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  • The National Whistleblowers Center has advocated on behalf of many FBI whistleblowers, including FBI Counterterrorism Whistleblower Bassem Youssef. NWC is the main public interest organization supporting FBI agents who have exposed significant agency misconduct, including the illegaldavecongress FBI actions at Ruby Ridge, fraudulent science in the FBI crime lab, major breakdowns in the War on Terror and illegal retaliation against whistleblower agents. NWC’s efforts have resulted in systemic reform of the FBI crime lab, the introduction of Inspector General oversight of FBI misconduct, the removal and discipline of supervisors who retaliated against employees or engaged in misconduct, and ongoing Congressional review of the FBI’s wrongdoings. The NWC has also been invited to testify in Congress on the need to protect national security whistleblowers.

    National Security Whistleblowers

    Although national security employees were deprived protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, that does not mean they have no rights. In fact, all federal employees, including national security employees, are required under Executive Order 12731 to report waste, fraud, and abuse to the proper authorities. The President has mandated employees report. However, Congress has not lived up to its obligations to protect these employees.

    There are four critical cases that have determined that all federal employees, including national security employees, are protected under the First Amendment and cannot be retaliated against on the basis of protected speech. These decisions are:
    Pickering v. Board Of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), which established First Amendment rights for federal employees.

    Snepp V. United States, 444 U. S. 507 (1980), which recognized First Amendment protection for national security employees in the context of exposing wrongdoing.

    Weaver v. USIA, 87 F3d 1429 (1996), litigated by attorneys working with the NWC, determined that federal employees could file a case in U.S. District Court to prevent 1st Amendment abuses.
    Sanjour v. EPA, 786 F.Supp. 1033, 1036 (D.D.C.1992), also litigated by attorneys working with the NWC, gave all federal employees the right to enjoin their agencies from retaliation for 1st Amendment activities.

    In addition, national security whistleblowers have used the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act to obtain protections.

    whitehurst-cspan2Finally, in the FBI as a result of a successful five-year legal battle by Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, President Clinton was forced to sign an Executive Order requiring the attorney general to provide protections for FBI whistleblowers. 64 Fed. Reg. 58782.

    National security agencies have traditionally tried to gag attorneys and employees from blowing the whistle by forcing them to sign non-disclosure agreements. The NWC has strongly and successfully opposed overly broad non-disclosure agreements. The NWC has fought back by forcing agencies to follow the obscure, but important, Appropriations Act of 2006 that prohibits such agreements.

    Lloyd -LaFollette Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7211, is another law that provides protections for national security employees. Passed in 1909, it was the first whistleblower law to protection federal employees. This law prohibits retaliation against any federal employee for providing information to Congress. The NWC has consistently insisted on a whistleblower's right to appear before Congress. In fact, the NWC had a major confrontation with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2003 on this issue. The DOJ wanted to have "handlers" present during a whistleblower's meeting with Congressional staff. The DOJ eventually backed down and today whistleblowers can go to Congress without their supervisors knowing what they are reporting.

    • The Guardian (December 15, 2010) Numerous US officials are calling for a resurrection of the US Espionage Act as a tool for prosecuting WikiLeaks. The dusting-off of the old law is all but certain. But the outcome of the constitutional dust-up that is sure to follow will result in triumph or tragedy for the US bill of rights.

      In 1917, in the midst of a war hysteria, the United States passed the Espionage Act. The law has nothing to do with prosecuting spies. From its inception, it had everything to do with suppressing dissent. The Great War was unpopular with many Americans, very like today's engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Thursday, April 1, 2010 12:00 - 2:00 pm EST


      Sponsored by the National Whistleblowers Legal Defense & Education Fund

      Lawyers & the Media: Strategies that Work and Pitfalls to Avoid in Whistleblower Cases
      Whistleblowers who come forward to expose wrongdoing are critical sources for journalists. All attorneys who represent whistleblowers and journalists who use them as sources must understand the laws in place to protect whistleblowers when their story reaches the public. Attorneys also need to know how to effectively present their client's cases to journalists. This seminar will cover the 1st amendment protections that attorneys need to know to protect their clients, and journalists need to protect whistleblower sources.  ...

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      bunny greenhouse

      Washington, D.C. September 3, 2009. As reported in a front page story of today's Washington Times, internationally respected whistleblower, Bunnatine Greenhouse, has issued an appeal to the U.S. Senate to pass strong protections for all federal employees. Mrs. Greenhouse was the only major Bush Administration executive to challenge the Halliburton "no bid" Iraq reconstruction contracts.  In 2005, Mrs. Greenhouse was featured in a Washington Post Style section article A Web of Truth: Whistle-Blower or Troublemaker, Bunny Greenhouse Isn't Backing Down and also on NOW: Politics & Economy Bunny Greenhouse

      "We urge every American to read Bunny's letter and to TAKE ACTION! ," said Stephen M. Kohn, NWC Executive Director.  "This is not a Democrat or Republican issue.  This is not a partisian issue. This is an issue that goes to the heart of accountability and oversight. In the House of Representatives Democratic leader Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) joined with his republican colleague Todd Platts (R-PA) to introduce an effective whistleblower law that would give Bunny Greenhouse her day in court , The Senate should follow this bi-partisian lead and ensure that the promises made to whistleblowers during the 2008 election campaign are fulfilled."

      Bunny Greenhouse Letter

      NWC Press Release: Greenhouse's Most Recent Letter Causes A Stir

      Read a 12-part series on the Whistleblower Protection Blog analyzing  the Senate Whistleblower Bill.

      Background on Bunny Greenhouse

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Spotlight Case: Bassem Youssef

bassem_youssefBassem Youssef is the highest ranking Arab-speaking FBI whistleblower.