Read more »
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?
Read more »
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.
Read more »
Associated Press: Washington Voters Rejecting GMO Labeling Law
Election results for yesterday's vote in Washington state suggest that Initiative 522, which would require labels for food products containing genetically engineered ingredients, is headed for defeat. As of last night, the measure was failing 45 percent to 55 percent. However, complete vote results may not be available for several more weeks.
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) regularly asserts the importance of labeling to give consumers the right to know what's in their food. See FIC's previous blogs on labeling issues here, including coverage of the GE labeling battle in California last year.
Canadian Press: Gore Predicts Intelligence Agencies Will Be Reined In
Yesterday, former Vice President Al Gore described NSA's massive surveillance programs as "outrageous" and, based on disclosures by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, seemingly unconstitutional. He asserts the importance of surveillance for security but not at such "absurd" lengths, and he predicts that the intelligence agencies will be reined in.
Key Quote: Gore said governments throughout history have understandably conducted surveillance to protect their security but added that efforts have gone to "absurd" lengths and are counter-productive.
"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, it's not always wise to pile more hay on the haystack," he said quoting a scholar on the CIA.
The former senator said while he appreciated the work of intelligence services, he doubted the excesses would be allowed to continue and noted some states are already passing laws or putting referendum questions to their constituents.
Deutsche Welle: Transparency International Calls on Germany to Step Up Whistleblower Safeguards
More coverage of Transparency International’s report showing that the “vast majority of EU member states have either partial or no laws to protect whistleblowers.” This piece focuses on Germany’s lack of solid provisions – the report found that country was “among a group of 15 European Union countries that provides limited protection” to occupational truth-tellers.
Read more »
The Guardian: Whistleblowers Need a Strong Safety Net, Say Civil Society Heads
Last week, London hosted the Open Government Partnership summit, an initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency and adopt other good government reforms. Education Coordinator Alison Glick represented GAP at the symposium, speaking as part of a panel on the need for widespread whistleblower protection.
This conference occurred days before today’s release by Transparency International showing that the “vast majority of EU member states have either partial or no laws to protect whistleblowers.” The report shows that seven countries “have no or ‘very limited’ provisions to protect whistleblowers,” 16 states have "partial provisions," and “only Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and the UK have laws that include ‘comprehensive or near comprehensive’ procedures for whistleblowers.”
Key Quote: Alison Glick, international associate and education coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, said there was a trend towards narrowing access to information in the United States.
She said: “In the US we have a patchwork of whistleblowing laws leaving whistleblowers at a loss as to how they are protected, and employers don't know where they stand.”
The Nation: Media Hype Edward Snowden's Request for 'Clemency' – But Did He Even Ask for It?
This piece challenges the incorrect assertion made in the media that NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden appealed for clemency, a falsehood which many politicians picked up on during the weekend to publicly reject. A follow-up piece from FireDogLake discusses how it appears that the New York Times was the first outlet to misreport on the contents of Snowden’s letter to the German government. From the piece, which mentions GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack:
Jesselyn Radack, an attorney and national security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project who has spoken on behalf of Snowden, said “any fair reading of the letter” to the German government would not lead one to think he had made a request for clemency. That “implies he is guilty and now asking for some sort of pardon or commutation.”
This misperception around a plea for clemency has greatly benefited the US government. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Mike Rogers and an aide from the White House would not have had the question put to them of whether Snowden deserved “clemency” on Sunday morning news programs if the Times had not inaccurately reported on the letter. They would not have been given the gift of being able to abruptly reframe debate around Snowden so that people were essentially talking about how someone “guilty” does not get to dodge responsibility for committing crimes.
The ACLU has posted an English version of the statement Snowden sent to Der Spiegel on Sunday. The blog states that Snowden “provided the ACLU with the original English text.”
As GAP supporters know, our International Reform program focuses on holding notable international institutions – such as the United Nations and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) – accountable for their treatment of whistleblowers and lack of solid protections for truth-telling employees.
Next Monday, Nov. 11, GAP is cosponsoring an event at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC featuring an author whose new book explores how the World Bank's policies "have been hurting the very people it claims to serve." Bruce Rich's book, Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction, explores this assertion.
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Busboys and Poets: 2021 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20009
For more on the book, click here
Join Rich – a lawyer and expert in public international finance who has studied the World Bank’s role in the global environmental crisis for the last three decades – as he discusses how the institution's "failures embody the dysfunctions of global politics on an increasingly crowded planet."
We hope you can join the discussion!
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.