Associated Press: High Court Considers Whistleblower Protections
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court reconsidered the limitations and protections provided in existing whistleblower legislation, including the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (passed in the wake of the Enron scandal). In its discussion, the court looked back on the Enron collapse to determine which whistleblowers are protected from retaliation on company wrongdoing. The current dispute centers on whether company contractors – and not just employees of publicly traded companies – should be protected under Sarbanes-Oxley provisions. The court is expected to reach a decision on the specifics of the law in spring. The initial discussion by the court arose out of a complaint from two whistleblowers at a private contractor that provides advice and management services to Fidelity mutual funds, a public company.
Related Articles: Bloomberg, Goverment Executive
US News & World Report: Congressman Wants Obama to Say if Greenwald Faces Arrest
Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fl) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder in early October asking if journalist Glenn Greenwald, the lead journalist on the Edward Snowden whistleblower disclosures, would face arrest or prosecution when he returns to the U.S. Holder has yet to respond.
Key Quote: “There is a lot of concern at this point that the administration and the Justice Department are criminalizing investigative journalism and infringing on the First Amendment," Grayson told U.S. News. "That's a very important issue and deserves to be addressed at the highest levels, which means by the president."
HETQ: Hungary – Whistleblower Alleges Corruption in VAT Fraud
A former tax inspector for Hungary’s national tax agency has come forward with claims that the government collaborates with organized criminals to heavily profit through a Value Added Tax fraud scheme. The whistleblower has said that the widespread conspiracy has involved neighboring countries and more than 100 Hungarian companies, acquiring over $950 million in the past two years.
Related Article: BBJ
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Real Time with Bill Maher: Bill Binney
HBO talk show host Bill Maher speaks with GAP client and NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, a former Technical Director at the agency who resigned after repeatedly advocating for a spy program he helped design called ThinThread. The program was ignored in favor of a much more expensive and invasive, constitutionally violating program called Trailblazer in the aftermath of 9/11. Binney, along with GAP clients and NSA whistleblowers J. Kirk Wiebe and Thomas Drake, has for years been a staunch opponent of the illegal and unnecessary tactics of the intelligence community’s spying operations. Here he reflects on what the NSA is able to do and whether they should be doing it.
Key Quote: “Obama’s doing more than Bush did. The whole thing is growing … that’s why he’s building Bluffdale. If he was just using Metadata like they talk about, the only stories they need would be up here on the stage.”
Government Executive: National Security Whistleblowers Could Win New Protections
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently approved a fiscal intelligence authorization bill that would increase oversight and specifically institute “protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders.” The decision has come about as a result of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures. Whistleblower advocates have responded favorably and GAP Legal Director Tom Devine is quoted.
Key Quote: “This is the first step toward a safe alternative to leaks for potential whistleblowers in the intelligence community,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. “If approved, it will be a landmark congressional action to create free speech rights within intelligence agencies, and against security clearance retaliation throughout the civil service.”
The Bulletin: Reining in the NSA
Three important groups including lawmakers, members of the tech industry and voters are working together to develop a strategy to rein in the NSA, according to this article. Leading the groups are Senators Ron Wyden (D-Or.) – who introduced legislation that would stop the bulk collection of metadata – and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has signed on to the bill and has introduced an intelligence reform bill of his own. Among many illustrative statements, Wyden said, “All of this only works if it’s possible for the Congress to do vigorous oversight … The Congress can’t do vigorous oversight if the intelligence leadership is not straight with the Congress and the American people.”
Washington Post: ’60 Minutes’ Retracts, Apologizes for Benghazi Report; CBS Says it was Misled by a Source
CBS News’ chairman apologized publicly on Friday for the recent 60 Minutes report about the terrorist attacks on Benghazi, Libya. During an episode of CBS This Morning, 60 minutes correspondent Lara Logan retracted her story saying that her source, a security contractor named Dylan Davies that many have dubbed a whistleblower, “misled” her by “falsely portraying his involvement” in the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic compound. Davies had been a source for more than one news agency that challenged the Obama administration’s account of events. Challenges were raised last week when it was revealed that Davies told his employer – a British security firm – that he had not been near the compound during the attack.
