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New Investigation Launched by the GAO into Whistleblower Retaliation by Pentagon Inspector General
December 13, 2016
Whistleblower Disclosures to the Government Accountability Project Spark Investigations by Congress, the GAO and DOJ
WASHINGTON – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is announcing a previously unpublicized decision by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, to expand an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice into potential serial, criminal misconduct by senior officials of the Pentagon Inspector General (IG). Both investigations were sparked by numerous whistleblowing disclosures to GAP, which worked with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and investigative committees in Congress.
The GAO’s new investigation will look into the actions of senior Pentagon IG officials, who allegedly destroyed evidence pertaining to the case of NSA whistleblower and former GAP client Tom Drake, which was cited by Edward Snowden as a central reason he contacted the media instead of using the “official channels” overseen by the Pentagon IG.
The investigation could lay the groundwork for a new, effective anti-leaks strategy to protect classified information without betraying the public trust. As GAP’s Legal Director Tom Devine explained:
“Bureaucratic abuses of power are the primary reason otherwise circumspect national security whistleblowers leak to the media. It is too dangerous to work within an untrustworthy system.”
Edward Snowden identified retaliation against Thomas Drake, a top Pentagon IG domestic surveillance whistleblower whose identity was illegally revealed to the FBI, as one of his reasons for “going rogue.” Because Mr. Drake trusted and worked through the system, his home was raided, he was prosecuted, and he faced 35 years in federal prison after a failed espionage trial.
Earlier this year, the OSC ordered the Department of Justice to investigate whether senior Pentagon IG Officials destroyed exculpatory material requested by Drake’s criminal defense team after revealing his identity, and subsequently lied to federal prosecutors in regard to the destruction of said material.
Both investigations give urgency to Edward Snowden supporters who say that Snowden was forced outside the whistleblower system because of criminal misconduct by the Pentagon IG. Those supporters are now lobbying President Obama to grant Snowden a pardon before Obama leaves office on January 20, 2017.
“The challenge for the incoming Trump administration is that these investigations are in effect examining whether current Pentagon IG leadership has become an existential threat to the national security of the United States by forcing whistleblowers like Snowden to view the media as their court of last resort and the seek safety overseas,” stated John Crane, former head of whistleblower protection in the Department of Defense (DOD).
“Congress has already held hearings that included calls for the removal of Pentagon IG leadership, so the matter is recognized and urgent, the question is whether the current administration wants to address this national security threat itself or continue to kick the can down the road to the new Trump administration.”
Mr. Crane is a former assistant inspector general of the Pentagon IG and is the whistleblower source for the OSC and for initiation of the GAO investigation. Crane was removed as the senior executive in charge of the whistleblower system within the Pentagon for trying to protect the identity of Drake and for attempting to investigate the destruction of exculpatory documents requested by Drake’s defense team. Crane also fought to repair a whistleblower system undermined by senior officials who forced Snowden to make his dramatic decision to “go rogue.”
GAP has represented Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake and John Crane, who was identified as the “third man” in the recently released book, “Bravehearts: Whistle-Blowing in the Age of Snowden” by Mark Hertsgaard. [See: The New York Times, Opinion page, “Whistle-blower, Beware,” May 26, 2016.]
Both John Crane and Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, are available to assist you in answering any questions.
Contact: Andrew Harman, GAP Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 156
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.