Beth Daley Impact Fellow
The bipartisan Super Committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade is officially a super failure. Now, there's another question looming over the heads of American taxpayers: will Congress learn from its mistakes?
It has been 46 years since President Lyndon Johnson quietly signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law on the Fourth of July, officially giving the public access to federal government records. With thousands upon thousands of requests now processed per year, it’s easy to take this law for granted. But to this day, ordinary citizens must fight to obtain important records—particularly those showing government wrongdoing. In that spirit, here are five important pieces of government information that, without FOIA, would still be hidden from the public.
Pilots flying America's most expensive fighter jet are suffering from mysterious health problems, and the Pentagon can’t explain why. The Air Force suggested last month that pressure vests worn by the pilots might be interfering with their ability to fly the plane, so it made the pilots remove them. But last week, an aviator flying the F-22 Raptor suffered another emergency, The New York Times reported.
The testing could put intelligence workers at risk of being falsely stigmatized, jeopardizing their careers and their ability to contribute to the national security. It also could have a chilling effect on employees considering blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing.
Michael Hastings never thought he was going to get the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan fired. But in June 2010, one of the hottest D.C. summers on record, the Rolling Stone reporter—who was then only 30-years-old—penned a piece that sent shockwaves through Washington and left high-ranking military brass scrambling for their jobs. All it took was for Hastings to write about what he heard and saw while traveling with U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Here in the District, spring is in the air! Rock Creek Park is abloom, the tourists are out on the Mall, there are mile-long lines to the food trucks, and the sun is shining. At POGO, when we see sunshine, we can't help but consider one of our favorite issues: government transparency. Unfortunately, there's some important government information that’s still sitting in the dark.
This week, the House rejected key amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have prevented rollbacks of oversight at our nation's nuclear weapons labs and would have maintained zero funding for an unnecessary $6 billion plutonium facility.
Eileen Foster, a former senior executive for the national's largest mortgage provider, Countrywide Financial, didn't plan on getting labeled a whistleblower. She was hired to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by company employees. But when she did her job and revealed large-scale fraud within the company—the kind that led to the 2008 financial crash—she was fired for telling the truth.
POGO sent a letter today to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees recommending that an expensive and severely flawed variant of the Littoral Combat Ship program be eliminated. The letter comes on the heels of POGO's release of Navy documents revealing serious cracking and corrosion problems with the ship--along with evidence of dangerous equipment failures.
The FY 2013 Energy and Water and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was released by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee on April 17. The bill provides annual funding for various programs within the Department of Energy (DOE) and other related agencies—including nuclear weapons programs. Although this is only one subcommittee appropriations bill markup, it is significant that both the Subcommittee and President Obama have concluded that CMRR-NF doesn’t deserve any more money from taxpayers.
A V-22 Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Morocco yesterday, killing two U.S. Marines and severely injuring two others. The cause of this particular accident is unknown, but some crashes in the past have involved a dangerous flying condition of which the V-22 is prone to experience. The Morocco crash brings the total number of fatalities from V-22 accidents to 36. Of those fatalities, all but four have taken place during training exercises—not in combat zones—and the lion’s share of those training exercise deaths occurred in one notorious accident.
Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) have submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on behalf of Robert MacLean--a whistleblower who revealed wrongdoing in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGR) and a long-time champion for whistleblower rights, is the most recent representative to join the cause.
Last month, POGO and an extensive list of allies to Panetta and the Department of Health and Human Services asking them to properly implement the public interest balancing test, and release an unredacted version of the ATSDR report, respectively
When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta unveiled his plan to achieve $487 billion in budget cuts over the next ten years, he hinted that a smart strategy would mean cutting the number of nuclear weapons.
Though rare, U.S. presidents have attempted to use the World War I-era Espionage Act to silence Americans from leaking information to the media for decades. It is a charge that is as controversial, as it is grave. This is the law the Nixon administration infamously invoked when attempting to bar the media from continuing to publish the classified Pentagon Papers—the second largest leak of classified information to the press in the U.S., after Wikileaks. Nixon of course, was unsuccessful, and his shattered reputation never recovered.
In tough economic times, whistleblowers play an even more vital role in exposing corporate misconduct and saving taxpayer dollars--but U.S. legislation is still failing to protect a massive segment of people working for the government: contractors.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) came to its senses on Thursday and scrapped a controversial proposal that would model the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on the first rule of Fight Club. Then it backpedaled by saying it has actually been misleading FOIA requesters about the existence of certain documents for the last nearly 25 years--the proposed rule would have just put the practice into its regulations.
The U.S. government's increasing reliance on contractors to do work traditionally done by federal employees is fueled by the belief that private industry can deliver services at a lower cost than in-house staff.