Read more »
Wired reports that an Army intelligence analyst working in Iraq was arrested two weeks ago for allegedly passing classified information to the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.org, including the 2007 video of a military helicopter firing on a group of unarmed civilians in Baghdad. The analyst has also allegedly given Wikileaks a video of another notorious air strike, 260,000 classified US diplomatic cables, and a document that classified Wikileaks as a security threat to the military.
This news comes in the wake of a New Yorker profile of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and a rundown of extraordinary lengths gone to by the organization to post high profile, and sensitive, information online. That article mentions an award bestowed to Wikileaks from Amnesty International for the site's work to expose corruption in Kenya, and calls the 2007 air strike video released by Wikileaks "a striking artifact—an unmediated representation of the ambiguities and cruelties of modern warfare."
Bradley Manning, who allegedly released that video, was arrested after contacting a former hacker. The hacker, in turn, told the Army about Manning's activities, saying he reported Manning, despite donating money to Wikileaks in the past, because he believed a leak of the classified diplomatic cables were genuinely dangerous to national security. He said to Wired: “I wouldn’t have done this if lives weren’t in danger.“
Manning told the former hacker that he felt compelled to share the classified information with Wikileaks because he saw “incredible things, awful things … that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC.”
Read more »
A new study of insiders who blow the whistle on drug company fraud has found that all of the whistleblowers were primarily motivated by ethics rather than possible financial rewards.
However, the study also found many of the whistleblowers paid a tremendous personal cost for their disclosures and a vast majority experienced retaliation from employers, including being harassed, blackballed, and fired. Many were unable to secure other jobs during and after the investigations and some experienced personal health problems including panic attacks.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, stated:
"A lot of them express a very strong ethical compass that they think guides them but, boy, they really do suffer a lot for the public good that they perform."
Kesselheim also stated:
"The whistle-blowers need more support in the process of bringing the case forward."
As the article notes, the Justice Department currently has more than 1,000 whistleblower cases waiting to be investigated. From 1996 through 2005, health care fraud whistleblowers have led to the recovery of more than $9 billion.
GAP has long known that whistleblowers come forward because they "want to right a wrong, or bring to light something that was ethically compromised."
We have seen many whistleblowers come forward with no possibility of any financial reward. Instead, many are either forced to leave their jobs or choose to leave after experiencing retaliation.
Read more »
GAP coalition partner Public Citizen is calling on the FDA to stop a trial that compares the effects of diabetes drugs Avandia and Actos.
The group argues that the study, named TIDE, endangers the health of the 16,000 participants it intends to study because "a wealth of data now suggests" that Avandia poses significant risk to the heart. Public Citizen contends that TIDE is "exposing thousands of high-risk patients with diabetes to a drug with an unfavorable safety profile and no clinical advantage over [Actos]."
Read more »
Yesterday the Department of Justice announced it was joining a whistleblower lawsuit filed against KBR - the Army's largest contractor in Iraq, and a former subsidiary of Halliburton. The suit alleges some KBR employees received kickbacks, including food, drinks, and tickets to sports events from two air cargo companies. An Assistant Attorney General said:
“Defense contractors cannot take advantage of the ongoing war effort by accepting unlawful kickbacks. We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the Department of Defense's procurement process."
On the very same day, the Army announced that it was awarding KBR a $586 million no-bid contract for support services to the military in Iraq, despite the fact that following pressure from Congress in 2008 on no-bid contracts, the Army has bid out all of its logistics orders. The Army argues that it chose KBR because transitioning a new contractor would be disruptive and expensive.
However, the Army's reluctance to change contractors may be costing American taxpayers money: On April 1, the DoJ sued KBR alleging it violated its contract by using private security guards and improperly charging the Army for their services.
The lawsuit was the first action by the United States against KBR despite continuing criticism from lawmakers and overseers about KBR inflating its costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a steady stream of whistleblowers coming forward about fraud and abuse practiced by the company.
Read more »
Government Accountability Project Homeland Security Director Jesselyn Radack posted an extremely popular blog yesterday on her Daily Kos Diary about the recent aggressive behavior by the Obama administration toward reporters and sources.
