Politico reported that yesterday
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that the massive investigation into the sources for the 2005 New York Times article revealing the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program
has "petered-out." Former NSA executive and whistleblower Thomas Drake is the only
person to be indicted in connection with that investigation. And he was not even a source for the New York Times
, and is not charged with leaking classified information to ANY newspaper, period.
After expending the energy
of 25 FBI Agents, five full-time Justice Department prosecutors, and countless taxpayer dollars over 5+ years, it is outrageous that the person facing prison is a protected whistleblower and recent recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-telling.
The people who authorized and perpetrated illegal NSA spying get a complete pass, and millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted on a fruitless, vengeful leak investigation, which ends in the indictment of a whistleblower. This is not the change Obama promised.
In no way am I suggesting that the Justice Department bring more prosecutions against whistleblowers. However, it is revelatory of the government's retaliatory motive in going after Tom Drake to compare who was not
prosecuted as part of the leak investigation with Drake.
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The Ridenhour Awards are today, and GAP, as always, is extremely proud to partner with the Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and others to make this event happen. There should be more events that honor the brave acts that whistleblowers take in the name of Americans. These coveted prizes are among the most respected for those citizens who act "in the spirit of courage and truth."
Every year, the awardees are exceptional. This year is no different. Whistleblower and author Wendell Potter takes the Ridenhour Book prize this year for his work in exposing the true nature of health care providers. Sen. Russ Feingold takes the Courage Award for his continued, principled fight against corporate wrongdoing. And a new award this year, the Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize, is being handed out to the producers of Budrus.
And the coveted Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize -- hands down the most respected annual American award for whistleblowers -- is going to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Tom Drake. Drake, who GAP has advocated for strenuously over the past year, helped expose multi-billion dollar waste and fraud at the NSA by going through several internal government channels. His concerns eventually were reported in the Baltimore Sun. For his actions of protecting America, he now has the dubious distinction of being the fourth American indicted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg was the first person.
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This past weekend, GAP and the NPR show On The Media (OTM) announced an end to their "Blow the Whistle" campaign, which sought to identify which U.S. Senator placed a 'secret hold' during the final hours of the last session of Congress, killing the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). The crowd-sourcing effort, which relied on citizens to contact their respective senators and report back findings, led GAP and OTM to eliminate all but two senators during the three month campaign.
A shocking revelation about the 'secret hold' emerged during the campaign. According to GAP, based on multiple sources inside congressional offices, one of the two remaining senators killed the bill at the request of Republican leadership in the House of Representatives
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented, "Whistleblowers risk their professional lives to fight government fraud, waste and abuse. How can taxpayers trust any politician who campaigns on that pledge, and then secretly kills rights for government workers who risk their careers to deliver it? House leadership owes taxpayers an explanation as to why they started sabotaging those campaign promises just weeks after the election, before they even began governing. Even more important, Speaker John Boehner owes taxpayers a commitment that this will not happen again."
GAP and OTM are able to confirm, based primarily on information from our supporters and listeners (respectively), that all but two senators were not responsible for the hold on the bill. The final, remaining suspects are Republican Jon Kyl of Arizona, and Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Both Senate offices have steadfastly refused to identify which one formally placed the hold. But the distinction is academic. Four times now since 2004, these two senators have taken turns placing holds that blocked Senate action on the WPEA.
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Senator James Risch’s (R-ID) office has confirmed that he had no policy objections to S. 372 last Congress. The Senator’s office held firm to its policy that “it dos not comment on secret holds”; however, through deductive reasoning, he does not fit the bill, so to speak. In turn, GAP has removed Senator Risch from the tapering list of prospective senators that placed the hold on S. 372.
That leaves Senators John Kyl and Jeff Sessions, both part of the Senate leadership team. Four times now since 2004, their offices have taken turns placing holds that blocked Senate action on the WPEA. As reported earlier, Sen. McConnell’s office has denied placing the hold, and Sen. Kyl provided a rather cryptic response to your queries:
“The Senate passed S. 372 on Dec 14, 2010 and the House passed a different version of the legislation on Dec 22. With only hours left in the session, the Senate did not have sufficient time to review the House’s changes and reconcile the differences between the two bills.”
Read more on Sen. Kyl’s response here.
Be sure to tune in this weekend to On The Media, GAP’s partner in the campaign, when GAP Legal Director Tom Devine and the OTM staff will announce the end of the campaign, reveal what we’ve found, and explain where we go from here!
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.
