The Washington Post reports on sky-is-falling government warning of impending cyberattacks:
The U.S. government on Thursday warned of a heightened risk of a cyberattack that could disrupt the control systems of U.S. companies providing critical services such as electricity and water.
No doubt it's more than coincidence that, as tenacious WaPo reporter Ellen Nakashima writes:
And that this alert comes just as the White House and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are working on a plan
to overhaul all surveillance laws in order to make it easier for the government to obtain Americans' online data, like communications using Facebook and chat rooms.
I've written for months that cyber is the new frontier in terrorism, and amorphous warnings about "cyber attacks" ("DHS officials did not provide details on the nature of the latest threat. . .") are used as the new excuse of lucrative government contracts and privacy-compromising changes to the law. The reality does not match the dramatic warnings. From WaPo:
. . . they are also increasingly concerned about the threat of a potentially destructive cyberattack.
Such attacks are rare.
The rarity of such attacks is not consistent with the frequent urgent warnings. In February, cyberattack warnings included headlines such as
Chinese cyberspies have hacked most Washington institutions
These constant "alerts" create a constant state of urgency and fear, an atmosphere that makes Congress more ready to shell out taxpayer dollars for protection and Americans more ready to needlessly sacrifice their privacy in return for more security theater.
Rather than worrying about another "impending cyberattack," perhaps we should be more concerned about our own government's domestic spying activities. As the government fear mongers about cyber attacks, my client, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Bill Binney again warned us about rampant, unconstitutional domestic spying on Huffington Post Live. Rather than giving credence to the government's warnings, which haven't panned out, we should listen first to the whistleblowers about how the national security state has used fear to spend billions of taxpayer dollars.
This article was orginally posted in the Daily Kos.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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New York Times: Diplomat Says Questions Over Benghazi Led to DemotionFormer US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens
A 22-year foreign-service officer who served in Libya at the time of the terrorist attack in Benghazi – that killed four Americans including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens – testified yesterday in the House on the aftermath of the incident.
The diplomat, Gregory Hicks, became the highest-ranking American in Libya after the ambassador was killed, though he alleges to have been ‘effectively demoted’ when he began to raise questions about the official account given on the events that took place that night. Hicks testified that he felt a ‘distinct chill’ from his superiors and was given deplorable reviews due to his increasing complaints and questions. Hicks claims he was also forbidden from speaking with a visiting congressman.
The State Department maintains that no retaliation took place, and that Hicks requested shortening his time in Libya due to ‘understandable family reasons.’ Additionally, they reported that Hicks' current job is a “suitable temporary assignment” and he has submitted preferences for his next job.
FireDogLake: In First Amendment Case Over Afghan War Memoir, Justice Department Asks Judge to End Lawsuit
A US military veteran who wrote a memoir detailing his experience in Afghanistan is meeting considerable challenges from the Defense and Intelligence community, who allege that his book contains ‘properly classified’ information, and the government is therefore entitled to intervene and edit the information contained within. The author maintains that he only used unclassified information and open sources, yet continued redactions from the book have led him to file a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA.
GAP client and former State Department employee Peter Van Buren underwent a similar ordeal in attempting to publish his book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.
Key Quote: According to the Government Accountability Project’s Jesselyn Radack, the State Department proceeded to “actively monitor” Van Buren’s “blogs, tweets and Facebook updates” that he was posting “during his private time on his personal home computer.” They began to review his blogs and live media appearances, which were done on his personal time, in order to punish him for publishing the book.
The Institute for Southern Studies: The BP Spin Doctor Is In
For all of BP’s success in initially muffling the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, recent news reports have served as a reckoning for the oil company that seems to have escaped full accountability. The ‘spin doctors’ who were able to cover-up BP’s mess are no longer able to deny the allegations, most prominently led by GAP’s recent release of Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf, a scathing report combining dozens of whistleblower testimonies detailing the effects of the oil spill and its cover-up.
Key Quote: As the first phase of the environmental "Trial of the Century" drew to a close, BP execs faced a bombardment of criticisms, perhaps most prominently in the release of the Government Accountability Project's report, which cited 25 whistleblowers who detailed 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."
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Politico: Obama Stands Firm in ‘Sensitive’ Jobs Fight
The Obama administration continues its attempt to make thousands of federal workers’ jobs ‘national security sensitive.’ The demarcation would remove certain civil liberty rights from federal employees, disabling them from claiming retaliation or wrongful termination, essentially allowing employers to dismiss workers without grounds for doing so. The administration is, however, attempting to make clear to advocacy organizations that the ‘national security sensitive’ law is not a ploy to take down whistleblower protection rights. If the administration prevails, however, it is unclear where those rights will stand.
Key Quote: One whistleblower advocate, Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, said the Obama administration brief "could have been much worse."
"It’s a real relief that the government has removed the Whistleblower Protection Act from its sights in this attack on the civil service," Devine said. "But we're very disappointed that the administration didn't recognize the supremacy of the merit system in any personnel action, whether founded in national security or sexual harassment."
