By Guest Blogger: Jane Turner
Member of NWC’s Board of Directors and Director of NWC’s FBI Oversight Program
I am a FBI whistleblower. In my childhood, I did not dream of growing up to be a whistleblower, I dreamt of growing up to be an FBI Agent. I not only accomplished my dream, but I was a true believer. A true believer of the FBI family, a true believer of having Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity. I worked hard, and broke many barriers, being the first woman on the Seattle Division SWAT team; being the first woman Senior Resident Agent, and first woman working full time in Indian Country. I was given high rating scores and was one of the first woman Field Profilers. I worked on several high profile FBI cases and also taught on a national level on interviewing and interrogating sexual offenders and their victims. I never lost a case in federal court, and I loved my job.
After twenty-one years in the FBI, I notified my immediate superiors that there was misconduct and malfeasance by FBI agents. I did this because I thought it would make the FBI a better agency, and because I believed in Fidelity, Integrity and Bravery. One incident was the brutal rape of a 5-year old Indian child that a FBI agent had covered up as a car accident. Another incident involved FBI agents who were recording individuals as informants without their knowledge. A third incident concerned FBI personnel taking property from Ground Zero after 9/11. All of these incidents occurred in the Minneapolis Division, where I was stationed. I dutifully notified my supervisors, who responded by downgrading my ratings. I took the complaints, backed by evidence, through official channels inside the FBI all the way to FBI Headquarters. Thus began a thirteen-year legal battle as senior management in the FBI decided that protecting the FBI’s image was more important than the FBI’s integrity. As this whistleblowing battle intensified, senior management pulled Minneapolis agents away from other duties in the terrorism and criminal realms to flood the area where I was stationed and ask questions regarding my sexual, mental and work habits. The investigation revealed nothing of a negative nature. People said that I was the “quintessential FBI agent.” In February of 2007, I won a jury trial against the FBI. Even witnesses from the United States Attorney’s Office undercut the claims of high-ranking FBI officials that performance issues were the basis for their desire to terminate my employment as an FBI Agent.
I was constructively discharged from the FBI and legal battles still rage on today. As issues of retaliation and reprisal are being adjudicated, the FBI continues defending the indefensible, draining taxpayer monies to protect Bureau managers instead of the public. Every senior management official involved in my case has been promoted. Every single senior FBI manager in the Minneapolis Division who submitted false and fraudulent documents was promoted. The senior FBI manager who directly orchestrated the retaliation, and perjured himself under oath at trial, was promoted to FBI Headquarters and became the right hand man of Director Mueller. Another FBI manager in Minneapolis was promoted to head the counterterrorism desk at FBI Headquarters. Two additional FBI Minneapolis managers named in my complaint were promoted and one of those managers ended up in senior management in the New York City Office of the FBI, where he is currently accused of retaliating against another whistleblower. Director Mueller has made it quite clear that whistleblowers are enemies of the FBI, and nothing is off limits in discharging them from the FBI, including perjury, manufacturing negative documents, or changing contents of FBI files to reflect negatively on whistleblowers. A FBI whistleblower has never been promoted into a position of prominence, never been utilized in instruction or presentation at the FBI training academy, never been honored, or provided cash awards. They are belittled, harassed, and shunned.
Some people question why W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command at the FBI (commonly known as Deep Throat), blew the whistle on Watergate. His disclosures toppled a president. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who received Felt’s information, wondered why Felt had talked when doing so carried “substantial risks for him and the FBI.” Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post advised that he and Woodward had “no idea of his motivations, and even now some of his motivations are unclear.” Felt himself said that, “People will debate for a long time whether I did the right thing by helping Woodward. The bottom line is that we did get the whole truth out and isn’t that what the FBI is supposed to do?” Felt was a true believer in Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity. However, he knew that by telling the truth, it would jeopardize his position, his career, and his reputation at his beloved FBI. There were no protections for FBI whistleblowers during Mark Felt’s time. But Felt did not want to pay the price that whistleblowing would exact, losing everything, so he had to act anonymously. Whistleblowers are not narcissistic, or ego driven. They have a strong moral compass and a driving need to protect the integrity which defines their life. You want people of integrity and morals at our intelligence agencies. If you reward duplicity and lies, people of integrity and morals wrestle with the resulting complexities.
