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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."
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Radio Free Europe: Whistleblower’s Case Revives Concerns of Punitive Psychiatry in Russia
A Russian labor union chairwoman, who blew the whistle when she found out one of her organization’s accountants had been bribed with an apartment from the Kremlin administration, has been sent by authorities to a psychiatric hospital as punishment. Russian prosecutors allegedly have no trouble ordering mental evaluations and, according to the article, the tactic is returning in Russia as an effective silencer for whistleblowers and dissenters. The psychiatric institution has confirmed her mental health is stable, though the government is also accusing her of embezzlement.
GAP has represented whistleblower clients in the past that faced punitive psychological analyses. Namely, former DC firefighter Vanessa Coleman, who was singly and unreasonably blamed for a major fire, was ordered to submit a psychological exam, a gross violation of privacy rights.
Rolling Stone: Whistleblowers’ Film Highlights Dangers of Crackdown
Robert Greenwald’s new film War on Whistleblowers, focusing on the stories of four national security whistleblowers (including GAP clients Tom Drake and Franz Gayl) illustrates the growing threat that government secrets pose to the foundations of American democracy. This dangerous path is laid out by a combination of the Obama administration’s contention that greater secrecy allows for greater security and the lucrative financial incentives centered around creating that secrecy – which the whistleblowers in the film attempted to expose.
This article focuses on one of the film’s subjects, NSA whistleblower Tom Drake, who exposed gross waste and fraud involving an illegal program that spied on American citizens. Drake has since become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s rampant use of the Espionage Act to equate exposing the truth with spying.
Associated Press: Calif. Bill that Would Have Limited Undercover Farm Animal Abuse Investigations Withdrawn
The sponsor of California's Ag Gag legislation withdrew his bill yesterday three hours before it was to face a vote in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture. California now joins Arkansas and Wyoming in declining to advance bills that would punish the documenter of farm animal abuse rather than the abuse itself. Several more bills, including in Tennessee, Indiana and North Carolina, remain pending.
Related Articles: Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee
Tonight, April 17, the new documentary War on Whistleblowers: Free Speech and the National Security State will make its New York City premiere. This eye-opening film showcases recent high-profile national security and military whistleblowers who have been persecuted, prosecuted and mistreated by the Bush and Obama administrations.
The new documentary by Robert Greenwald focuses on the cases of four whistleblowers whom the federal government targeted after they disclosed waste and abuse at the National Security Agency, Department of Justice, a major defense contractor and the Marine Corps. These truth-tellers include GAP clients Tom Drake (NSA whistleblower) and Franz Gayl (Troop Safety whistleblower). The film also features whistleblowers Thomas Tamm (warrantless wiretapping) and Michael DeKort (Lockheed Martin).
The NYC premiere is this evening, April 17 at 6 p.m. at Sunshine Landmark on 143 East Houston St. in Manhattan. The film, running 66 minutes, will be followed by a panel featuring Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel, USA Today's Tom Vanden Brook, and The New York Times' Margaret Sullivan (moderator). A reception will follow the panel at 8 p.m.
RSVPs are being taken by Brave New Foundation's Linsey Pecikonis at firstname.lastname@example.org
The War on Whistleblowers features a number of prominent journalists, attorneys and activists from the national whistleblower rights community and emphasizes the fundamental importance of a free press in telling whistleblower stories.
The documentary highlights the views of:
- GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack
- GAP Legal Director Tom Devine
- Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg
- Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Director Danielle Brian
- The New York Times reporter David Carr
- NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff
- Washington Post reporter Dana Preist
- The New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer
RSVPs are being taken by Brave New Foundation's Linsey Pecikonis at email@example.com
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The Guardian: Obama’s Dangerously Contradictory Stance on Whistleblowers
This editorial by GAP Legal Director Tom Devine looks at the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of whistleblowers as part of a dangerous, expanding national security bureaucracy that is “winning a war” within the White House. While President Obama has passed groundbreaking whistleblower protection (WPEA) and enhanced free-speech rights, his administration has prosecuted more national security whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, and does little to protect against whistleblower retaliation. Devine’s eye-opening op-ed also discusses the new documentary, War on Whistleblowers, which features GAP clients and attorneys. The film previewed yesterday in Washington, DC at the Newseum, and will open in New York City tonight.
The documentary by Robert Greenwald particularly emphasizes the role freedom of the press plays in telling whistleblowers’ stories. Often, published articles are the greatest form of vindication that whistleblowers can receive.
GAP released a petition yesterday calling on President Obama to end the war on national security whistleblowers.
Key Quote: The transparency administration's legacy is being erased by an out-of-control national security bureaucracy. As this important documentary exposes, so far the tactic has been prosecuting or harassing national security whistleblowers. And there's danger the full-scale crackdown could expand to canceling the independent job rights of nearly all government workers in the name of national security. Ironically, the threats are from an administration that championed historic whistleblower protection laws.
Huffington Post: Obama Whistleblower Prosecutions Lead to Chilling Effect on Press
In light of the recent documentary War on Whistleblowers and journalist Jonathan Landay’s article revealing the large number of low-level non-Al Qaeda militants killed by drones, the dangerous impact of national security-related whistleblower prosecutions on US democracy has become evident. The prosecution of not only whistleblowers, but the journalists often relied upon by whistleblowers to break stories, is a mark of the growing use of secrecy as a government tactic.
Key Quote: Absent a public outcry, [GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack] said she saw few signs of improvement in Obama's second term.
"…in general we had this secrecy regime put in place by Bush, and instead of rolling it back, Obama has just further expanded it"
Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment Does What Government Won’t
A GAP coalition partner recently released a report comprehensively documenting the United States' descent into using torture as a legitimate interrogation technique. GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack outlines some of the reports’ conclusions.
