New York Times: NSA Report Outlined Goals for More Power
This article, coauthored by Laura Poitras and James Risen, details a new February 2012 document disclosed by NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden that outlines a “four-year strategy for the N.S.A.’s signals intelligence operations” in which “agency officials set an objective to ‘aggressively pursue legal authorities and a policy framework mapped more fully to the information age.’” As the article puts it, the document shows the agency was “intent on maintaining its dominance in intelligence collection, pledg[ing] last year to push to expand its surveillance powers.” The document also says that current laws do not conform to the needs of NSA surveillance.
The NSA has also reportedly infected “more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information.”
Key Quote (NYT): Using sweeping language, the paper also outlined some of the agency’s other ambitions. They included defeating the cybersecurity practices of adversaries in order to acquire the data the agency needs from “anyone, anytime, anywhere.” The agency also said it would try to decrypt or bypass codes that keep communications secret by influencing “the global commercial encryption market through commercial relationships,” human spies and intelligence partners in other countries. It also talked of the need to “revolutionize” analysis of its vast collections of data to “radically increase operational impact.”
Willamette Week: Hales 'Open' to Independent Investigations of Whistleblower Complaints
In the wake of a top city official being fired after whistleblowers revealed his alleged mishandling of money, the mayor of Portland, Oregon has stated that he’s “‘open to the idea of an independent office’ to investigate whistleblower complaints by city employees.” The City Auditor has stated that increased protection for truth-tellers is a priority.
KVUE (Texas): Construction Workers Protest Firing of Fellow Worker
After being almost killed by falling steel, a construction worker in Austin, Texas reported safety violations at a construction company to federal officials. He was fired by the company the next day, and there are now protests from other workers.
Nigerian Tribune: Lagos to Enact 'Whistleblower' Law
One of the more economically important states in Nigeria is slated to enact whistleblower protections.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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Military Whistleblower Reform Long Overdue
Earlier this week, nearly 50 whistleblowers and organizations sent a joint letter to Congress calling for an overhaul of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988, which provides “limited and narrow protection” for those making lawful disclosures while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. This blog – authored by GAP legislative intern Matthew Luongo – details the letter and outlines the current shortcomings of the current MWPA. Multiple measures to bolster the law have been introduced by lawmakers in the House and Senate.
Associated Press: US Park Police Chief Announces Retirement
The Chief of the United States Park Police announced Thursday her plans to retire next month after over thirty years in law enforcement. Teresa Chambers was the first woman ever appointed to the role, which is charged with overseeing the protection of many of America's landmarks, including the National Mall. She became a prominent whistleblower, publicly complaining about a lack of staffing and funding to adequately run her department, and was fired in 2003.
Chambers sought protection under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act and after a lengthy legal battle, the Merit Systems Protection Board ordered her reinstated in 2011 with back pay, interest and benefits. The law enforcement chief is quoted as saying that “It was important that I leave on my terms and at a time of my choosing.”
Undercover Video of Pig Abuse Moves Tyson to Cancel Farm Contract, Proves Ag Gag Laws Unjust
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign discusses the efficacy of undercover video in holding food industry wrongdoers accountable, as demonstrated by this week's news reports of an Oklahoma pig farm whose contract was canceled by Tyson Foods after video evidence surfaced of animal abuse. The important role video plays in validating whistleblower concerns makes a huge difference in the lives of truth-tellers, a chief reason FIC continues to fight against Ag Gag laws that criminalize workers who take undercover video.
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This year, legislation has been drafted in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate in an effort to bolster the provisions of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988 (MWPA), which provides limited and narrow protection of lawful disclosures made by those serving in the United States Armed Forces. Earlier this week, nearly 50 whistleblowers and organizations sent a joint letter to Congress calling for an overhaul of the MWPA.
Due to the toothlessness of the current law, hundreds of whistleblowers each year have been subject to acts of reprisal upon utilizing these lawful channels – which only ostensibly provide protection. In reality, there are five crucial issues with the MWPA as it stands today:
1. The lack of timely results: While the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of Inspector General (OIG) must lawfully complete investigations within 180 days, the average time is instead 451 days – with some cases languishing for up to five or six years.
2. The poor quality of investigations: The DOD OIG currently only investigates 29% of complaints, and legally sufficient supporting evidence has only been found in 5% of cases; furthermore, less than half of the cases follow proper procedural protocol, which itself has not been updated since 1996.
3. Poor prospects for relief: More than a 50% decline in OIG backing of reprisal claims from 2006 to 2011, with less than 1% of supported complainants actually obtaining relief.
4. Poor burdens of proof: 65% of complainant losses are based on adverse personal data that becomes uncovered during the OIG investigatory process.
5. Lack of due process: since 1988, not one Board of Correction of Military Records (BCMR) has granted a request for a due process hearing.