Devine acknowledged that the Obama administration didn't agree to respect whistleblower rights in the "sensitive" job context, but simply sought to take that issue off the table for now.
"Of course, the same principles could apply to [whistleblower] retaliation cases, but for the time being they're limiting the attack to the due process rights of employees defending their reliability for sensitive jobs," Devine said.
Associated Press: Bradley Manning Pretrial Hearing Reaching New Level of Secrecy
In what prosecutors say is an unprecedented military court decision, the judge for the military whistleblower Bradley Manning case has scheduled a closed hearing in order to decide how much of the upcoming trial should be held in secret, apparently in order to protect national security. Since the decision to hold the ‘dry run’ pretrial in secret, growing concern is being raised over what percentage of the actual trial will be closed to the public.
This interview with GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack delves into the details of the seemingly devious decision that continues to shroud the Manning trial in secrecy.
Key Quote: (Associated Press) But Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, said there has already been too much secrecy in the Manning case.
Radack, who helped defend former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake against federal charges that included illegal possession of classified NSA documents, said the "dry run" sounds like a dress rehearsal for a secret trial. "The more they do behind closed doors and the more they do through secret codes or anything else that shields the public from information, like not providing transcripts, those things are all antithetical to the democratic idea of having a free and open trial," Radack said.
USDA Poultry Inspector Speaks Out Against Hazardous Chemical Use
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign Investigation & Outreach Coordinator Alyssa Doom shares the story of USDA poultry inspector-turned-whistleblower Sherry Medina, who has experienced serious health issues as a result of excess chemical exposure at poultry processing plants. Medina has decided to speak out on behalf of other inspectors who have undergone similar conditions but fear retaliation for voicing their concerns. She has launched a petition urging Tyson Foods to stop its excessive use of dangerous chemicals in poultry processing.
FederalNewsRadio: The Federal Drive
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals recently sided with GAP client and TSA whistleblower Robert MacLean. The agency fired MacLean years ago after he exposed a decision to remove all Federal Air Marshals from long-distance flights on the eve of a potential terrorist threat. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, attorney for MacLean, sees the ruling as a victory for federal whistleblowers.
Fox News: Whistleblower Says Feds Retaliated Against Him
In light of today’s hearing concerning last year’s Benghazi attacks, military whistleblower and GAP client Franz Gayl shares his experience and sympathizes with those who may be concerned about speaking out. Gayl was retaliated against by the Pentagon after he brought to light serious issues concerning the safety of military vehicles.
Key Quote: “Gayl’s advice to other whistleblowers like himself is to reach out to the Government Accountability Project.
BBC: Paramedic – Ambulance Delays ‘Causing Harm and Deaths’
Ambulance service in the East of England (EEAS) is deathly slow, according to a paramedic whistleblower. Due to lack of funding, ambulances undergo severe delays, lack personnel and even run out of gas as the few paramedics on staff struggle to save the lives of those in need of care. A trust is currently investigating eight serious incidents of appalling ambulance response, including four cases in which people died.
Los Angeles Times: White Memorial Medical Center in LA Settles Kickback Allegations
White Memorial Medical Center, a major Los Angeles hospital, will pay $14.1 million to settle whistleblower allegations that it illegally incentivized local physicians with kickbacks to get their patient referrals. The two whistleblowers that brought the wrongdoing to light will share $2.8 million. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practice in the healthcare industry, though whistleblower complaints are often used by prosecutors to win major settlements from hospitals, drug makers and health plan providers.
KiroTV: Whistleblower – Health Inspectors Turning Blind Eye to Ethnic Restaurants
A restaurant health inspector for King County, Washington has filed a whistleblower complaint accusing Public Health managers of abusing authority by ignoring serious hazards, particularly at ethnic food restaurants. The complaint alleges that the issue of closing down a restaurant or issuing a warning is highly political and can be seen as targeting specific ethnic groups if too many are shut down. This means, however, that various restaurants exhibiting unsanitary conditions for food storage and preparation continue to operate and could sicken customers.
Washington Post: Special Ops Halted from Responding to Benghazi Attacks, US Diplomat Says
A recent account from a US diplomat stationed in Libya at the time of the September 11, 2012 attacks will cause debate over whether the Obama administration and US military did all that they could to prevent the deaths of three American diplomats in Benghazi. This testimony could be used in portraying the administration’s response as weak, though there is still considerable debate over whether prompt action from Special Operations forces could have saved any lives.
Malta Today: Whistleblower – ‘Why Were Schembri’s Abuses Ignored by Top Brass?’
A Maltese whistleblower and auditor hopes that the investigation into the head of the government’s internal audit agency will lead to serious reform across all channels of public service. The whistleblower accused the former secretary of attempting to acquire a casino using governmental backchannels, violating the public servant code of conduct.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
On May 22, GAP's American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability will makes its final stop of the 2012-13 at Portland State University in Oregon. The tour – which offers dynamic educational presentations on the phenomenon of whistleblowing at universities around the country – will use this stop to focus on historical dangers posed by the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in nearby Washington state, focusing on what the repeatedly botched cleanup process means for the community.