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This weekend, GAP and On The Media will conclude our campaign to identify the senator who placed the anonymous hold on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), effectively killing the bill at the end of the last congressional term. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine will wrap up the campaign and its findings on On The Media.
Since the campaign began in early January, we were able to rule out nearly every senator as being a suspect. After the list of prospective senators was narrowed down to five (as a result of your steadfast advocacy!), over 1,000 people signed our Change.org petition urging these remaining senators to either confirm or deny placing the hold. This increased pressure allowed us to further eliminate Senator McConnell and Senator Vitter, leaving only Senator Risch, Senator Kyl, and Senator Sessions as potential suspects.
Please check with your local NPR station to see what time On The Media will air this weekend, and tune in to listen to Tom Devine speak about the conclusion of the campaign, and where we're going from here!
Additionally, GAP wishes to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our supporters who participated in our campaign. Because of your efforts, whistleblower rights for all federal employees are closer to becoming a reality.
Lindsay Bigda is Communications Fellow for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.
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The Justice department wants to hold the prosecution of former NSA official and whistleblower Thomas Drake in a Soviet-era vacuum. Recently the government has moved to preclude any mention of published, properly authenticated newspaper articles, over-classification; and, as the Justice Department must be sensitive to the fact that it is trying to jail a whistleblower, it also asks to bar mention of whistleblowing! The icing on the cake is that war-on-whistleblowers "General" William Welch wants to use a "secret code" to talk about evidence in Drake's case.
What kind of fair trial will this be?
In USA Today Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney defended the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers:
At the same time, there are appropriate avenues for whistle-blowers to follow when it relates to handling of classified information. People with access to classified information cannot make unilateral decisions that such information doesn't have to be treated as classified, regardless of their motive.
That offers no defense whatsoever for the Obama administration's prosecution of Drake because Drake did not leak classified information to the media, and is not charged with leaking classified information to the media. Moreover, Drake did go through appropriate channels for providing classified information to Congress and the Department of Defense Inspector General.
The new Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) was off to a flying start in the first year of Obama administration appointees. Thanks to Chair Susan Grundmann’s leadership, the Board made more progress toward protecting the merit system than in any other year since it was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. It established an unprecedented infrastructure of research, transparency, and public enfranchisement. It issued landmark precedents that restored its authority to enforce the merit system. It reversed a decade long trend of ruling against whistleblowers. In 2010 for merits decisions by the full Board, there were more whistleblower victories (four) than in the previous decade (three). That is four times the total of one Board whistleblower victory during the entire term of previous Chair Neil McPhie.
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Unfortunately, for whistleblowers, the Administrative Judges (AJ’s) who conduct hearings and issue initial decisions do not seem to be listening yet. In November and December 2010, AJ’s ruled against whistleblowers in 31 of 33 decisions. For the year their record was 12-187, with whistleblowers on the short end. They continue routinely to rubberstamp agency reprisals through expansive readings of Federal Circuit loopholes that have gutted the Whistleblower Protection Act. Setting the pace for bias was AJ Elizabeth Bogle of the Washington Field Office, who ruled against the whistleblower defense in 23 decisions out of 23 cases. The Board is doing what it can through rulings. In 2010 it remanded, or sent back, 11 cases for a hearing that AJ’s had dismissed. But it is clear that until Congress overhauls the statute, the Board’s leadership will be insufficient to reverse deeply ingrained administrative law patterns hostile to whistleblowers.
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Despite the Main-Stream-Media's angst over enigmatic Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine and interviewed on 60 Minutes on Sunday. My friend David Swanson has already diaried Julian Assange's 60 Minutes interview in detail.
Regardless of how you see Assange, one quote from his 60 Minutes interview stands out:
If [employees] who say that there is some abuse going on and there's not a proper mechanism for internal accountability and external accountability, they must have a conduit to get that out to the public. And we are the conduit.
Assange presents the solution to Wikileaks. In a world where whistleblowers are protected through a "proper mechanism for accountability," Wikileaks would not have to be a conduit to get information out to the public.
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Amid themes of innovation and change, President Obama dedicated a few moments during the State of the Union address to comment on government reform. He called for increased transparency from members of Congress regarding special interests, and highlighted measures aimed at bolstering government accountability:
In the coming year, we will also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you will be able to go to a website and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.
A follow-up fact sheet circulated by the White House elaborated on the point of making more data available online, stating that a new website would “let taxpayers know how their taxes are spent across 20-25 categories of federal spending, including Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, foreign aid, and other programs.” In addition, members of Congress are being asked to develop a system for disclosing meetings with lobbyists similar to the one that already exists to track visits to the White House.