Sci-Tech Today: OPEC Oil Cartel Targeted by NSA
New documents from Snowden show how the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, spied on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel. This latest revelation indicates that the spying has enabled access to information about oil exporting countries and the price of oil. The documents reveal that the oil coalition was among the NSA’s primary targets for at least three years, up until April 2013.
Post & Parcel: Northrop Grunman Facing Whistleblower Lawsuit Over $874m USPS Contract
A lawsuit is being brought under the False Claims Act against engineering giant Northrop Grumman, claiming that the firm defrauded the US Postal Service over a sorting machine contract worth up to $874 million. The complaint has been filed by an ex-employee whistleblower, who is seeking $179 million for USPS. The suit alleges that Northrop repeatedly covered up or submitted false reports about the accuracy, reliability, speed and efficiency of the machines.
Easton Area News: Easton Principal Says District Retaliated Against Him for Being Whistleblower
A school principal from the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania says he was demoted and “cheated out of a raise” after he reported that a former technology director for the district accessed his computer without permission. An investigation into the complaint showed that the former employee did in fact use the principal’s computer to spy on other administrators and download pornography. The school district maintains that it is freezing the principal’s salary until other principals in the district received pay raises to equal his own and that it has nothing to do with the whistleblower complaint.
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This article originally appeared in the Daily Kos.
Since June, the main stream media has been reporting National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations exposing NSA's vast, ineffective, and unconstitutional spying. In the words of former Vice President Al Gore:
[Snowden] has revealed evidence of what appears to be crimes against the Constitution of the United States.
But, the main stream media also takes too many opportunities to cast aside the undeniable public benefit to Snowden's revelations and the far more newsworthy fact that the NSA is violating the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of innocent people, to focus instead on the messenger. As we saw with other NSA whistleblowers, like my client Thomas Drake, there's a regular drumbeat of personal smears and unsubstantiated attacks aimed at discrediting Snowden. Reuters published an anonymously-sourced "exclusive:"
. . .Snowden used log-in credentials and passwords provided unwittingly by colleagues at a base in Hawaii to access some of the classified material he leaked to the media, sources said.
Aside from the "anonymous government officials," who have a clear motivation to trash the whistleblower who exposed NSA's illegal behavior, there is absolutely no evidence that Snowden tricked anyone into giving him information. The government tried out the same false accusation on Thomas Drake - that Drake collecting NSA information from colleagues under false pretenses. The allegation, like 99.9% of what the government said about Drake, turned out to be completely false.
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The Guardian: Senate Committee Approves New Whistleblower Protection Measures
On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved whistleblower protections for intelligence community workers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014. GAP’s press release about the bill is here. The piece above from The Guardian relays that the bill would “for the first time extend whistleblower protections to members of the intelligence community, comparable to those enjoyed by other federal employees,” but is careful to point out that contractors are not covered in the bill’s language. The piece quotes GAP Legal Director Tom Devine:
The proposal still would not [protect future Snowdens]: it does not apply to contractors. It also mandates internal agency hearings to adjudicate whistleblower disputes, rather than an outside or judicial body. According to Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, this “locks in an institutional conflict of interest”.
But Devine, whose organization advocates for whistleblower rights, hailed the proposal as a “landmark breakthrough”. Previous congressional attempts to extend whistleblower protections to intelligence agency employees have foundered.
“This is not a final solution, but its passage would be a breakthrough paradigm shift for free-speech rights, to challenge abuses of power and corruption in intelligence agencies without risking threats to national security in the process,” Devine said.
The Guardian: NSA Files Decoded – Edward Snowden's Surveillance Revelations Explained
This is an interactive, lengthy single-page feature on the disclosures of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, featuring videos with prominent opinion leaders and experts (including GAP client and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake), infographics about how regular citizens are affected by mass surveillance, a running tally of how much information the NSA has grabbed in the time people have loaded the page, and several key documents that showcase wrongdoing.