Dear GAP Supporters,
Thanks in part to the strong support of President Obama, there finally has been some progress on protections for federal whistleblowers. But at the same time, secrecy in the national security state is growing and threatening whistleblowers, the media, and freedom of speech.
Tell President Obama to End the War on National Security Whistleblowers, Sign the Petition Today!
The President deserves credit for helping to enact the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and issuing a directive to protect some national security and intelligence community whistleblowers for the first time. But the Obama administration also has taken actions to undermine those same protections. There have been unprecedented prosecutions of so-called "leakers" under the Espionage Act. Also, a loophole supported by the administration allows agencies to cancel due process and strip whistleblower rights in the name of national security without appeal or oversight.
In fact, the Obama administration is at odds with itself over whistleblowers. While the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Justice, and the Office of Personnel Management are making it easier to silence and retaliate against national security whistleblowers, government watchdog agencies such as the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board – each led by Obama appointees – are objecting to the national security loopholes for whistleblower protections.
A new film called The War on Whistleblowers: Free Speech and the National Security State tells the stories of four whistleblowers who were silenced – including GAP whistleblowers Franz Gayl and Thomas Drake – and the journalists who were finally able to get these truth-telling voices heard.
In the spirit of the film, we and our partners in the Make It Safe Coalition are asking people to stand up and demand that President Obama end the war on intelligence whistleblowers and the threats to our free speech in the name of national security.
Sign our petition to President Obama urging accountability in the national security state and strong protections for whistleblowers!
Shanna Devine is Legislative Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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Los Angeles Times: A WikiLeaks Way Out
This editorial calls for a speedy conclusion to the ongoing trial of military whistleblower Bradley Manning. Manning, who has been held in custody by the US military since 2010 after obtaining and disclosing classified information, has already pled guilty on 10 counts that could subject him to 20 years in prison. The US government wants to take his charge further, however, and put him in prison for life under multiple violations of the Espionage Act.
Portland Press Herald: David Rohde – Leadership Failure Weakens UN
UN whistleblower James Wasserstrom – who GAP represents on advocacy issues – bore witness to illegality and corruption among top UN managers and has undergone a six-year battle against the organization. He finally received a meager settlement that discouraged future UN whistleblowers and left him worse off than before he blew the whistle. This editorial emphasizes the importance of whistleblowers in the United Nations – a vital organization plagued with administrative problems – and the dangers that lie ahead if the institution does not undergo serious change.
Key Quote: A new system put in place in 2006 to defend whistle-blowers is failing, according to a study by the Government Accountability Project, an American organization that defends whistle-blowers.
The group found that the U.N.’s ethics office received at least 343 inquiries from whistle-blowers about protection against retaliation as of last June, but only 1 percent of the claims were ultimately validated as retaliation.
Associated Press: Tenn. Animal Abuse Reporting Requirement Hits Snag in Senate; Sponsor Denounces 'Vigilantes'
A sponsor of Tennessee's 'Ag Gag' bill – which would require anyone recording images of animal abuse to submit footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours – said that the legislation was only meant to halt animal abuse, but a fellow Republican senator said it was more about preventing the filming of animal abuse and had serious reservations. A vote on the bill was delayed until Wednesday.
GAP's Food Integrity Campaign Director Amanda Hitt has explained (including to NPR and in a letter to The New York Times) why such mandatory reporting provisions are detrimental to whistleblowers.
The Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment is an independent, non-partisan group that produced a report comprehensively documenting the United States' descent into torture. The Task Force released a 600-page report today. Among the Report's many conclusions:
U.S. forces, in many instances, used interrogation techniques on detainees that constitute torture. American personnel conducted an even larger number of interrogations that involved “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment. Both categories of actions violate U.S. laws and international treaties. Such conduct was directly counter to values of the Constitution and our nation.
There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.
The Senate Intelligence Committee approved its own 6,000 page report
, which similarly concludes that torture occurred and was ineffective at gleaning intelligence, but Congress refused to release the report publicly. Shame on Congress.
Along the same vein, the Obama administration has said it wants to "look forward, not backward" on torture, and the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the government officials who ordered torture, the doctors who supervised it, the lawyers who justified it, or the agents who actually tortured people. Shame on the Obama administration.
(The Justice Department instead chose to prosecute Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower John Kiriakou, who refused to participate in torture and helped exposed the torture program).
The Task Force places much of the blame for torture on the high-level officials that ordered and authorized the practices, but finds that culpability also lies with the lawyers who rationalized torture. The report found that:
Lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) repeatedly gaveerroneous legal sanction to certain activities that amounted to torture and cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of U.S. and international law, and indoing so, did not properly serve their clients: the president and the American people.
Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department absolved
the torture memo authors (Jay Bybee and John Yoo) of any professional accountability for torture.
Despite the obvious ethical violations in rationalizing torture, I am the only Justice Department attorney who was referred the bar associations where I'm licensed in connection with a torture case (that of so-called "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh), and I blew the whistle in that case. (One bar referral is still pending a decade later).
The Task Force was also critical of the excessive secrecy surrounding the torture program:
The high level of secrecy surrounding the rendition and torture of detainees since September 11 cannot continue to be justified on the basis of national security.
If national security is no longer a justification for secrecy, as the Task Force concludes, then the only reason for continued secrecy is to cover-up torture and cover for the officials who perpetuated the torture program. (I've written
about the lengths to which the executive branch - particularly the CIA - has gone to protect and promote torturers).
A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.
We have been protecting the wrong people.This article orginally appeared 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.