The administration authorized a subpoena Monday that would require a New York Times journalist to turn over documents and testify about his confidential sources for a chapter of his 2006 book, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration. Journalists James Risen and a colleague won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for reporting on the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program. That article had been blasted by the Bush administration, which opened an investigation into the sources used by the journalists. But no one was indicted under Bush.
Was the Risen subpoena an aberration? Apparently not. The Obama administration has indicted a NSA source for blowing the whistle on agency mismanagement. In a follow-up blog on Daily Kos. Radack quotes a statement by President Obama on government whistleblowing:
Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.
The official who was indicted is Thomas A. Drake, a former senior executive for the NSA. As the Washington Post notes, "[Drake] has not been accused of sharing the most sensitive of the NSA's secrets: the means it uses to intercept e-mails and phone calls around the world, or the tools it employs to crack adversaries' codes." Instead, Drake was indicted on charges that he mishandled classified information and tried to obstruct an investigation of his actions. What was the information that he "mishandled?" As Radack writes, the information led to articles in the Baltimore Sun that "exposed technical failings and cost overruns of several agency programs that cost billions of dollars."
Read more »
This op/ed by GAP Homeland Security Director Jesselyn Radack appeared today in the Los Angeles Times.
The case of Thomas A. Drake, a former National Security Agency official indicted last week on charges of providing classified information to a Baltimore Sun reporter, is painfully familiar. In 2002, I became the target of a leak investigation stemming from America's first post- 9/11 terrorism prosecution.
As a Justice Department ethics attorney, I had inadvertently learned of a court order for all copies of Justice's internal correspondence about the interrogation of the so-called American Taliban, John Walker Lindh. Although I had written more than a dozen e-mails on the subject, the Justice Department had turned over only two of them, neither of which reflected my conclusion that the FBI committed an ethics violation in its interrogation and that Lindh's confession might have to be sealed. I checked the hard-copy file, which had been a thick, stapled stack of paper. It had been reduced to three rather innocuous e-mails and fax cover sheets from my boss to senior Justice officials.
I resurrected the missing e-mails from the bowels of my computer archives, gave them to my boss and resigned. I also took home a copy of them in case they "disappeared" again. As a criminal case proceeded against Lindh — and the Justice Department, by all appearances, still had not turned over the e-mails — I decided to give them to the media.
The Justice Department then unleashed an investigation that had nothing to do with ascertaining why someone would divulge government documents, and everything to do with plugging the leak. Anonymous senior Justice officials smeared me in the media as a "traitor," "turncoat" and "terrorist sympathizer." They told my new employer, a private law firm, that I was a criminal and would steal client files. They leaned on the firm to fire me. The firm put me on unpaid, indefinite administrative leave instead. When I was awarded meager unemployment benefits, the government assisted the firm in contesting them.
Read more »
Scott Bloch, the controversial former head of the Office of Special Counsel during much of the Bush administration, was charged yesterday with criminal contempt of Congress by the feds. Media reports are also stating that Bloch plans to plead guilty, in what can only be seen as an admission that he did indeed withhold information from congress.
The OSC, of course, is the federal agency that is charged with investigating the concerns of federal employee whistleblowers, and protecting them from retaliation. Bloch was let go by the Bush administration in late 2008, after a seemingly endless string of controversies involving his leadership of the agency. These included, among numerous others, that he attempted to purge his staff of homosexuals, and that the total number of federal employees helped by OSC plummeted during his tenure.
According to the court papers, Bloch failed to give the House committee staff a complete explanation about his instructions that the repair firm, Geeks On Call, perform data deletions on Bloch's computers and on computers of two non-career appointees at Bloch's office.
Bloch told the House investigative staff that the data wipe was done to protect government and personal information on the computer, not to destroy it, according to interview transcripts.
That was one heck of a day in May 2008 when federal agents raided the OSC and the home of Bloch, confiscating numerous computers and file data related to the Geeks On Call fiasco.
GAP was long critical of Bloch, and we’re not surprised by this news. What we do continue to be surprised at, however, is the delay and failure of the Obama administration to appoint a new head of this crucial agency that acts to safeguard against government wrongdoing. The office has been operating without a head for 18 months now. It needs a leader.