OpEdNews Op Eds

Government Whistleblower Protection: the Long Ignored Way to Better Connect the Dots

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 2   Well Said 2   News 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com

By Tom Devine and Coleen Rowley

One month before 9/11, instructors at a Minnesota flight school call the FBI. Among other suspicious happenings, the most unusual "student" they have ever encountered just plopped down thousands in cash to learn to fly a 747, claiming his only purpose was "ego-boosting." Agents in the Minneapolis FBI Office immediately confirm the information and seek permission to search by warning FBI Headquarters in over 60 emails and frantic telephone calls that "this is a guy who could fly into the World Trade Center." Although the 'Director of Central Intelligence' is briefed within days with a presentation titled "Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly", neither the FBI or CIA staff does anything until after 9/11. Right after the attacks, however, the officials quickly cover-up these pre 9/11 lapses -- actions hastened by internal repression.

This wasn't the first lapse. In the years before 9/11, an FAA "Red Team" warns that it breaches airport security 90 percent of the time, but is censored from writing its findings and banned from retesting. The same Logan Airport gate exploited by the 9/11 hijackers had flunked just months before. After the attacks, the government grounds and reassigns the Red Team leader (a whistleblower) to remedial duties.

In 2003 a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) warns that his agency plans to cancel FAM long distance coverage on the eve of a planned hijacking. His protest leads to congressional outrage, restoration of marshals and prevention of the hijacking. But in 2006, he is fired for "Unauthorized Disclosure of Sensitive Security Information" - an unclassified "hybrid secrecy" label the TSA retroactively applied to the disclosure.

In the wake of our national security and intelligence agencies' failures to stop Christmas passenger Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and "Times Square Bomber" Faisal Shahzad from attempting to ignite bombs, will any Congressman recognize why the glaring dots are still not being connected? Bureaucratic breakdowns and needless disasters keep recurring, in huge part, because government whistleblowers have been silenced. They do not even enjoy the simple freedom to communicate within the chain of command and defend themselves against near certain retribution.

The current Whistleblower Protection Act is a fraud that, ironically, is the primary reason would-be whistleblowers remain silent observers. It is a trap that rubberstamps almost any retaliation - 204 out of 207 cases have gone against whistleblowers since Congress last unanimously "strengthened" its free speech mandate. The Achilles' heel has been, among numerous loopholes, a lack of normal access to court. Rights are enforced by a system of administrative and limited judicial review that has been highly-politicized and permeated by unrestrained, hostile judicial activism. FBI and intelligence employees are excluded, despite often having the most significant evidence of threats to our country.

During the campaign, the Obama team promised to restore rights and fight for whistleblowers to receive normal court access. Thus far, it has fought relentlessly to complete legislation that restores rights (with jury trial access and normal appellate court review). The House of Representatives already has twice passed the reform, and Senate action appears imminent.

Unlike the House legislation though, the administration's policy and Senate bill offer only window dressing improvements for FBI and intelligence workers. Despite including best practice contractor whistleblower rights in the stimulus law, it entirely excludes them from ongoing contracts receiving some $700 billion annually.

When will the politicians respect reality? President Obama recently fired his National Director of Intelligence Dennis Blair in an ostensible effort to somehow remedy the intelligence community's failures in missing the clues to these last attempted terrorist attempts. High level agency officials such as Blair, however, sit in their offices in Washington. It is front lines government employees who actually do the work, respond to leads, conduct security checks, monitor procedures, and deal with passengers -- they are the ones who not only spot fraud, waste, and abuse but can also identify public safety problems. Without the freedom to warn for those on the front lines, the president and the public will keep getting blindsided.

The politicians need to stop stalling in the end game to restore a credible Whistleblower Protection Act. Delays could be deadly for Americans.

Let national security whistleblowers in from the cold. All national leaders should consider the President's stated realization: "It is increasingly clear that intelligence was not fully analyzed or fully leveraged. That's not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it. Time and again, we've learned that quickly piecing together information and taking swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary." True enough. But without whistleblower protection for those on the front lines, improved security from current reviews will be as much a mirage as whistleblower protection is today.

My co-author Tom Devine is Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project. He and noted whistleblowers Frank Serpico, Daniel Ellsberg and many more (including myself) will be speaking on the freedom to warn at the 2010 National Whistleblower Assembly, a two-day conference on Capitol Hill in Washington DC this Monday, May 24, 2010 and Tuesday, May 25, 2010. Entitled "The Final Countdown: Honoring 10 Years of Commitment," this year's conference will act as a collective final push to get the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S 372), out of Congress and adopted into law.

The public, who has the most to gain and the most to lose from recognizing the need to protect government whistleblowers, is of course invited!

 

www.coleenrowley.com

Retired FBI Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel.

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Memorandum For: Angela Merkel: Beware of Fixed Intelligence on Ukraine-- Think WMDs

Celebrating Spiritual Death On Black Friday

All I Want for Christmas Is My Civil Liberties!

Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons

Worldwide War Provision Makes Its Way Through Congress (and People Thought the Patriot Act Was Bad)

Feinstein's Phony Excuse for NSA Spying

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
4 people are discussing this page, with 4 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

It seems the state secrets gag on Sibel is still p... by Gustav Wynn on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:17:02 AM
to work because if Whistleblower Protection was in... by Michael Morris on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 6:34:15 AM
As one who retired instead of being sent into an o... by Paul from Potomac on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:03:08 AM
For the same reason they gave explosives to our D... by Richard Lee on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 8:02:33 PM