Washington Post: NSA Leak 'Extremely Damaging,' Clapper Says
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Chief Keith Alexander, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, refusing to answer direct questions from lawmakers regarding whether the NSA has ever attempted to collect certain massive amounts of data from cell phones – such as location info. Alexander asserted that the question had been answered in a classified hearing. Democratic senators Ron Wyden (Or) and Mark Udall (Co) provided relatively “pointed questioning” of the officials, while the other members of the committee offered “mostly sympathetic lines of querying.” The Guardian live-chatted the hearing, and published an article today.
In related news, new documents show that, in the 1960s, the NSA tapped into the overseas phone conversations of Mohammad Ali, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, and prominent journalists.
Coalition Protests Flawed Poultry Inspection Plan at White House
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign blogs about the coalition of food and worker safety groups protesting at the White House yesterday against the USDA's poultry inspection proposal. Five hundred thousand petition signatures were rolled out in opposition to the plan, which USDA whistleblowers say would both make it impossible for inspectors to check for fecal contamination, and impact their health due to increased reliance on chemicals.
The Guardian: Owners of Colorado Family Cantaloupe Farm Charged in Fatal Listeria Outbreak
The owners of Jensen Farms, the Colorado cantaloupe farm behind the 2011 Listeria outbreak that killed 33 people, were arrested yesterday on charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. They could each face up to six years in prison.
A Tale of Two Companies
Guest blogger Michael Winston, the former Countrywide executive who blew the whistle on the company's fraudulent activities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, details his experience on the GAP blog as a truth-teller in the finance industry.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that another Countrywide whistleblower testified this week in a case against Bank of America, which bought Countrywide during the financial crisis. He said his concerns about loan quality issues and problematic lending practices were disregarded and that he was marginalized.
Military Times: Marine Corps Whistleblower Relieved Following Allegations of Email Harassment
Major James Weirick, who blew the whistle on Marine scout snipers accused of urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in 2011, has been removed from his job and asked to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. The move came after allegations that he sent a harassing email to a Marine officer he accused of unlawful command influence in the case. Weirick's attorney said the timing of his removal is suspect since it happened right before an executive officer of one of the accused snipers in the urination scandal is due to appear before a board of inquiry, and that the action is an attempt to undermine Weirick's credibility.
Village Voice: NYPD Internal Affairs Went Digging for Dirt on Whistleblower Cop Adrian Schoolcraft's Father and Sister
Adrian Schoolcraft, the Brooklyn cop who exposed corruption by his bosses in 2009, filed a lawsuit against the city after alleged retaliation including being forced into the Jamaica Hospital psychiatric ward. In a hearing on the case this week, records revealed that during the NYPD's investigation of Schoolcraft in 2010, the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau had run the names of the whistleblower's father and sister through criminal databases even though they were not under criminal investigation.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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Editor's Note, from GAP President Louis Clark: Michael Winston is a former executive at Countrywide Financial Corporation, who blew the whistle on the company's clearly fraudulent activities that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. A guest on GAP's American Whistleblower Tour initiative and a close collaborator of ours, Winston has agreed to publish several entries on The Whistleblogger regarding both his experience as a truth-teller in the finance industry, and the continued lack of accountability enforced by the government toward the officers of large-scale financial institutions. These entries are part of GAP's Know Your Rights campaign covering the Banking Industry.
I had already had a career nearing three decades in executive positions in Fortune 100 companies when I was approached by Countrywide Financial Corporation. When I accepted an invitation to go work for this rapidly growing mortgage company in 2005, I was eager for a new opportunity and envisioned years of impact, performance and the satisfaction that comes from knowing we made a difference. They told me they wanted me to help them build a broadly diversified financial services powerhouse, a “Goldman Sachs on the Pacific.” I was excited to help them. I served as Managing Director and Enterprise Chief Leadership Officer.
When I was recruited and made my first of three trips to Countrywide, I was told by the recruiter:
When you see the company’s logo, Michael, you’ll see that the word "principles" forms the base of the triangle. That’s because principles form the base of everything we do. They have to. If we find anyone making ethical breaches, we fire them immediately. There’s no wiggle room when it comes to that. We are the number one mortgage lender in the nation – but we’re nowhere near as big as we intend to get, and that kind of success doesn’t happen without a firm bedrock of sound principles.
What had impressed me during those recruiting sessions was Countrywide's strong declaration about principles. Recruiting packets stated Countrywide was…
Steadfast in our guiding Principles – Countrywide strives to promote a culture of ethics, in which honesty, integrity, and respect for others provide the foundation for our interactions with employees, customers, business partners, and stakeholders. These principles are epitomized by our commitment to engaging in fair and responsible business practices and to taking a “do-the-right-thing” approach to all business decisions.
