I recently had the opportunity to talk to Congressman Adam Bennett Schiff, pursuing the interview because it is important to get an unfiltered response directly from a politician regarding their official policy on whistleblowers, and he graciously accepted my invitation to state his position.
Adam Bennett Schiff was born on June 22, 1960 in Framingham, Massachusetts. His family was Jewish and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1970, and then to Alamo, California in 1972. His mother “came from a long line of Republicans and his father, from a long line of Democrats.” His parents had a strong sense of right and wrong, and they passed those qualities to their son. Congressman Schiff admits “that was the formative backdrop for the last few years for me.”
An interesting fact about Congressman Schiff is that he was the class valedictorian at Danville, California’s Monte Vista High School and also voted “most likely to succeed.” His life path took him to Stanford University and then to Harvard Law School where he graduated cum laude. There is ample evidence that Congressman Schiff was brilliant academically, but what speaks about his soul is the fact that fifty years after he was involved in a bullying incident in elementary school, he can still feel the shame.
Only an individual with brilliance, decency, and compassion could have drafted and delivered the closing remarks in a Senate impeachment trial on February 3, 2020, where artfully crafted statements like “your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history” and “right matters here…truth matters” were uttered. What does a man like Congressman Schiff have to say about whistleblowers?
He notes that the Ukraine whistleblower came to the attention of the “Intelligence Community because they had originally gone to the Intelligence Community Inspector General and that complaint had been withheld from Congress in violation of the law.” Below is an excerpt of my conversation with Congressman Schiff.
JT: Yes, now you’re saying you’re a champion of whistleblowers?
AS: I think among the most important of the post-Watergate reforms was the establishment of the Offices of Inspector General and the degree in which they allowed and encouraged and incentivized whistleblowers to come forward. Whistleblowers help keep our government honest and expose corruption and malfeasance. The last administration and its’ assault on whistleblowers was a body blow to the efficiency of our government, we saw whistleblowers threatened, we saw Inspectors General fired, all of that discourages patriotic Americans from saying something when they see violations of law and abuse of power and abuse of resources. In the Intelligence Community in particular, because so much of our work is in closed session and we rely on agencies to self-report, the whistleblowers are absolutely vital because when agencies don’t self-report, we need whistleblowers to come forward. I think we have seen some truly heroic people and I keep thinking back to Michael Atkinson (former Inspector General of the Intelligence Community who alerted Congress in September 2019 to a whistleblower complaint. On April 3, 2020, he was fired) when he was fired for doing his job and alerting Congress that a whistleblower complaint was withheld in violation of law. When he was fired, he issued a statement urging people to continue to come forward because our country and our government really depend on it. And I think he is absolutely right.
JT: And what did you think working with the Ukraine whistleblower, were you surprised at their depth of fidelity to this country, I mean are these people just surprising to you for being the warriors that they are?
AS: You know I hate…I really don’t comment on a particular whistleblower out of a desire to protect them and I can say in very general terms that…umm…if that whistleblower hadn’t filed a complaint…ah…we might have never learned of the President’s effort to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to extort an ally helping him cheat in an election…um…and I think it was a very act courageous act, and I think will need patriotic Americans to be inspired by that courageous example.
JT: I agree with you, and do you realize that the MSPB [U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board] has been empty of…ah…no one has been nominated to that Board and they have a back-up of thousands of whistleblower cases. What is happening there?
AS: I don’t know the answer to that…um…and you know sadly there are a number of positions still remaining vacant throughout the federal government that we really need the administration to move on…ahh…so that they can continue their important functions. I am probably going to need to call it quits, but so nice to meet you.
JT: What a pleasure sir…
AS: Well thank you.
JT: …can I ask you what efforts you may be directing in the future toward whistleblowers?
AS: I just want to continue to make sure that within the area I cover, particularly in the Intelligence Community we continue to encourage people to blow the whistle if they see something wrong, to follow the proper channels in reporting what they see or hear…um…I want to make sure the Inspectors General operate with independence…um…and that we address the damage that was done in the last four years.
JT: Excellent, thank you sir.
AS: You bet, very nice to meet you.
JT: My pleasure.
JT: A question, do you ever encourage people (whistleblowers) to contact your office, or would you rather have them go through the Inspector General?
AS: We prefer that people reach out to the Inspector General, they can contact the Committee too, or contact us directly, depending on the situation.
Congressman Adam Schiff has written a best selling book, Midnight in Washington.