue.
GAP Legal Director for Litigation Richard Condit, who serves as counsel to Cusick, stated: “It is unfortunate that the District government and taxpayers have been deprived of Ms. Cusick’s expertise and integrity. We hope that she will have a chance to return and serve the District as a senior attorney.”
GAP released a video in late 2009 revealing questionable statements made by Chief Rubin during testimony he gave in a discovery deposition taken in the case, including referring to Cusick as “a woman barking at me,” and using excessive profanity. You can find the video here.
Cusick's trial is set to start this morning (Monday, 9:15 am) at the District of Columbia Superior Court, 515 5th Street, NW, Courtroom A-49.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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United Arab Emirates' English-language newspaper The National ran a significant piece by Peter Muir criticizing the U.S. government's hypocrisy in declining to criminally prosecute government officials who authorized, orchestrated and committed torture during the G.W. Bush-era while prosecuting John Kiriakou – a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower who helped expose torture – under the heavy-handed Espionage Act.
If those responsible for torture - either committing the act, sanctioning it, providing dubious legal advice that encourages it or wilfully destroying evidence of it- are not held accountable, while those within the US government, like Kiriakou, who take a stand against it are persecuted, it may only be a matter of time before we once again see grinning soldiers shamelessly posing for souvenir photos with the shrink-wrapped remains of "enhanced interrogation" victims.
I've long pointed out that the government's war on whistleblowers (a.k.a. selective and record-breaking use of the Espionage Act against whistleblowers) has a tremendous chilling effect on potential national security whistleblowers, creates a terrible precedent for targeting and silencing jouranlists, and is a back-door way of creating an Official Secrets Act. Considering that a commentator for UAE's The National can grasp the dangerous consequences of letting the architects of torture off the hook while charging whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, the government ought to reconsider its attack on whistleblowers for one more reason.
There are dangers of the Obama administration's record-breaking six Espionage Act prosecutions beyond imprisonment for my clients like John Kiriakou and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Thomas Drake (before the case against Drake imploded). In light of the decision not to prosecute torturers or the architects of torture, the message the U.S. government's leak hypocrisy sends is that employees who break the law can get away with it while those who help expose government law-breaking risk criminal prosecution.