In order to prevent further cases of injustice, Senators Mark Warner (D-Va), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tim Kaine (D-Va) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014. The measure would provide relief for those retaliated against while also disciplining those who carry out such acts of retaliation.
in the joint letter sent on Tuesday, Nov. 19, whistleblowers and their advocates wrote to members of the senate and urged them to support the Warner-Collins-Kaine-Grassley Amendment. They asserted: “Our troops have been promised protections for reporting wrongdoing, but those have not materialized. It has been well-documented that the law that is supposed to protect them is disgracefully inadequate,” citing scores of unresolved whistleblower and sexual assault retaliation cases.
Concurrently, Representatives Jackie Speier (D-Ca) and Mike Coffman (R-Co) introduced a parallel measure – the Speier-Coffman Amendment – that was adopted in the House version of the NDAA for FY 2014.
The House and Senate amendments attempt to strengthen whistleblower rights through key legislative provisions, including:
1. Longer statute of limitations: From 60 days to six months
2. Larger protected audiences: To include testimony to congressional and law enforcement staff, courts, grand jury, and court martial proceedings
3. Closed loopholes for protected speech: The reforms would address the same loopholes that were eliminated in the civil service WPEA
4. Greater protection against harassment: Including the retaliatory removal of duties inconsistent with rank
5. Independent service Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations: Cases must be investigated by an organization higher than and removed from the area of alleged harassment (only in Senate amendment)
6. Administrative due process hearings: Each member have the right to BCMR administrative due process hearings (only in Senate amendment)
7. Burdens of proof: OIG probes and BCMR hearings be governed by the WPA burdens of proof (only in House version)
8. Judicial Review: Judicial review to appeal administrative rulings (only in House version)
Regrettably, the House Judiciary Committee removed two key provisions from the Speier-Coffman amendment: 1) protection for supporting witnesses, and 2) a right for whistleblowers to challenge illegal retaliation at administrative due process hearings, which currently are discretionary and never have been held since 1988. The House bill does, though, provide for a higher burdens of proof standard which approaches that of the International Best Practices for Whistleblower Policies.
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NBC News: Tyson Foods Dumps Pig Farm after NBC Shows Company Video of Alleged Abuse
Tyson Foods, the nation's largest meat producer, said it has terminated a contract with one of its suppliers, an Oklahoma pig farm, after NBC News revealed undercover video of animal abuse at the facility.
Whistleblowers often rely on undercover video to expose wrongdoing without fear of retaliation. GAP client and USDA inspector Jim Schrier faced terrible retaliation when he blew the whistle on inhumane handling at a Tyson Foods pig slaughter plant in Iowa.
Iowa passed an Ag Gag law last year that criminalizes workers who take undercover video. GAP's Food Integrity Campaign has fought against the many state Ag Gag bills introduced in the last few years. All 11 bills proposed in 2013 were defeated.
Al Jazeera: Is BP ‘Trolling’ its Facebook Critics?
This article reports that BP, through a hired public relations firm (Ogilvy & Mather), has been harassing online users that have publicly criticized the oil giant’s actions through its Facebook page. The article quotes “Marie” who sought assistance from GAP after being repeatedly harassed to the point of being called offensive names and receiving threats to her physical safety. According to the article, the harassment, often racist, sexist, and violent, is carried out by ‘trolls’ – online users who respond to critics and sometimes even post on their personal Facebook pages. BP representatives have continuously shied away from responsibility and Ogilvy refuses to share information other than its basic policy, most of which is posted publicly.
GAP Investigator Shanna Devine has worked to hold BP and Ogilvy accountable for these recent indications of harassment and countless other cases of wrongdoing. For more information on GAP’s campaign visit this page.
Key Quote: Marie sought assistance from the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a non-profit group in Washington DC, and has produced boxes of documents and well-researched information that may show that the people harassing BP's critics online worked for BP or Ogilvy.
"We'd been hearing of this kind of harassment by BP when we were working on our health project [in the Gulf of Mexico], so it sparked our interest," GAP investigator Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera. "We saw Marie's documentation of more serious threats made on the BP page, and decided to investigate."
Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and "others just being more derogatory", according to Devine. "We've seen all this documentation and that's why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman's office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about."
GAP's Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera she believes the onus is on BP to investigate the possibility that there is a connection between the harassment and Ogilvy and BP employees.
"But so far they've taken a very hands-off approach," she explained. "They've not taken responsibility and they are not willing to share information with us."
The Guardian: US and UK Struck Secret Deal to Allow NSA to ‘UnMask’ Britons’ Personal Data
The latest revelation from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden comes via The Guardian and U.K.’s Channel 4 News, showing that “the phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by [the NSA] under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials.” The story is based on a 2007 NSA memo showing the agency was allowed to collect such personal information which had “previously been off limits.”