The tour is elated to have as its speakers the foremost experts dealing with long-standing issues of Hanford, which is the most contaminated nuclear site in the country. On panelist is Walt Tamosaitis, former Deputy Chief Process Engineer and Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford, himself a whistleblower with federal and state suits filed against site contractors Bechtel and URS. Also speaking will be Tom Carpenter, Executive Director at Hanford Challenge – a GAP spin-off organization protecting employees of the Hanford Nuclear Facility. Carpenter has devoted himself to the issues created by Hanford for many years and previously directed GAP’s Nuclear Oversight Campaign, which represented whistleblowers from various nuclear sites around the country. GAP Senior Fellow & Tour Director Dana Gold will host.
This event is particularly timely, as startling news about Hanford continues to break. Over the last several months, media reports have detailed that federal and state officials acknowledged six underground tanks are leaking radioactive material (February), 14 other tanks may be leaking (March), the leaking of a double-shelled tank took a contractor and federal officials more than a year to announce to the public (April), and an accomplished engineer recommended halting the notoriously problematic Waste Treatment Plant due to safety concerns (December). Just last week, it was revealed that the Department of Energy has provided contractors with more than $1 million of taxpayer dollars to fight Tamosaitis.
The event, which is open to the public, will be held in on the Portland State University campus in the Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 238 from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm on Wednesday, May 22. We hope to see you there!
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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ETN: National Press Club Announces Press Freedom Award Winners for 2013NSA whistleblower Tom Drake at the National Press Club
The National Press Club has announced that its 2013 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award domestic recipient will be “The Whistleblower.” The award will honor all whistleblowers, past, present and future for their courageous endeavors that preserve the rights of American citizens, which often includes the defense of journalistic freedom. The domestic prize money will go towards education programs for sources and reporters on the protection of identities in a high-risk environment.
KUAF: New State Ag Law Meant to Muzzle Animal Rights
The Arkansas anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bill was mostly gutted before passing the state legislature, but its intent reflects the growing trend among several state bills to thwart undercover investigations of animal agriculture. GAP's Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt discusses consumers' demand to know how their food is produced and the disparity between what they expect and the reality on industrial farms.
Key Quote: [Amanda Hitt:] "As an attorney who represents whistleblowers within agriculture, specifically USDA meat inspectors, I can tell you that they have told me stories of animal abuse that make these videos look like a sunny, happy Disney film."
Related Article: North Country Gazette
WWL–TV: Whistleblower – Practice of Workers Covering-Up Gulf Oil Spills Widespread
Numerous clean-up employee/whistleblowers have come forward regarding the dangerous cover-ups of oil spills taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, some saying that the corrupt practices and intimidation of employees has gone on for over 30 years. According to whistleblowers that have filed lawsuits on behalf of the federal government and failed to receive protection from federal prosecutors, clean-up contractors force employees to engage in practices such as using filtered water as samples or misrepresenting spill amounts. Illustrating how deeply entrenched in corruption and intimidation the industry is, one whistleblower said, “What happens offshore, stays offshore.”
This article comes just weeks after GAP released its report focusing on the cover-up of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the widely used dispersant, Corexit, which has made things exponentially worse. More Gulf clean-up workers are coming forward with devastating stories of wrongdoing in the aftermath of these disasters.
ABC News: Obama Administration Denies Benghazi Whistleblowers Being Kept Quiet
A lawyer representing a State Department employee who survived the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya said her client had been blocked from testifying about the attacks due to classified information obstacles. She reportedly inquired about the process for clearing attorneys to receive sensitive information from their clients without a response. It wasn't until after the lawyer appeared on Fox News to discuss the issue that she received instructions from the Department on how lawyers representing Benghazi whistleblowers may seek clearances to handle classified information.
Related Article: Washington Post
WOAI: Whistleblower Says Free Cell Phone Program More Wasteful Than Most Realize
The FCC's Lifeline program that gives away free cell phones to qualifying low-income consumers faces debate in Congress amidst reports of mismanagement and waste. One whistleblower who worked for the program said she was told to pull out addresses from a phone book to sign more people up without their knowledge.
Food Safety News: More Time to Decide Whether to Sign or Veto TN "Ag Gag"
Today may be the earliest that Tennessee's anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bill reaches Governor Bill Haslam's desk, after which he has until at least May 14 or 15 to decide whether he will sign or veto the controversial legislation.
FierceGovernment: Federal Air Marshal Wins Appeal in Whistleblower Case
More coverage of TSA whistleblower and GAP client Robert MacLean's case and the recent federal appeals court decision that reinforces the strength of federal whistleblower protections.
Daytona Beach News-Journal: Fired Pharmacist Sues Memorial on Whistleblower Grounds
A former hospital pharmacist in Florida alleges that he was fired for reporting concerns about compliance issues to his superiors, including the improper storage and dispensing of controlled substances. The whistleblower, who has been a licensed pharmacist in the state since 1983, has filed a lawsuit against hospital officials.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.