The article profiles Steve Kolian, one of many divers told by the federal government it was safe to dive where oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill had been treated with dispersant. Kolian, who submitted an affidavit to GAP as part of our recent report on the dangerous effects of the dispersant Corexit, stated "we quickly learned that was false" and detailed a wide range of health problems he experienced as a result, including dizziness, nausea, diarrhea and cognitive issues.
Public Radio International's The World spoke yesterday with Newsweek reporter Mark Hertsgaard who broke the findings of GAP's report in a major investigative piece last Friday. He details his talks with whistleblowers who conveyed that BP withheld information from cleanup workers about the toxic effects of Corexit.
Key Quote:“During those dives, we wore standard equipment: air tanks, fins, snorkel, gloves, a 2mm wetsuit and a hood,” he stated in his sworm affidavit for GAP. But wetsuits provided little protection from the contaminated water, and the skin on Kolian’s now-peeling face was completely exposed.
According to this article, the State Department will not heed the request of GAP client and UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom, who asked Secretary of State John Kerry to withhold 15 percent of UN funding due to the organization's failure to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
Key Quote:But while ex-U.N. staffer James Wasserstrom prevailed in his landmark case against the U.N. for retribution because of his internal criticism, a U.N. oversight panel judge awarded him a pittance ($65,000) of his claimed $3.2 million in total damages.
As a direct result of his litigation, he's now financially worse off than if he had kept his mouth shut, according to an officer with the Government Accountability Project.
GAP's Climate Science Watch (CSW) submitted a public comment to the State Department which was gathering input on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. CSW called the statement "inadequate and misleading" and listed several reasons why the pipeline permit should be denied.
A former Florida state ombudsman in the Department of Elder Affairs alleges she was fired in 2011 after raising concerns about "gross misfeasance and malfeasance." A Florida appeals court panel has split on whether the whistleblower was rightly dismissed.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
This article highlights the findings in a GAP investigation released last Friday. Our report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, lambasted BP and the federal government for their careless and dangerous decision to use almost two million gallons of the Corexit dispersant to treat the Deepwater Horizon spill. The chemical compound was widely sprayed from airplanes – sometimes right over boats filled with oil clean-up workers. Since its use, countless Gulf residents have reported serious health problems that include heart palpitations, kidney and liver damage, and blood in urine, all commonly referred to as “BP Syndrome." GAP investigators worked hand-in-hand with those impacted by the spill over the course of 20 months to develop the report.
Key Quote:"Apparently, BP and the federal government intend to make Corexit's application the standard operating procedure for oil spill cleanups," said GAP investigator Shanna Devine, lead author of the report … "We've found, however, that Corexit's use led to terrible effects on human health and the environment."
Washington Post: World Bank, in a Changed Economy, Pushes Focus to Building a Middle Class As many countries among the World Bank’s key dependants (i.e. Brazil, China) have grown increasingly out of extreme poverty, the institution has stated a shift in focus. In a recent report, the Bank announced that it will attempt to boost the growth of the middle class, internationally, while continuing its roughly–charted mission of ending global poverty as well. Unfortunately, the update hardly comes off as groundbreaking or new territory for the institution. GAP Executive and International Director Bea Edwards responded to an internal draft of the World Bank document (which GAP posted on its website), with this blog.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) – a bill that, if passed, would allow major corporations and banks to share their customers' private information with American intelligence agencies – made it through the House of Representatives last week. The bill is being touted as urgently necessary for protection against impending cyber-security threats, a fear that was reflected Sunday by a Washington Post editorial. GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack explains the dangers of this legislation and what you can do to stop it in this blog post.
Animal welfare activists, including the Humane Society of the United States and even country singer Carrie Underwood, have urged Tennessee's governor to veto the state's Ag Gag bill, which recently passed both houses.
The Washington Post features an editorial singing the praises of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), an innocent-enough sounding law that passed the House last week, but permits private corporations unprecedented sharing of Americans' private data (such as internet activity and e-mail content) with the government, including the National Security Agency.
It is no surprise the WaPo editorial board took the position it did on CISPA, a position the paper is certainly entitled to take. But it is disingenuous to spend extra ink on the fear-mongering "urgency" of the cyber "threats" while summarily dismissing the valid privacy concerns of the White House and countless civil liberties and internet rights groups. WaPo opined:
Despite efforts to strengthen privacy measures, the bill has been criticized by civil liberties advocates and Mr. Obama has threatened to veto it.