The report illustrates that: the phone and email records were “incidentally collected ... meaning the individuals were not the initial targets of surveillance operations” and weren’t suspects of any crime; the NSA reined in people “three ‘hops’ away” from original targets (i.e., “friend of a friend of a friend”) which pulls about five million people into one search; and a separate memo highlights “a proposed NSA procedure for spying on the citizens of the UK and other Five-Eyes nations, even where the partner government has explicitly denied the US permission to do so.”
Center for Public Integrity: The Mess Gets Worse at Hanford’s Nuclear Site
The Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, where the government has spent billions in its efforts to dispose of 56 million gallons of toxic nuclear waste stored in leaky underground tanks, has for many years been the source of controversy for the federal government and Hanford contractors. In addition to efforts on the part of these bodies to ‘fast track’ the cleanup at Hanford, watchdogs and whistleblowers have pointed out (at their peril) the monumental dangers posed by Hanford building projects. Outside of its underground tanks leaking radioactive waste into the ground, a vitrification plant at Hanford has been the subject of much scrutiny. This article delves into the stories of the whistleblowers and their concerns, most prominently Walt Tamosaitis, a speaker on GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour, who was laid off last month for raising continued concerns about building plan safety. The article also quotes Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of GAP spin-off Hanford Challenge.
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Note: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce are holding a hearing today at 2:00 p.m. EST in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342 http://1.usa.gov/1cxiRa1.
Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce will hold a hearing examining the national security workforce. Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight and Make It Safe Coalition will testify to make the coalition point that we need action in light of a recent court decision that has effectively cancelled civil service due process rights and whistleblower protections for anyone in a 'national security sensitive' position.
In August, a court decision granted federal agencies sweeping powers to classify at least half a million positions as national security sensitive (Kaplan v. Conyers, Northover and MSP). The same ruling stripped federal employees in these positions of their right to appeal an adverse personnel action, setting the stage to also deny due process rights for actions that are discriminatory or in retaliation for whistleblowing. The decision in Conyers erases civil service due process rights and whistleblower protections for a wide range of employees in positions ranging from a clerk at an agency grocery store to an accounting secretary, as the dissent in the case pointed out.
"There is a simple legislative fix that would reverse the harmful effects of the activist court decision and reaffirm the long-standing congressional mandate for due process rights for civil servants who do not have access to classified information," said Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy for the Project on Government Oversight. "The legislation clarifies that an employee appealing an action arising from an eligibility determination for a position that does not require a security clearance or access to classified information may not be denied Merit Systems Protection Board review of the merits of the underlying eligibility determination," she said.
The Guardian: Court Order that Allowed NSA Surveillance is Revealed for First Time
Last night, the Obama administration released hundreds of pages of previously classified documents related to the authorization of the NSA surveillance programs, including what is believed to be the initial ruling from the FISC court from 2004 allowing for the government’s tracking of citizens’ emails. Much of that particular document has been redacted.
In addition, the newest significant story based on a disclosure from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that the “NSA logged more than 33 million Norwegian phone conversations over a period of a month last winter.” The report from a Norwegian newspaper is coauthored by Glenn Greenwald. In response, Norway’s intelligence service has claimed that it, not the NSA, collected the records.
Key Quote (The Guardian): A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on Monday night, among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program.
The order by the Fisa court, almost certainly its first ruling on the controversial program and published only in heavily redacted form, shows that it granted permission for the trawl in part because of the type of devices used for the surveillance. Even the judge approving the spying called it a “novel use” of government authorities.
Another later court order found that what it called "systemic overcollection" had taken place.
Related Articles: New York Times, Washington Post
Washington Post: Assange Not Under Sealed Indictment, US Officials Say
According to “senior law enforcement sources” that spoke with the Washington Post, after three years of speculation, “federal prosecutors have not filed a sealed indictment” against Julian Assange. However, it’s important to note that one official said “Nothing has occurred so far ... but it’s subject to change. I can’t predict what’s going to happen. The investigation is ongoing.”
Montreal Gazette: Bridge Whistleblower Criticized and Fired
Summary: The concerns of a former engineering firm employee are being revisited after cracks have been noticed on Canada's busiest bridge. The whistleblower was let go after a federal government agency complained about his behavior in May. The current safety concerns do not directly correlate with the whistleblower's complaints, though recent media reports are raising concerns over the engineering firm's priorities.
Associated Press: Hanford – Whistleblower Files New Complaint
Donna Busche, a nuclear safety manager at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, has filed a new complaint claiming retaliation after blowing the whistle in 2011. The whistleblower alleges that her employer URS Energy and Bechtel National (Hanford contractors) harassed, isolated, excluded and criticized her for attempting to ensure “that one of the largest environmental cleanups in the world is completed safely.” Hanford contractors URS and Bechtel are no strangers to controversy. The firms face similar allegations from Walt Tamosaitis – a GAP American Whistleblower Tour speaker and former senior-level scientist with URS.