The feature is divided into six sections: The NSA Files, All the Data About Your Data, A Digital Revolution, Are Your Details Secure?, Who’s Watching, and What Now?
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Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) praised the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) approval on Tuesday of whistleblower protection in the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2014. The Committee restored Senate-passed Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) provisions for intelligence community workers last fall, which the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) then successfully demanded removal of, threatening it otherwise would block rights for all government workers.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented:
This is the first step toward a safe alternative to leaks for potential whistleblowers in the intelliegence community. If approved, it will be a landmark congressional action to create free speech rights within intelligence agencies, and against security clearance retaliation throughout the civil service. While not a final solution, passage would be the breakthrough paradigm shift to challenge abuses of power and corruption by intelligence agencies without risking threats to national security. Intelligence bureaucrats always have had a blank check to purge whistleblowers at will. Now to make harassment stick, they will have to work hard.
Devine added, "The public owes Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) appreciation for persistence and leadership in achieving this bipartisan consensus. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Wyden (D-Or) and their staffs deserve special credit for their steady hard work in championing the breakthrough."
Noting that in 2010 and 2012 HPSCI blocked any whistleblower rights for intelligence community whistleblowers, Devine expressed optimism that this time it will be different:
Hopefully, Chairman Mike Rogers will not sabotage the entire intelligence bill to block protection for those who challenge abuses of power or correction in the only ways he deems proper. HPSCI Chairman Mike Rogers has insisted that intelligence workers should raise concerns through institutional and congressional channels, but currently they proceed at their own risk by following his recommendation.
Columbia Journalism Review: Warnings from Whistleblowers Past
Summary: This article spotlights GAP's American Whistleblower Tour, currently in its third year bringing prominent whistleblowers to universities around the country. The piece highlights the most recent stop at Florida International University, which featured GAP client/NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack. The author recaps Drake's ultimately successful whistleblower case, the role journalists play (in his and other cases), the exemption of national security employees under whistleblower protection laws, and how both speakers would blow the whistle again even after experiencing unimaginable reprisal.
This Tour stop – like many in the future – was streamed live (you can view it here) and available to whistleblower supporters around the country. The reporter of this piece was able to pose a question to the whistleblowers in real-time via Twitter, which they promptly answered. If you have a Twitter account, be sure to participate in future Tour events!
Key Quote: So, in an attempt to both clear up some of the misconceptions surrounding whistleblowing and get students thinking about these difficult issues before they enter the workforce, GAP organizes a nationwide “Whistleblower Tour.” Over the past three years, the tour has brought an impressive roster of notable whistleblowers to colleges across the country.
“I think some people think that there’s one law, like Title VII, that protects whistleblowers, and there isn’t,” [GAP Senior Fellow and Tour Director Dana] Gold says. There is a certain amount of whistleblower protection built into the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Food Safety Modernization Act, recent amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, and so on—many of which GAP worked closely on—but there are still far too many exceptions and loopholes, says Gold.
“I may have done it a little bit differently, because I tried to blow the whistle anonymously, like a lot of people do, because they don’t want the spotlight to be on them, they want the spotlight to be on the wrongdoing by the government, but instead I would have probably just held a press conference on my front stoop,” said Radack. “But yeah, I’d blow the whistle again. It was the first night I’d slept soundly in months.”
WikiLeaks: Statement by Sarah Harrison
Summary: WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison – who has been with NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden since Hong Kong, spending the last four months by his side in Russia – has returned to Europe, flying to Germany this past weekend. Through WikiLeaks, she released a statement which details her efforts to help the whistleblower achieve asylum, chastises the U.S. for “spying on every person around the globe, or persecuting those that speak the truth,” and explains how governments' fight against whistleblowers has turned into a fight against reporters and the media. From the piece:
Snowden is currently safe in Russia, but there are whistleblowers and sources to whom this does not apply. Chelsea Manning has been subject to abusive treatment by the United States government and is currently serving a 35-year sentence for exposing the true nature of war. Jeremy Hammond is facing a decade in a New York jail for allegedly providing journalists with documents that exposed corporate surveillance. I hope I have shown a counter example: with the right assistance whistleblowers can speak the truth and keep their liberty.