Congress voted down many of the so-called "efforts to strengthen privacy measures," and while some modest improvements to the bill survived the cyber-fear-mongering assault in Congress, the major privacy concerns were left unaddressed. Michelle Richardson of the ACLU put it in simple terms:
The core problem is that CISPA allows too much sensitive information to be shared with too many people in the first place, including the National Security Agency.
The civil liberties groups opposing the bill include my organization, the Government Accountability Project, and the privacy concerns deserve more than a throwaway line. Over thirty groups explained CISPA's privacy problems to Congress:
CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. . . .CISPA’s information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command.
The Administration, however, remains concerned that the bill does not require private entities to take reasonable steps to remove irrelevant personal information when sending cybersecurity data to the government or other private sector entities. Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable – and not granted immunity – for failing to safeguard personal information adequately.
Hacking group Anonymous asked websites to black out their front pages on Monday, in protest against legislation in the U.S. that would allow online companies and government agencies to more easily share personal information.
Newsweek: What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill Capping a 20-month investigation into the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, today GAP released groundbreaking findings in a report aimed at revealing the truth about the oil company and federal government’s dangerous “cleanup” solution. In response to the staggering truths revealed in our report, Newsweek has published an explosive article, “What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill.” The article, as does GAP’s report, shines a needed spotlight on the oil-spill dispersant Corexit utilized during the disaster, which made the resulting oil-Corexit mixture “52 times more toxic” than oil alone. The article reveals the extensive cover-up that ensued and exposes the incredible power wielded by giant corporations in society and “how unable, or unwilling, governments are to limit that power.”
The GAP report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, combines years of research, extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and dozens of interviews with whistleblowers who experienced the tragedies of the spill and its blundered aftermath firsthand. GAP interviewees include cleanup workers, doctors, industry leaders, federally-contracted divers, government officials and Gulf residents. Just a few of the findings include:
• Many cleanup workers and Gulf residents experienced serious health problems, coined “BP Syndrome,” that exhibits symptoms such as blood in urine, kidney damage, liver damage, memory loss and temporary paralysis, among many other serious afflictions.
• BP’s failure to protect its own workers, ordering them not to wear protective gear for public relations purposes, and wrongfully assuring them of their safety working in highly toxic environments.
• Ecological problems and food safety issues, including major concerns over seafood deformities and a massive decrease in reported catch from fishermen.
• BP’s massive faults in employee compensation, denying every single health claim brought by employees to its Gulf Coast Claims Fund.
An Executive Summary of the report can be found here. The Full Report is accessible here.
Key Quote:But BP had a problem: it had lied about how safe Corexit is, and proof of its dishonesty would eventually fall into the hands of the Government Accountability Project, the premiere whistleblower-protection group in the U.S. The proof? A technical manual BP had received from NALCO, the firm that supplied the Corexit that BP used in the gulf.
“[BP] opened the meeting with this upbeat presentation about how seriously they took their responsibilities for the spill and all the wonderful things they were doing to make things right,” says[GAP Legal Director Tom]Devine. “When it was my turn to speak, I said that the manual our whistleblower had provided contradicted what they just said. I asked whether they had ordered the manual withdrawn from work sites. Their attorneys said that was a matter they would not discuss because of the pending litigation on the spill.”
In a move that poses great risk to the security of American citizens’ personal information, the House of Representatives passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) yesterday. The bill allows giant corporations (banks, telecommunications companies) to share private information with one another and the US government, including the NSA and the CIA, under the guise of national cyber-security. The bill – which passed despite over 400,000 signatures petitioning against it – voids customers’ previously held privacy contracts with these corporations.
GAP Executive and International Director Bea Edwards has written extensively on the threat to privacy posed by this dangerous legislation.
In the wake of a press conference earlier this month, which featured GAP International Officer Shelley Walden speaking along with UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has announced that the multilateral organization will review its policy on whistleblower protection. Walden explains the implications of the statement and encourages additional steps toward implementation in this blog post.
Key Quote:“GAP is encouraged by the Secretary General’s announcement, but notes that significant obstacles to its effective implementation remain. In selecting the appropriate consultants, the United Nations must choose qualified people with expertise in whistleblower protection.”
This recent review of War on Whistleblowers, the new documentary that tells the stories of four national security whistleblowers (including two GAP clients), focuses on the film's unsettling ability to reveal the US government’s submission to large corporate interests. Businessman and politicians are seen as of the same ‘ruthless and callous breed’ when it comes to being exposed for wrongdoing.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Everyone is talking about War on Whistleblowers, the new documentary from Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films. The film uses the stories of four national security whistleblowers to illustrate the growing threat that government secrets pose to the foundations of American democracy.
