On Monday afternoon, the Securities & Exchange Commission announced that Paradigm Capital Management became the first investment fund to be fined for retaliating against a whistleblower that reported internal wrongdoing to the agency. The whistleblower's allegations involve "improper transactions" conducted by Paradigm's owner between the fund and another entity that she owns. The company settled the claim for $2.2 million.
Key Quote: The Securities and Exchange Commission has sounded a warning to Wall Street and corporate America, taking aim at a hedge fund not only for improper trading but for punishing the employee who blew the whistle on the wrongdoing.
Last week, the Senate voted to expand and codify whistleblower protections contained within Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 19, issued by President Obama in 2012 and aimed at providing safe channels to intelligence community whistleblowers. The legislation offers stronger protections than the PPD, which does not explicitly protect disclosures to Congress. GAP and members of the Make It Safe Coalition welcomed the protections, which were included in the fiscal 2015 Intelligence Authorization bill.
Key Quote: Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, praised Wyden and Republican Susan Collins of Maine for “closing the last major loophole in whistleblower rights for government workers. This legislation is the first step toward a safe alternative to leaks for potential whistleblowers in the intelligence community. If finalized, it will be a landmark congressional action to create both free speech rights within intelligence agencies and protections against security clearance retaliation throughout the civil service. While not a final solution, it is the breakthrough paradigm shift to challenge abuses of power and corruption by intelligence agencies without risking threats to national security.”
Related Article: FireDogLake
Incarcerated whistleblower Chelsea Manning recently penned a New York Times op-ed in which she criticized the federal government's "current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy" on information and news originating from Iraq. Manning personally witnessed, while stationed in the country, how the U.S. government did not properly investigate or relay gross wrongdoing by the Iraqi government, and how the limitations imposed on the number of embedded journalists results in the American public being kept uninformed.
GAP Executive & International Director Bea Edwards spoke with the Voice of Russia about the column, commenting on the dangers of government-controlled information.
Key Quote: Two and a half years after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, the militant group ISIS is gaining tremendous traction and ground. Bea Edwards, executive director for the Government Accountability Project, believes the U.S. government could've been in a better position to stop ISIS before they began their blitz if it had been more honest with its failures in Iraq.
"The danger of a government controlling information and disseminating controlled information to the public is that the government, it seems, in the end seems to believe its own propaganda," said Edwards.
Edwards thinks the system of embedding journalists ensured favorable coverage. "The embedding of journalists with the military forces in the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan was an ingenious way of controlling the press and the message. The journalists in question who, as Chelsea pointed out, are very few- she said only 12 are actually in combat and covering combat missions in the whole country of Iraq at the end- they are then dependent on the troops they're covering for their own safety and security, so they'd have to be in a very strange frame of mind to report negatively on what was happening on the battlefield."
Yesterday in London, GAP National Security & Human Rights Deputy Director Kathleen McClellan spoke at a "Protecting Whistleblowers" conference produced by Amnesty International. McClellan participated in a panel featuring a UN Special Rapporteur, an investigative journalist, and legal counsel for Chelsea Manning. Video of the panel is available here.
The results of a poll conducted by the Office of Personnel Management show that nearly 20 percent of federal employees fear reprisal if they report wrongdoing. These findings are "less troubling than a 2010 survey from the Merit Systems Protection Board, which showed nearly 30 percent of workers feared reprisals."
Key Quote: The Office of Personnel Management asked in its annual government-wide poll whether employees agree or disagree with the statement, “I can disclose a suspected violation of any law, rule or regulation without fear of reprisal.”
Last year, 19.5 percent of employees disagreed or strongly disagreed, up 0.4 percentage points from 2012; 61.2 percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed, down by 0.3 percentage points. The rest were neutral.
Related Article: Washington Post
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.