This is why Section 403 of the FY11 Intelligence Bill is so dangerous for this country. The goal of Section 403 is to deter and punish leakers of information and to add another bludgeon to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI heads the entire intelligence community, including the armed services, and Section 403 would grant each intelligence agency, and the armed services the power to terminate any employee as long they said it was based on possibly leaking classified information. Managers are emboldened by a requirement that each government employee sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement requires employees to submit all their writings for agency pre-publication reviews of any publications. If an intelligence agency or the armed services say that “classified information” has been leaked, Section 403 would give them the power to fire the employee and take away their federal pension. Although the bill is well-intentioned, due process for whistleblowers is non-existent. Any integrity of current whistleblower protections and due process for federal employees would be swept away, creating a climate of fear and stifling any reporting of corruption within these agencies. No longer would an employee be afforded whistleblower protection, as each agency head can simply determine that a whistleblower leaked information that the agency considers “classified.” This provision gives corruption, malfeasance and criminal conduct free reign in our intelligence agencies and armed services. A head of an agency could simply pull the trigger and fire whistleblowers by labeling them as leakers of classified information. Section 403 would allow managers to terminate the whistleblowers whom they see as a problem to their agency, rather than the real problem – corruption. By seizing their pension, the agency would cripple any financial ability the whistleblower would have to survive.
Section 403 would provide a golden opportunity for managers at the FBI who have a long and lethal relationship with whistleblowers. Section 403 would allow them to finally extinguish any legitimate access that whistleblowers currently have to bring issues of misconduct, malfeasance and criminal conduct to light. The FBI has in the past retroactively classified documents to silence internal whistleblowers. Section 403 would finally provide the FBI with the silver bullet that would destroy whistleblowers who threaten to sully their manager’s reputation. In my case, retaliators created fraudulent documents, FBI senior management lied under oath in federal court, and retaliation and reprisal were rampant to keep the truth from coming out. Without the due process of a jury trial, my allegations would not have seen the light of day. My disclosures brought about better policies for working in Indian Country, policies for protecting items at crime scenes, and a deeper understanding of discrimination against women FBI Agents. Disclosures by other agents will not happen if Section 403 is enacted.
As the adage goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. To give this kind of power to FBI managers and other intelligence agency heads is to stifle any and all whistleblower activity and force those good and brave souls to go outside the system. Section 403 of the FY 11 Intelligence Authorization would create more Deep Throats. Whistleblowers would be forced into anonymity to protect their livelihood, their integrity, honor and career. It is worth noting that in the government’s attempt to prevent situations like WikiLeaks from happening again, they would only create more WikiLeaks situations. Implementing a draconian provision can only result in driving whistleblowers to seek out an alternative solution. Like Mark Felt (Deep Throat) and other whistleblowers, their moral fiber, ego and sense of integrity compel them to reveal what they feel is a great injustice. Section 403 is not going to alter a whistleblower’s desire to fix an injustice, but would rather drive them to seek alternatives that protect their identity as well as their moral compass. Instead of fixing a problem, Section 403 would spawn a hundred more. It would put a premium on loyalty rather than truth. During his 2008 election campaign, then candidate Obama promised to protect whistleblowers. He said, “acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.” Obama advised that he would ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers would have full access to courts and due process. Section 403 strips any protection for whistleblowers. It stifles speaking the truth to power, and it shuts down any access to courts and due process. But even sadder, it devalues acts of courage and patriotism and destroys them completely and ruthlessly.
Many people have asked me over the years if I would blow the whistle again knowing how much it cost me financially, professionally, and mentally. It is a question I have pondered many times. When I recall the cries of a sexually abused child, the dishonor of enrolling U.S. citizens as informants for the FBI without their knowledge, the shame of seeing items stolen from crime scenes, and the disparate treatment of male and female FBI agents, I remember exactly why I felt compelled to speak truth to power. But most of all, the eyes of my daughter, representing all children and the future of this country, demanded that truth and justice be honored. Section 403 of the FY11 does neither. As Section 403 would bring injustice and dishonor, Congress must reject it.