Manchester Journal: Bulldog on the Hot Seat
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This article looks deeper into the background of Thomas Drake – the NSA whistleblower who has been indicted under the Espionage Act for “retaining” classified information. Friends and former teachers spoke out about Drake, characterizing him as a “person concerned with doing the right thing,” a “brainiac,” and “a man of incredible honor.”
Key Quote: Since being charged under the Espionage Act, the Government Accountability Project, a non-profit organization that promotes government and corporate accountability by protecting whistleblowers, has started a petition to put an end to his prosecution.
Click here to sign GAP's petition!
Associated Press: US Judge - Spill Claims Czar not Independent of BP
The official in charge of BP’s compensation fund for victims of the Gulf oil spill, Ken Feinberg, was ordered by a U.S. District judge on Wednesday to make clear that he is acting on behalf of BP. Although Feinberg had repeatedly stated that he is working independently, he must now disclose to all potential claimants that he is working for BP.
Feinberg has come under harsh, repeated criticism regarding the lack of transparency and efficiency in the payment process, as well as the small size of the payments.
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Every once in a while during a crisis, the mask of ‘democracy’ slips off the face of US foreign policy, and we see how the federal government really works at its highest levels, using its heaviest hitters. Frank G. Wisner is just such a cleanup batter.
His mala fides
were on display this morning in the press, as an envoy to teetering Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from US President Barack Obama, who must salvage US ‘interests’ as one of the West’s favorite and most expensive regimes in the Middle East falls apart.
Wisner is exactly what the rest of the world thinks of as the US government, and his résumé explains why popular movements abroad try to steer clear of the American Embassy in their capitals. When a Third World situation gets tricky, and one of our allied dictators, such as Mubarak, faces charges of corruption, authoritarianism and human rights violations, Wisner is the man to call. He can mange the situation by speaking to the tired old monster “as a friend,” and showing him the exit.
Wisner, 72, has spent a career at the interstices of the State Department and multinational corporations that play fast and loose with investors’ money and the law. He has “served” as the United States Ambassador to Egypt (1986-91), the Philippines (1991-92) and India (1994-97), among other assignments.
Washington Post: U.S. Park Police Chief Chambers Is Reinstated
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Teresa Chambers – the U.S. Park Police chief who was fired for expressing concerns over safety issues – has been reinstated in her former position.
Chambers’ ultimate victory marks the end of a seven-year legal battle in which her case was brought three times before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Chambers’ ruling, along with others, illustrates how the MSPB has begun to reverse its trend of ruling against whistleblowers and restore its authority to enforce the merit system.
Key Quote: Under Grundmann, the board "made more progress toward protecting the merit system than in any other year since it was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978," said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy organization. "It issued landmark precedents that restored its authority to enforce the merit system. It reversed a decade-long trend of ruling against whistleblowers."
Four whistleblower victories in 2010 were one more than the total for the previous decade, Devine said.
Click here to read Devine's blog on the MSPB, and problems with Administrative Judges' record with whistleblower cases.
The new Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) was off to a flying start in the first year of Obama administration appointees. Thanks to Chair Susan Grundmann’s leadership, the Board made more progress toward protecting the merit system than in any other year since it was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It established an unprecedented infrastructure of research, transparency, and public enfranchisement. It issued landmark precedents that restored its authority to enforce the merit system. It reversed a decade long trend of ruling against whistleblowers. In 2010 for merits decisions by the full Board, there were more whistleblower victories (four) than in the previous decade (three). That is four times the total of one Board whistleblower victory during the entire term of previous Chair Neil McPhie.
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Unfortunately, for whistleblowers, the Administrative Judges (AJ’s) who conduct hearings and issue initial decisions do not seem to be listening yet. In November and December 2010, AJ’s ruled against whistleblowers in 31 of 33 decisions. For the year their record was 12-187, with whistleblowers on the short end. They continue routinely to rubberstamp agency reprisals through expansive readings of Federal Circuit loopholes that have gutted the Whistleblower Protection Act. Setting the pace for bias was AJ Elizabeth Bogle of the Washington Field Office, who ruled against the whistleblower defense in 23 decisions out of 23 cases. The Board is doing what it can through rulings. In 2010 it remanded, or sent back, 11 cases for a hearing that AJ’s had dismissed. But it is clear that until Congress overhauls the statute, the Board’s leadership will be insufficient to reverse deeply ingrained administrative law patterns hostile to whistleblowers.
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CBS: Why Enron Whistleblower Sherron Watkins Doesn’t Trust the SEC
Photo by Flickr user conradh
Sherron Watkins – the former Enron executive who blew the whistle on fraud at the company – believes that the SEC will continue to be ineffective in investigating whistleblower complaints, even with its new Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions. The SEC is still working out rules for these expanded provisions, yet corporate lobbyists are fighting to require whistleblowers to first file complaints with their own companies before going to the SEC.
Watkins (who first raised concerns internally at Enron) says that if she were to blow the whistle today, she would go to an organization like WikiLeaks rather than to the SEC.
Related Article: Center for Public Integrity
60 Minutes: Interview with Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange discusses the future of his website and forthcoming publications, as well as the “prospects of facing criminal charges in the United States.”
Assange commented on the current lack of protections for whistleblowers, stating, “If [employees] who say that there is some abuse going on and there's not a proper mechanism for internal accountability and external accountability, they must have a conduit to get that out to the public. And we are the conduit.”
To join in supporting meaningful protections for whistleblowers and the establishment of such proper internal mechanisms, help GAP and On The Media identify the Senator who placed a secret hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
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Las Vegas Review-Journal: WikiLeaks Furor Causes Defeat of Rights Bill With Las Vegas Ties
By flickr user ElectronicFrontierFoundation
This article discusses how passage of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) – a bill that would strengthen federal whistleblower protections – was derailed by the uproar over WikiLeaks, and ultimately killed in Congress by one anonymous senator’s secret hold on the legislation. Passage of the WPEA would have aided a group of federal air marshals (including GAP client Robert MacLean) who have been the subjects of several whistleblower retaliation cases.
Last week, the Senate voted to end the practice of secret holds – the action which defeated the whistleblower bill. However, GAP and On The Media are continuing a campaign to contact each senator’s office in order to ask them if they were the party who wrongfully killed the WPEA.
So far, 55 senators have confirmed that they did not place the secret hold. We are making progress, but we need your help to continue narrowing it down. Please call or write your respective senator, and, however they may answer, report your correspondence to On The Media at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key Quote: "The WikiLeaks chaos creates new urgency to pass legislation," [GAP's Tom] Devine said. "If federal workers try to work within the system of professional checks and balances to report waste, fraud, and abuse, it almost guarantees professional suicide."
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Despite the Main-Stream-Media's angst over enigmatic Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine and interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday. My friend David Swanson has already diaried Julian Assange's 60 Minutes interview in detail.
Regardless of how you see Assange, one quote from his 60 Minutes interview stands out:
If [employees] who say that there is some abuse going on and there's not a proper mechanism for internal accountability and external accountability, they must have a conduit to get that out to the public. And we are the conduit.
Assange presents the solution to Wikileaks. In a world where whistleblowers are protected through a "proper mechanism for accountability," Wikileaks would not have to be a conduit to get information out to the public.