In fact, the actual practice at Countrywide could not have been further afield. I had no idea I would wind up in a battle that would consume years of my life. I never dreamt the nation’s economy would soon lie in tatters, forcing millions from their jobs and, in record numbers, from their homes as well. I never suspected that my new employer would in a few years come to be known as one of the prime players in a global economic crisis of historical proportions – an institution that Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) referred to as “ground zero of the financial crisis.”
The Guardian: UK Detention of Reprieve Activist Consistent with NSA's View of Drone Opponents as 'Threats' and 'Adversaries'
Image via flickr user Steve Rhodes
This piece by Glenn Greenwald reveals the NSA's view of anti-drone activists as propagandists and threats to national security. Two days ago, a Yemeni activist with a history of challenging US drone use was detained in a UK airport and questioned about his anti-drone work and political views. He was threatened to be held for nine hours – the same treatment experienced recently by Greenwald's partner David Miranda – despite the activist's insistence that he didn't pose any security threat.
The article goes on to reveal disclosures from whistleblower Edward Snowden that show the US government “characterize[s] even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of 'propaganda campaigns' from America's ‘adversaries’.” That entry is part of an internal, classified government website which can only be edited by high-level, top secret officers.
Key Quote: … the NSA entry complains that the phrase "drone strike" is a "loaded term", as it "connote[s] mindless automatons with no capability for independent thought" and thus "may invoke an emotional reaction". This, the document asserts, "is what propaganda intends to do".
Although the document at one points suggests that some drone opposition may come from "citizens with legitimate social agendas", the section on "adversary propaganda themes" includes virtually every one of the arguments most frequently made in the US against the US drone policy, including that the threat of terrorism is small when compared to other threats, that drone strikes intensify rather than curb the risk of terrorism by fueling anti-American animus, and that drones kill too many civilians.
The Guardian: NSA Spied on Indian Embassy and UN Mission, Edward Snowden Files Revealed
Another Snowden disclosure details how the NSA has been excessively data-mining the Indian government, which includes the country’s embassy in Washington and its UN presence in New York. The programs targeting Indian communications included PRISM and Boundless Informant.
In related news, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, which The Guardian refers to as "the most comprehensive package of surveillance reforms so far presented on Capitol Hill." It would prevent the NSA's bulk collection of phone records and internet communications of Americans, as well as provide a public advocate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Additionally, according to the Associated Press, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Court will ultimately have to decide the constitutionality of the NSA programs. He points out, however, that the judicial branch knows the least about the issues in question and the "extent of the threat against which the wiretapping is directed."
TuscaloosaNews.com (AL): Tuscaloosa Ponders Whistleblower Policy; Those Who Reported Fraud Will Be Protected
Tuscaloosa's city auditor recommended the creation of a whistleblower policy that would protect city employees and residents who report government wrongdoing. The council is expected to approve the new policy next week.
The Guardian: Whistleblowers – Why They Should Be Listened To
This opinion piece describes the important role employees can play as "an institution's best early warning system," but that fear of retaliation often keeps workers silent. The author urges local authorities to create a culture that makes it easy and attractive for concerned individuals to report issues.
ProPublica: SEC Wins Big Fine from JPMorgan But Execs Skate Free
This article details how, although the SEC was able to prompt representatives from JP Morgan to admit wrongdoing regarding the $6 billion London Whale trading scandal, culpable JP Morgan officials who repeatedly made misleading statements to shareholders and the public are not going to be charged. This is indicative of many financial accountability whistleblowers' assertions made to GAP that the officers of major financial institutions who commit fraud and mislead the public do not face legal ramifications.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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The Guardian: Brazilian President Rousseff – US Surveillance a ‘Breach of International Law’
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff engaged in a “blistering” attack against the NSA spying programs yesterday at the UN General Assembly. Rousseff accused the US of violating international law in spying on Brazilian citizens, state-owned companies, and her personal communications. In response, she has even proposed that the country create its own Internet structure.
Rousseff called the NSA spying “a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” and also made the powerful statement that “in the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.”
Cincinnati Enquirer: Retirement Home Must Pay Manager Fired After Bedbug Complaint
An Ohio retirement home operator will pay $20,000 in damages to a former manager who was fired after complaining about a bedbug infestation. The employee filed the complaint in late 2011 through the Occupation Safety and Health Administration’s whistleblower program.
