Today’s front page article in the Washington Times exposes the legislative hurdles faced by whistleblowers and notes the Administration’s role in the process stating, “White House drafts weaken some protections.” The Administration claims to support significant improvements in the law. However, the exclusive article by Tom LoBianco says, “Despite its pledge to better protect federal employees who expose wrongdoing, the Obama administration privately sought to weaken protections for national security whistleblowers under legislation making its way through Congress.”
The Washington Times obtained e-mails showing that the White House counsel’s office provided its own drafts of the proposed whistleblower legislation, which would be harmful to the rights of national security employees.
The National Whistleblowers Center has long favored the whistleblower legislation pending in the House of Representatives. NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn is quoted in the Washington Times article saying “The House got it right. Obama pledged to support it and he should keep his promise to every whistleblower. As passed, the Senate bill does not fulfill that promise.” Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project is also quoted as supporting more rights for whistleblowers than the White House proposed. “In reality, it just changes the drapes and window dressing. All the hearings would still be conducted by the agencies.”
The NWC has consistently advocated the right of all whistleblowers to a jury trial. That, among other important rights, is not provided in either the current version of the Senate bill or apparently in the proposed Administration law.
“We are hopeful that whistleblowers will take action now to advocate for passage of the protections included in the House version. Now is the time to call your Representative or Senators if you care about protecting whistleblowers,” said Stephen M. Kohn.
In addition, today’s New York Times carries a letter to the editor from a former CIA Analyst, which provides a strong example of why it is important to protect national security whistleblowers. Mr. Melvin A. Goodman states that “If Congress ever got around to giving genuine whistleblower protection to members of the intelligence community, this country might get some idea of the extent of the perfidy and duplicity of some government officials.” Mr. Goodman also says that the state secrets privilege, which is often used to silence whistleblowers has “more to do with national embarrassment and not national security.”
Let’s hope that President Obama keeps his promise to provide meaningful whistleblower protection, including jury trials, to national security employees. You can help by sending a letter to Congress urging them to pass the whistleblower protections included in H.R. 1507.
*Anthony Munter (Of Counsel for the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund) contributed to this posting.