(Washington, D.C.) – Forty-two organizations of the “Make it Safe Coalition” today appealed to House of Representatives leadership to support an overhaul of the nation’s whistleblower laws to protect government employees. The fate of a Senate-approved reform is currently being considered in a joint House-Senate conference on the defense authorization bill. The coalition wrote in support of a letter sent last week to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Ca.) from House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Representative Todd Platts (R-Pa.), the original sponsor of broader whistleblower reforms, approved 34-1 by Government Reform last fall.
The Make It Safe Coalition consists of nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations spanning the ideological and subject matter spectrum, including civil liberties, civil rights, corporate watchdog, doctor and patient advocates, environmental, family values, government watchdog, judicial watchdog, labor, library, scientific freedom, taxpayer watchdog, and all major whistleblower support organizations. The group was formed to protect those in government who honor their duty to serve and warn the public.
Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) that coordinates the coalition’s efforts, commented, “It appears that House leadership will be the final gatekeeper for whistleblower protection, because all of the conference’s decision-makers have indicated their support. This forced the White House to look to House leadership to kill this good government reform.” He noted that strengthened whistleblower protection in the defense bill has been actively supported by five House and Senate committee chairmen.
The coalition letter highlighted “two themes that House leadership has publicly championed – strengthening national security and cleaning up corruption.” It continued, “Those two goals cannot be achieved until all employees paid with taxpayer funds, national security and non-national security employees, have the same whistleblower rights when they defend America’s families as do corporate employees when they defend America’s investments.”
The coalition sharply rebutted White House attacks last week that strengthened whistleblower rights would threaten national security. “Whistleblowers are America’s first line of defense against another 9/11 tragedy. They challenge bureaucratic breakdowns that sustain America’s vulnerability to terrorism. For the last five years, even without meaningful rights they have been the life blood of oversight exposing lessons from 9/11 that still have not been learned.”
Members of the coalition that signed the letter include: Government Accountability Project, American Federation of Government Employees, Project on Government Oversight, National Whistleblower Center, Common Cause, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Federation of American Scientists, Liberty Coalition, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.org, OMB Watch, Blacks in Government, Defenders of Wildlife, Union of Concerned Scientists, Fund for Constitutional Government, National Employment Lawyers Association, the Health Integrity Project, Semmelweis Society, American Association of University Professors (District of Columbia Conference), Federal Employees Against Discrimination, Taxpayers Against Fraud, Information Trust, Integrity International, HALT – An Organization of Americans for Legal Reform, Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Focus on Indiana, Southeastern Christian Association, the American Whistleblowers' League, Georgians for Open Government (GOG), Ethics in Government Group (EGG), the Grady Coalition, Parentadvocates.org (the E-Accountability Foundation), Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Coalition for Civil Rights and Democratic Liberties, Whistleblowers USA, TJWS Foundation, Inc., The PATRICK Crusade, Coalition For Legal Reform, Victims of the System, National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc., the We Speak Up Campaign, and the American Library Association.