HR.BLR: Was Employee Terminated for Whistleblowing or Privacy Breach?
A former nurse practitioner for an orthopedic clinic in Providence, WA, who sued for wrongful termination, had her complaint dismissed from trial court and is moving on to the state Court of Appeals. In 2008, the former employee told supervisors that her patients had “conditions too complex from an orthopedic standpoint” for her to be assisting, and later expressed concerns about improper Medicare billing at the clinic.
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New York Times: Was this Whistleblower Muzzled?
The story of Richard Bowen – a GAP client and former Citigroup executive – is told here in detail. Nearly six years ago, Bowen blew the whistle on malfeasance, ringing the warning bells for the financial meltdown that was to come. After being ignored internally, he filed a complaint under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and took his concerns to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to protect whistleblowers like Bowen, but instead also ignored him.
In 2009, he was fired and his ensuing legal battle is indicative of how little accountability or transparency has been demanded of the financial system that brought the world economy to its knees. In 2010, Bowen produced testimony for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which according to the article raised an “all battle stations” call at Citigroup, bringing into question the independence of the congressional investigation. Through intense pressuring from Citigroup and commission members, Bowen was forced to change and limit his testimony, essentially gagging the whistleblower from revealing the full story.
Associated Press: Close Ties Between White House, NSA Spying Review
This article details how the “independent” group of experts brought together to review the NSA surveillance programs – as promised by President Obama – is really nothing of the kind. According to the article, “the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.”
MIT Technology Review: Bruce Schneier – NSA Spying is Making Us Less Safe
Image via wikimedia user EFF
Prominent cryptographer and security expert Bruce Schneier, who has been working with The Guardian on the disclosures of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, gave an interview detailing what the disclosures have truly revealed, how the actions have made Americans less safe, that more huge revelations “might” be coming, and that the average person interested in privacy should advocate for political change.
Also, the New York Times' editorial board has reacted to recent disclosures showing that the NSA weakened software encryption standards and apparently can decrypt anything. The article calls the back doors and special access routes “another example of the intelligence communities overreach.”
Key Quote (Schneier): The NSA’s actions are making us all less safe. They’re not just spying on the bad guys, they’re deliberately weakening Internet security for everyone—including the good guys. It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state.
International Business Times: Snowden NSA Leaks – Rep. Schiff Introduces Bill to Reform Secret Court
This past Friday, California Democrat Adam Schiff introduced legislation to include a public advocate at FISC hearings before decisions are made. The congressman’s press release can be found here.
Providence Journal: Edward Fitzpatrick – Manning’s Providence-based Lawyer Warns of Chilling Effect on Whistleblowers
Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s lawyer David Coombs said that his client’s 35-year sentence has a chilling effect for those who reveals "stuff that embarrasses the government.” He also added that those who disclose information that makes the “government look good” will not be prosecuted. The article also tells the story of how Coombs came to represent Manning, whose disclosures “might have embarrassed US diplomats,” though prosecutors provided no proof of actual harm done to US national security or military personnel.
Financial Times: Whistleblower in the Eye of the Storm
A Beninese accountant who served as executive director of finance and risk for the pan-African Ecobank Transnational says she was suspended because of her “resistance to actions she felt were not in the interests of the bank.” While the bank’s incoming CEO maintains his right to make changes in upper-management at the institution, the reason for the accountant’s dismissal are still unclear given her stellar reviews from former employers and her award for African businesswoman of the year in 2010.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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Huffington Post: The NSA Surveillance Destroys Diplomacy and Democracy
President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff
GAP Executive & International Director Bea Edwards confronts the latest blow to US diplomatic relations and its international reputation when Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled her October visit to the White House. Rousseff’s action was taken in response to recent reports that the US was spying on her and Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, even as the two governments were set to finalize a negotiated joint oil exploration deal. Edwards comments on how the follow-up comments made by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and the White House show a staggering lack of concern and lack of control over the NSA’s overseas intelligence tentacles.
This column from The Guardian further discusses the seriousness of the Brazil situation in context of the Obama administration’s continued problems with Latin American relations.
Jacksonville Daily Record: Whistleblower Case to be Reviewed
The whistleblower complaint lodged by the former IT director for the Florida State Attorney’s office will be investigated by the state’s Commission on Human Relations. The former employee testified in the Trayvon Martin case that his former employer had not turned over key evidence to George Zimmerman’s defense team. He now alleges that he was fired because of that testimony. The termination letter, which dismissed the former employee from his duties, accuses him of unauthorized access of office computers.