Congressional Investigation Finds Commerce IG Guilty of Retaliation


This week the Washington Post and Washington Examiner reported on laudable efforts by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to have Commerce Inspector General Todd Zinser removed.

Although the Ranking Member detailed a litany of abuses that took place on Zinser’s watch, the most disturbing was extensive documented retaliation against whistleblowers, as well as surveillance of at least half a dozen government employees.

Yesterday Ranking Member Johnson sent a letter to President Obama requesting for Zinser’s removal from his IG position. The letter stated –

I am convinced that in order to establish an effective and ethically sound office a wholesale change in the top leadership of the Commerce Office of Inspector General is critically needed.  I call on you to remove Mr. Zinser from office immediately and to take such other steps as are necessary to appoint qualified senior leadership with high ethical principles to lead the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General.  I stand ready to support you in efforts to rebuild that office, reviving a sense of public service and accountability in the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General

The congressional investigation further unearthed that during Zinser’s Senate confirmation to become Commerce IG, he withheld information pertaining to a whistleblower retaliation case that he was party to.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, each OIG is required to have a Whistleblower Ombudsman in order to help IGs ferret out waste, fraud and abuse while also upholding whistleblower protections. This rampant abuse of authority by an agency IG underscores the need for greater accountability, independence, and a zero-tolerance  whistleblower retaliation policy within all Offices of Inspectors General.

President Obama should exercise his authority and demonstrate leadership by heeding Congress’ call for the swift removal of Commerce IG Zinser.

Related Documents

Ranking Member Johnson’s Floor Statement

Ranking Member Johnson’s Letter to President Obama

Zinser Confirmation Hearing

OSC Request for Stay of Personnel Action 

OSC Petition for Enforcement

OSC Settlement Agreement

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National Action Plan 3.0 Recommendations


President Obama’s administration has made whistleblower protections a cornerstone of its National Action Plans over the past four years. The Make It Safe Coalition has created a set of recommendations for critical issues that we would like to see included in NAP 3.0.

The memorandum of recommendations can be viewed here.

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SCOTUS Overwhelmingly Sides With Whistleblower


In DHS v. MacLean, the Supreme Court decided in MacLean’s favor in a 7-2 decision. The stakes couldn’t be higher for our community, as this was the first Whistleblower Protection Act case before the Court, and it would determine whether agency regulations could cancel statutory free speech rights. Fortunately justice was on our side. Congratulations to Robert MacLean and his family, to counsel on the case, and to the whistleblower community on this historic victory. More information on the Court’s decision and media coverage can be found below  –


Supreme Court Decision:

GAP release:

Office of Special Counsel release:

Federal News Radio:

New York Times:



Wall Street Journal:

Orange County Registrar:

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Whistleblowers MacLean and Tye Named National Security Heroes


The on-line forum Just Security  identified 14 national security heroes from 2014. Fittingly, two of the recognized heroes were whistleblowers, including former Air Marshal Robert MacLean and former State Department aide John Napier Tye.

Just Security’s Steve Vladeck writes:

A common rejoinder from those who have been critical of the Snowden disclosures and other national security leaks is that federal law already provides protections for government employees to act as “whistleblowers,” as opposed to leakers, when they come into possession of confidential information relating to fraud, abuse, or illegal government conduct, or some more general threat to national security. With that in mind, it’s worth recognizing 2014’s two most important whistleblowers–Robert MacLean and John Napier Tye–who worked within the system to shed important light on significant and potentially troubling programs. MacLean is the former air marshal who was fired by the TSA after disclosing serious lapses in post-9/11 aviation security (and who sued, claiming that his disclosures were protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act). Although the facts giving rise to MacLean’s case arose over a decade ago, his case, a critical test for the scope of the WPA, finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court this year, where it was argued on November 4. Tye is the former State Department aide whose July op-ed in the Washington Post gave vital substance and substantiation to concerns privacy and civil liberties groups have raised for years about the government’s ability to spy on Americans by “incidentally” collecting their communications under Executive Order 12,333. Unlike MacLean’s disclosure (shortly after which the TSA abandoned the controversial policy shift), the jury is still out on whether Tye’s whistleblowing will lead to meaningful reforms. What cannot be gainsaid about either, though, is the significance of their contributions to our public discourse.

Special gratitude to MacLean, Tye, and all of our national security whistleblowers for making our country safer while protecting our civil liberties.

The full blog can be found at


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OSC Awards VA Whistleblowers, IG Retaliation

OSC image

Last week the Office of Special Counsel honored three VA whistleblowers with the Public Servant of the Year award. Details can be found at, and a follow-up Washington Post column can be found at

 The Washington Examiner has been running a series on IG abuses, including whistleblower retaliation, that can be found at A recent Federal News Radio show on IG whistleblower retaliation can be accessed at

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DHS v. MacLean SCOTUS Coverage


November 4th was a landmark day for our community and the country, as Department of Homeland Security v. Robert MacLean was the first Whistleblower Protection Act case to be heard before the Supreme Court. While a decision may not be issued until as late as the spring, media coverage is predicting that Robert MacLean will prevail. A statement by Tom Devine explains what is at stake with this decision:

Regardless of the outcome, the Court’s record made clear that the country is safer today because of Mr. MacLean’s courage to blow the whistle. Congratulations, Robert.

A full audio of the hearing will be available at the following link:

Prominent media coverage includes:

USA Today:
Washington Post: &
New York Times:
Wall Street Journal:
Los Angeles Times:

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