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National Security Whistleblowers Criticize Legislative Markup As Pentagon Blocks Able Danger Testimony

September 21, 2005 

 

Beth Daley, POGO, 202-347-1122
Sibel Edmonds, NSWBC, 703-519-3640

A coalition of national security whistleblowers – including Able Danger's Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer – is critical of whistleblower protection legislation that House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) has scheduled for a committee markup tomorrow. Underscoring the obstacles whistleblowers face, the news media reports that the Pentagon has blocked testimony from Able Danger whistleblowers who had been slated to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. According to AP, Able Danger was "a secret military unit that identified four 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks, according to the man's attorney."

Sibel Edmonds, president of the newly formed National Security Whistleblowers Coalition made this statement: "Chairman Davis and his staff have continued to disregard our requests for a Government Reform Committee hearing to discuss badly needed provisions that would apply to whistleblowers from the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Considering the unprecedented number of national security whistleblower cases since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is appalling to see that the Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee refuses to extend protections to those courageous individuals coming forward."

The legislation to be marked up tomorrow has already been controversial. Whistleblowers and watchdog groups allege that Chairman Tom Davis mounted a sneak attack when he secretly inserted a provision on the bill aimed at exempting homeland security whistleblowers from protections. The provision was discovered days before the last markup and was criticized by labor unions as well as other Republicans on the committee such as Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT). As a result, Congressman Todd Platts (R-PA) introduced a new version of the bill (H.R. 3097) which took out the controversial homeland security exemption.

After that flare up, Chairman Davis promised hearings in the Summer, and then in the Fall, that would allow national security whistleblowers to testify about the challenges they face. Those hearings were never scheduled.

At the Committee hearing tomorrow, it is expected that several amendments may be offered which would do much to improve the situation for the national security whistleblowers.

The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition and the Project On Government Oversight are asking that the legislation include:

  • Whistleblower Rights for Employees of Intelligence Agencies and Federal Contractors – currently, intelligence agencies and most federal contractors are exempt from whistleblower protections.
  • Protection of Classified Disclosures to Congress – whistleblowers like Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer have no protection from retaliation or inappropriate legal enforcement action by the Executive Branch if they disclose classified information to Congress. The result is that the Executive Branch has carte blanche to determine what information is given to Congress, even though the courts have given Congress an undisputed right to receive classified information in its role of overseeing the government.
  • Security Clearances – the Senate Government Affairs Committee recently approved legislation (S. 494) that would provided protections for employees who have their security clearance revoked.
  • All Circuits Review – the Senate Government Affairs Committee also approved language on the same bill that would allow any federal court to hear whistleblower appeals, ending the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's exclusive jurisdiction over whistleblower appeals.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

"New whistleblower law mired in Hill row," UPI.

"House lawmakers spar over whistleblower protections," by Govexec.com.

POGO report "Homeland and National Security Whistleblower Protections: The Unfinished Agenda" .

"Military Bars 9/11 Intel Testimony: Pentagon Won't Allow Officer to Discuss Secret Military Unit," by Associated Press.

National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation's security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation's borders and ports; and to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct. 


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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