|Whistleblower Bill Hearing Today & Why We Should Give a Damn|
Daily Kos. June 11, 2009, by Jesselyn Radack
This afternoon, a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee will hear testimony on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Why should we care? Last month, President Obama said he would seek to bar the release of photographs that depict abusive interrogations at secret overseas prisons during the Bush years--photos that are similar to, or worse, than the Abu Ghraib photos disclosed by whistleblower Joe Darby back in 2004.
Now, to make matters worse, the President-We-Like is backing the pernicious Grahanm-Lieberman amendment to create a FOIA exemption for the secret photos. I'd make this Exhibit 1 in why we need whistleblowers.
What would happen if someone were to disclose the photos to the media? Would that person be celebrated or slaughtered?
I personally think that we still need whistleblowers, and no one is going to blow the whistle if they are not protected and have seen how so many of us have been raked over the coals for doing the right thing.
On Tuesday, Senators Joe Lieberman(I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [hereinafter "the disasterous duo"] added an amendment to the war supplemental spending bill to create a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption for the secret photos Obama blocked last month [hereinafter the "photo suppression amendment"]. Luckily, it appears to have been stripped. But Wednesday, in the disasterous duo's crusade to add it to every moving bill until it passes, they attached it to a bill meant to enable the FDA to regulate tobacco. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) cam out against the bill late yesterday, but who know what today holds.
On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, calling for an unprecedented level of openness in government.
But now, Obama's bar of the release of the torture photos--after promising to do so--and his suppoprt of the pernicious Graham-Leahy amendment underlines why we need whistleblowers.
There has been a 9-year legislative effort to restore credible whistleblower rights for government employees. The current incarnation is the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009, S. 372 and H.R. 1507.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
This effort needs to be completed. Whistleblowers are cruxcified, from being blacklisted to bankrupted.
The Whistleblower Protection Act sounds great on paper, but does not create a private right of action. Employees need the right to a jury trial in federal court. As things stand now, whistleblowers are confined to administrative hearings at the Merit Systems Protection Board where, since 2000, only 3 our of 53 whistleblowers have received favorable rulings.
You might ask, can't they just appeal? Yes, but the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has a monopoly on hearing whistleblower appeals of administrative decisions. It has consistently rules against them, with whistleblowers winning only 3 cases out of 209 since October 1994 when Congress last strengthened the law.
Finally, there are no meaningful protections for FBI and intelligence agency whistleblowers--arguably the class of employees who need them the most and from whom we'd want to hear if, you know, guys with cash and no interest in learning how to land a plane are taking flying lessons (Coleen Rowley), terrorism translations are being deliberately slowed down (Sibel Edmonds), prisoners are being tortured at American-run prisons (Joe Darby), and the list goes on.