June Whistleblower Hearings Coverage

Below is media coverage and links to the recent whistleblower-related hearings by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee. These hearings will help to establish a significant record for our advocacy and existing gaps in whistleblower protections.

McClatchy News Whistleblowers describe woes of reporting crimes, waste in federal agencies

Fire Dog Lake Whistleblowers Testify on High Risk of Retaliation They Face for Going to Congress

The Washington Post Whistleblowers tell Senate hearing about retaliation for reporting wrongs

CNS News Federal Air Marshal: Deputize Passengers to Deal with Threats in the Air

Government Executive Senators to Obama: Fill the Inspector General Vacancies

CSPAN Rep. Hunter Discusses Military Retaliatory Investigations

Blowing the Whistle on Retaliation: Accounts of Current and Former Federal Agency Whistleblowers

Full Committee Hearing
June 11, 2015 10:30AM
Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses

  • Jason Luke Amerine, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
  • Taylor Johnson, Senior Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Michael Keegan , Former Associate Commissioner for Facilities and Supply Management, at the U.S. Social Security Administration
  • Jose R. Ducos-Bello, Chief Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Thomas M. Devine, Legal Director, Government Accountability Project

 

Oversight of the Transportation Security Administration: First-Hand and Government Watchdog Accounts of Agency Challenges

Full Committee Hearing
June 09, 2015 10:30AM
Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses

  • The Honorable  John Roth, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Jennifer Grover, Director, Transportation Security and Coast Guard Issues, Homeland Security and Justice Team, U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Robert J. MacLean, Federal Air Marshal, Los Angeles Field Office, Federal Air Marshal Service
  • Rebecca Roering, Assistant Federal Security Director, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, U.S. Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Watchdogs Needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Left Unfilled for Years

Full Committee Hearing
June 03, 2015 10:00AM
Location: SD-342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Witnesses

  • The Honorable  Michael E. Horowitz, Chair, Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency and Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight
  • Daniel Z. Epstein, Executive Director, Cause of Action
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Legislative Recommendations from a Whistleblower

Thomas Day, a U.S. Coast Guard Whistleblower, sent an open letter to the House of Represenatives titled “Acquisition Reform Begins with Zero Tolerance for Acts of Retaliation Against Whistleblowers

The letter can be viewed at: 2015-05-22-0700-03-01 TFD House Letter (2)

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Flying the Whistleblower-Unfriendly Skies

*This article was cross-posted, and the original can be viewed on POGO’s website at http://bit.ly/1GxfnSA

The law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks exposed another front in the evolving war to silence whistleblowers: the airline industry.

Last week, the firm wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and United Airlines condemning United’s use of a confidentiality agreement that forbids employees from discussing the subject of internal misconduct investigations without first obtaining the company’s permission. United’s confidentiality agreement came to light in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by 13 former flight attendants who were fired for refusing to work on a flight with unresolved security issues. According to the law firm, the plaintiffs “were concerned that the agreement United had forced them to sign effectively prohibited them [from] obtaining counsel and reporting the facts of their terminations to appropriate agencies.”

A similar confidentiality agreement used by federal contractor KBR was also discovered during civil litigation. Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) fined KBR $130,000 after finding that the provision violated the SEC’s whistleblower protection rule. KBR will modify the agreement to make it clear that employees can report possible violations without having to obtain KBR’s permission and without fear of retaliation.

United, KBR, and humanitarian assistance organization International Relief and Development (IRD) are just three of a growing list of companies outed in recent months for having non-disclosure and confidentiality policies that stifle whistleblowers. IRD used a “non-disparagement” agreement, which forbids current or former employees from making disparaging comments about the company or any of its current or former officers and employees.

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General recently reported on the confidentiality policies of State’s 30 largest contractors, including DynCorp International, SAIC, General Dynamics, and Academi (formerly known as Blackwater). It found that all 30 have a confidentiality or non-disparagement policy that could have a chilling effect on employees who want to report fraud, waste, or abuse.

Katz, Marshall & Banks should be commended for alerting the FAA to what could prove to be an industry-wide effort to suppress the reporting of air safety concerns and violations of the law. We hope the FAA joins the SEC in cracking down on abusive corporate confidentiality and non-disclosure practices. Whistleblowers should not expect “friendly skies.” But with increased legal protections and agency enforcement, we can at least make their ride as turbulence-free as possible.

By: Neil Gordon
Investigator, POGO

Neil Gordon, Investigator Neil Gordon is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Neil investigates and maintains POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

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SILENCED Screening, America’s War on Whistleblowers

April 11 @ 3:00 pm6:00 pm

Goethe Institut

812 7th St, NW, Washington, DC United States

+ Google Map

How far would you go to tell the truth?

Get tickets now!

In SILENCED, Academy Award nominated documentarian James Spione investigates what really happened inside the U.S. security establishment after the events of September 11th, 2001 that caused it to radically change course in profound and lasting ways. The arc of post 9/11 history leading to today—an alternative, inside narrative—is revealed exclusively through three of the most important whistleblowers of the era, speaking for the first time in one film, who discuss in dramatic and unprecedented detail the evolution of the government’s increasingly harsh response to unauthorized disclosures. Exploring the unique courage and character it takes to challenge unethical behavior from within the American national security establishment, SILENCED offers a provocative critique of systemic failures of the U.S. government and its draconian over-reactions.

SILENCED includes exclusive first-person accounts from Jesselyn Radack, the former Justice Department lawyer who challenged the Bush Administration’s treatment of American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh; Thomas Drake, the former senior official at the NSA who helped expose the massive waste and illegality of the earliest warrantless surveillance programs aimed at American citizens; and John Kiriakou, the ex-CIA officer who was the first official to publicly acknowledge waterboarding as sanctioned government policy, whom we follow closely as he attempts to defend himself against Espionage Act charges while struggling to keep his family afloat.

Following the screening will be Q&A with Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, and film Director/Producer James Spione, moderated by IPS Director John Cavanagh.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE.

Co-sponsors: Institute for Policy Studies, CodePink, and Government Accountability Project (GAP).  A special thank you to WPFW 89.3 FM for being the media sponsor of this screening.

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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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