When whistleblowers come forward we need to fight for them, so others will be encouraged. When they are gagged, we must be their voice. When they are hunted, we must be their shield. When they are locked away, we must free them. Giving us the truth is not a crime. This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.
Further, due to the U.K.’s aggressive persecution of journalists covering the Snowden story – and the family members of such reporters – Harrison writes that WikiLeaks’ “lawyers have advised [her] that it is not safe to return home.”
Related Articles: Voice of Russia, Associated Press
Transparency International: Regulators of Last Resort
Summary: This blog piece from GAP Executive & International Director Bea Edwards details how, in the wake of the international trend of deregulation across industries, whistleblowers have effectively become the last, indispensable tools for maintaining corporate accountability.
Key Quote: Without the regulations we once had, we’ve become increasingly dependent on whistleblowers to signal to the larger society that something has gone wrong in government, industry or commerce. Whistleblowers became the regulators of last resort.
Whistleblowers do not, however, have the protection and force of government regulators. When they make disclosures in the public interest about wrongdoing, they enter into an extremely unequal battle from which they rarely emerge unscathed. A corrupt employer will ruin a whistleblower in order to protect an illicit operation. Those of us working to protect whistleblowers have learned this the hard way.
Whistleblowing Highlighted at Nader's Harvard Law 'Shake 'Em Up' Conference
Summary: GAP Legal Director Tom Devine recently gave a speech on the timeless war on whistleblowers at Harvard's annual Shake 'em Up conference. He was introduced by Ralph Nader as "Mr. Whistleblower Rights and Remedies for over 30 years" and explained the role that whistleblowers play in keeping government officials honest. Watch video of Devine's speech here.
Penticton Western News: Teachers Welcome Whistleblower Policy
Summary: A school district in British Columbia, Canada is in the process of pushing new policies to protect school district whistleblowers and spell out a trustee code of conduct.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director, joined Ralph Nader and nearly a dozen leading public interest lawyers, advocates and academics at Harvard’s annual Shake ’em Up conference in October. The conference – aimed at luring the nation’s next generation of top lawyers into public-interest law – spanned two days of discussion around transforming America’s broken legal system. Speakers explored topics including the erosion of our Constitution, corporate capture of government and the courts, and mass incarceration. The highlight of the conference, however, was Devine’s speech on the timeless war on whistleblowers.
Nader noted that since the first whistleblower conference in 1971, no one has “carried the torch and institutionalized [whistleblowing] in our legal system and raised pubic expectations for ethical whistleblowers more than Tom Devine.” Introduced by Nader as “Mr. Whistleblower Rights and Remedies for over 30 years," Devine delivered an inspirational talk on the unique role that whistleblowers play in keeping government officials honest, as well as the inherent risks that truth-tellers take in speaking publicly about wrongdoing.
Devine speaks during the first half of the video below:
“Whistleblowers will always be an endangered species in whatever institution they work at” warned Devine, because they become a threat to the power structure the minute that they disclose its abuses. That is why GAP depends on legal campaigns that seek to “unite the isolated whistleblowers from all of the institutions in society that should be benefiting from their knowledge” in order to turn their information into power. GAP campaigns do not stop there, however. They also investigate whistleblowers’ charges, strengthen free speech laws, and share lessons-learned with the broader community.
Additional conference participants included former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, National Legal Services Program founder Edgar Cahn, American civil procedure leading scholar Arthur Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Johnston, and constitutional law expert Bruce Stein, among others.
The full list of participants can be viewed here.
Additional video footage from the conference can be viewed here.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Campaign Coordinator & Investigator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.