Positive reviews of the film keep rolling in. While writing that, "the individual cases are riveting (for the heroism involved) and infuriating (for illuminating the venality of the powers-that-be)," a recent review in the Village Voice says the most impactful and unsettling aspect of the film is its powerful ability to reveal the reality of the US government’s continued submission under the weight of large corporate interests. In the film, businessman and politicians are seen as of the same ‘ruthless and callous breed’ when it comes to being exposed for wrongdoing:
...what is most sobering about this timely and unsettling film is what it reveals about how thoroughly owned our government is by big business interests. The common thread between all four examples in the film is just how ruthless and callous fat cats (businessmen and politicos alike) can be when their bottom line is threatened.
More and more critics are acclaiming the new documentary for its revelatory exposition of the George W. Bush administration and Obama administration’s strategic persecution of national security whistleblowers and the growing risk to American freedom of the press. Check out more reviews of the film from the Huffington Post (and here), Mother Jones, andRolling Stone.
Besides focusing specifically on the stories of two GAP clients – NSA whistleblower Tom Drake and military whistleblower Franz Gayl – the documentary also features interviews with GAP Legal Director Tom Devine and National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack.
Watch the recent Democracy Now! below.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that there will be a review of whistleblower protections at the United Nations. At a press conference, the Secretary-General stated that “we are receiving certain complaints about implementing all of these whistleblower-protection policies. Therefore, we have asked outside consultants to look into this process, whether there is any area for improvement. This report will come to me and we will do our best...”
This announcement comes in the wake of a media briefing earlier this month with GAP client James Wasserstrom. During the conference (which can be watched here), GAP critiqued the United Nations’ whistleblower protection record and asked the organization to take concrete steps to protect whistleblowers, including conducting an independent external review of all the protection against retaliation cases that the Ethics Office (which is charged with reviewing such complaints) has failed to substantiate. Media outlets across the globe subsequently reported on the Wasserstrom case, including TheNew York Times, Associated Press, Al Jazeeraand Reuters, among others. The Secretary General’s announcement also comes after a statement from the UN Fifth Committee – the administrative and budgetary committee of the General Assembly – earlier this month in which it noted “the intention of the Secretary-General to conduct a comprehensive review of the existing policy for protection against retaliation in the Organization” and requested “the Secretary-General to expedite the development of modalities in this regard and to report thereon to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session.” (para. 75, see also para. 77)
GAP is encouraged by the Secretary General’s announcement, but notes that significant obstacles to its effective implementation remain. In selecting the appropriate consultants, the United Nations must choose qualified people with expertise in whistleblower protection. Otherwise, this review will lack credibility. We also hope that when the Secretary General said “we will do our best,” he meant that the organization will take concrete steps to address this problem, rather than continuing to sweep it under the rug. In other words, if the review determines that any retaliation claims were improperly declined by the Ethics Office, they should be re-adjudicated.
We must also point out that although a review is an important first step, it is not enough to fix the whistleblower protection issues at the United Nations. The Secretary General should take additional steps to demonstrate his commitment to implementing best practice whistleblower protections, among them:
Revise the UN’s whistleblower protection policy to meet best practices. For example, the policy should provide protection against retaliation to all relevant applicants who challenge betrayals of the organization’s mission. Currently, some of the people who are most likely to be aware of misconduct in UN peacekeeping operations, including UN police officers, peacekeepers, and victims, have no protections if they report misconduct.
Discipline the retaliators in validated whistleblower cases, such as Wasserstrom’s.
Adhere to orders and judgments issued by the Tribunals in whistleblowing cases (i.e. orders to release reports investigating a whistleblower’s retaliation claims).
Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) released Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups? The report details the devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem stemming from BP and the federal government's widespread use of the dispersant Corexit, in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
GAP, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, launched this effort in August 2011 after repeatedly hearing from Gulf residents and cleanup workers that official statements from representatives of BP and the federal government were false and misleading in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Over the next 20 months, GAP collected data and evidence from over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup's effects firsthand, and GAP studied data from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Taken together, the documents and the witnesses' testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself.
Conclusions from the report strongly suggest that the dispersant Corexit was widely applied in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared. In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished.
"Apparently, BP and the federal government intend to make Corexit's application the standard operating procedure for oil spill cleanups," said GAP Investigator Shanna Devine, lead author of the report. "We've found, however, that Corexit's use led to terrible effects on human health and the environment. We interviewed cleanup workers, divers and residents who are still sick from exposure and must deal with a severely contaminated environment. We've also compiled evidence that suggests a higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations, and pockets of "dead" ocean areas where life was previously abundant."