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Republicans Embrace Whistleblower Protections for Contractors; Baggage Screeners, National Security Whistleblowers Left Behind

September 29, 2005 

 

Following a contentious lead up, today's House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis led a surprising markup of the "Federal Employees Disclosure Act."

Two Democratically-proposed amendments were accepted in principle by the Committee and will be included in a manager's amendment when the bill goes to the floor: one would extend protections to Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners, and one would create new protections for federal contractors.

In recent days, Chairman Davis had been under direct attack from the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition and Project On Government Oversight for his failure to fulfill a promise to hold a hearing on the plight of intelligence and FBI whistleblowers before the legislative markup.

Chairman Davis claimed in the hearing that he was not familiar enough with national security issues to consider an amendment that would provide whistleblower protections to national security employees. "We are outraged that Chairman Davis refused to have hearings before this markup so that we could inform him and other Committee members of the plight that national security whistleblowers face," said Sibel Edmonds, President, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

Unfortunately, the Committee failed to approve an amendment sponsored by Representatives Maloney and Watson which would have extended whistleblower protections to employees at intelligence agencies and the FBI. Rep. Maloney and other members of the Committee have vowed to keep working toward a framework that would allow whistleblowers at intelligence agencies and the FBI to have a legal recourse if they are retaliated against for disclosing waste, fraud, and abuse.

Under the bill marked up today and agreements made by the Chairman, hundreds of thousands of government employees and contractors would have vastly improved ways to seek legal remedies if they are fired, harassed, demoted, or other retaliated against.

POGO issued the following statement to members of the Committee earlier today. Also see this action alert that the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition issued last week.

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Statement from Danielle Brian, Executive Director
Project On Government Oversight

Markup of the "Federal Employees Disclosures Act"
House Government Reform Committee Today at 1:00 p.m.

The Project On Government Oversight does not oppose the "Federal Employees Disclosure Act", but believes it is woefully lacking. We deeply appreciate the efforts of Republicans and Democrats on the Government Reform Committee who have championed protections for whistleblowers.

Unfortunately, POGO continues to be disappointed and dismayed by the House Government Reform Committee's lack of leadership on providing meaningful legal remedies and protections for national whistleblowers who expose corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. At a time when our nation faces serious threats from abroad as well as challenges at home, there is simply no excuse why whistleblowers at the Transportation Security Administration, FBI, CIA, DIA, and other intelligence agencies should not be given Congress' solemn commitment that they will be protected for coming forward.

POGO believes the following provisions are necessary for making this a serious, comprehensive bill that protects whistleblowers:

  • Whistleblower Rights for National Security Employees. Currently, FBI and intelligence agencies are exempt from whistleblower protections. Whistleblowers like Able Danger's Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer have no protection against retaliatory legal enforcement action by the Executive Branch for disclosing classified information to Congress. The result is that the Executive Branch has carte blanche to determine what information is given to Congress. Yet, the courts have given Congress an undisputed right to receive classified information in its role of overseeing the government. In addition, these whistleblowers can have their careers cut short when the Senate Government Affairs Committee recently approved legislation that would provided protections for employees who have their security clearance revoked.
  • All Circuits Review. The Senate Government Affairs Committee has recently approved language that would allow any federal court to hear whistleblower appeals, ending the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's stranglehold on whistleblower appeals. The Court has issued a stunning set of rulings that have dismantled whistleblower protection laws three times.
  • Contractors. As work in Iraq and Katrina absorb hundreds of billions of dollars in contractor spending, the Congress should empower whistleblowers at those companies to come forward when they see waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. There simply is no other way that the public will find out about wrongdoing at those contractors.
  • Transportation Security Administration Baggage Screeners. It is a national disgrace that four years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, airport baggage screeners have been exempted from whistleblower protections due to the

For more information, see POGO's 2005 report "Homeland and National Security Whistleblower Protections: The Unfinished Agenda".


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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