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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/3/09

Tell Senate to Demand Whistleblower Protection!

By Jesselyn Radack  Posted by James Murtagh (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   2 comments
Whistleblower Provision Must Remain in $800 Billion Stimulus Package: Tell Senate!

There was no whistleblower protection in the Administration’s unprecedented bailout of Wall Street. Last Thursday we learned that Wall Street handed out $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year with the money. Bank of America, another bailout beneficiary, just hosted a 5-day Super Bowl carnival.

    As the stimulus bill goes into conference this week, there were warnings of subtle but determined opposition from Senate offices to block key provisions of whistleblower protection.  The opposition is no longer subtle.  It's loud and unapologetic.


    The Washington Post argues that anti-retaliation and classified congressional disclosure rights shouldn’t be extended to FBI and intelligence employees, insisting "that is just plain wrong." This is a red-herring over an anti-leaks measure that controls preexisting broader rights for classified congressional communications, and independent enforcement for preexisting anti-retaliation rights.  But the FBI and intelligence agencies like NSA will, and should, be involved with creating a new infrastructure.  National security whistleblowers have revealed that their agencies play a role in all Americans' lives.  Why shoulld there be an accountability loophole?

    Whistleblowers tried to warn of the current economic crisis years ago, but they still don't have a fighting chance for justice when they challenge fraud, waste and abuse.  With current so-called "rights," their chances of winning are less than one half of one per cent. Studies consistently conclude that whistleblowers are the most effective weapon that exists against fraud. After the bailout, there is no excuse to spend another $800 billion without locking in accountability.  


    This reform has been languishing for 10 years, despite eight approvals by relevant committees, and four approvals by Senate or House votes. Three were unanimous. Why isn’t this done? The legislative process has been a broken record of procedural sabotage trumping an overwhelming popular and political mandate. Three times "secret holds" have blocked votes on this anti-secrecy reform.


    There was no whistleblower protection in the Administration’s unprecedented bailout of Wall Street--despite promises that it would be added "later"--and now we learn that a sizeable chunk went to pay corporate bonuses.


    In 1991, the RTC law following the S&L crisis had "best practice" whistleblower rights for its time. In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley law wisely included whistleblower and witness protection as an enforcement cornerstone of that law.  Congress since has perfected weaknesses in these pioneer approaches in four subsequent laws, including three since 2006. A whistleblower provision should be included to provide teeth for any financial recovery bills to ensure that this crisis is never repeated.


    Secrecy was the breeding ground for this disaster, because it sustained the reckless decisions and corruption that caused it. Now the Administration proposes to give $800 billion--the largest stimulus in history--and the Washington Post doesn't want any accountability for how it is spent: no judicial review; no whistleblower rights; no public acces to records; and waiver of normal government contract rules. Apparently, one financial disaster wasn't enough for the Post.


    Today, the Washington Post has a lead editorial on why Senators should remove the whistleblower provision, which passed unanimously in the House, from the $800 billion stimulus package.  The editorial places form over substance.


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    James J. Murtagh, Jr. is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and the Medical Director of several sleep laboratories in Southern Ohio. Dr. Murtagh extensively writes on medical ethics. Dr. Murtagh is the founder of a new (more...)
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