Kauai Council Supports Transparency, Overrides Veto of Pesticide Disclosure Bill
Over the weekend, the Kauai County Council voted 5-2 to override the mayor's veto of a bill that requires biotech companies to disclose pesticide use information and establish buffer zones between their fields and public spaces. The bill, now law, will go into effect in nine months. GAP's Food Integrity Campaign reports.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Court Allows Whistleblower Suits Against Fulton to Proceed
The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that the case of two former county employees is allowed to proceed. The whistleblower lawsuits were filed by former workers who allege they were retaliated against for refusing to help co-workers cover up misspending by the county. Among the accusations is a scheme by employees to divert county money to fund a private wedding planning business. When the whistleblowers brought the case to their supervisor, one was fired and the other demoted.
WSOC: Whistleblower 9 – Concerns Continue Over Mold in CMS Schools
An employee of the Charlotte, North Carolina school district has come forward to say that the school is not telling parents about a serious mold problem. According to the article, a former head of environmental safety for the schools is a nationally known “expert in mold and air quality,” though he quit in 2012 because officials would not allow him to share information openly. The school has repeatedly denied or avoided dealing with the problem that could aggravate respiratory problems in its students and faculty.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
The Guardian: Threat from NSA Leaks May Have Been Overstated by UK, Says Lord Falconer
Former Lord Chancellor of England – Lord Falconer, a close ally of Tony Blair – has stated that (as described by the article) “Britain's intelligence chiefs may have exaggerated the threat posed to national security” by the release of the disclosures from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Chancellor said, "Although I take very seriously what they say [about the importance of secrecy] I am sceptical that the revelations about the broad picture have necessarily done the damage that is being asserted."
In related news, the latest major revelation from a Snowden disclosure has revealed that Australian officials tried to “listen in on the personal phone calls of the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and have targeted the mobile phones of his wife, senior ministers and confidants.” Indonesian officials are angry, and seeking clarification about what happened.
Washington Post: Justice is Reviewing Criminal Cases that Used Surveillance Evidence Gathered Under FISA
In speaking with the Washington Post about legal ramifications of the NSA surveillance programs becoming publicly known, Attorney General Eric Holder touched on whether journalist Glenn Greenwald would be prosecuted for his actions, amidst speculation.
Key Quote: Holder indicated that the Justice Department is not planning to prosecute former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who received documents from Snowden and has written a series of articles based on the leaked material. Greenwald, an American citizen who lives in Brazil, has said he is reluctant to come to the United States because he fears detention and possible prosecution.
“Unless information that has not come to my attention is presented to me, what I have indicated in my testimony before Congress is that any journalist who’s engaged in true journalistic activities is not going to be prosecuted by this Justice Department,” Holder said.
“I certainly don’t agree with what Greenwald has done,” Holder said. “In some ways, he blurs the line between advocate and journalist. But on the basis of what I know now, I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution of Greenwald.”
Greenwald said he welcomed the statement but remains cautious.
“That this question is even on people’s minds is a rather grim reflection of the Obama administration’s record on press freedoms,” he said in an e-mail. “It is a positive step that the Attorney General expressly recognizes that journalism is not and should not be a crime in the United States, but given this administration’s poor record on press freedoms, I’ll consult with my counsel on whether one can or should rely on such caveat-riddled oral assertions about the government’s intentions.”
Winnipeg Free Press: Thumbnail Sketches of Four Federal Whistleblowers and Their Fates
This article profiles four Canadian government whistleblowers: an insurance fraud investigator, a Public Works official, a deputy ambassador to Afghanistan and a former Environmental contractor. All four exposed wrongdoing within their spheres and all but one was retaliated against for the actions taken. Their stories reflect the dichotomy between a government’s positive tone toward transparency and whistleblowing versus the harsher reality.
Bloomberg: UK Bank Whistleblowers Increase as Regulator Scrutiny Grows
In the UK, whistleblower complaints to the Financial Conduct Authority increased 23 percent over the last year, up to 4,718 in a 12-month period ending August 31. This report comes after the agency faced scrutiny over not doing enough to encourage financial whistleblowers to come forward. The number of complaints in the UK surpasses the number of calls to the US Securities and Exchange Commission Office of the Whistleblower for the 2013 fiscal year, where 3,200 tips and complaints were recorded.
The Guardian: Lance Armstrong Comes Face to Face with Whistleblower Emma O’Reilly
Lance Armstrong, who admitted in January to taking performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins, confronted the whistleblower who first spoke out against his illegal drug taking. According to this article, the two discussed what happened, saying Armstrong said his attempts to ruin her reputation were “inexcusable and embarrassing.” The whistleblower, Emma O’Reilly, has said that although Armstrong never “actually used the word sorry,” she did get a sense of closure from their conversation.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.