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Project on Government Oversight

112 Organizations Endorse Quick Action to Restore Comprehensive Federal Worker Whistleblower Rights

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June 5, 2008

A coalition of 112 religious, scientific, consumer, civil liberties, civil rights, peace, small-business, labor, libertarian, journalism, environmental, and good-government organizations, representing millions of Americans, is urging key U.S. Senate and House negotiators to agree to the strongest possible federal employee whistleblower protections and to deliver a bill this year to President Bush.

In a letter delivered to Capitol Hill yesterday, a diverse array of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Society of Professional Journalists, American Association of Small Business Owners, Consumers Union, the Liberty Coalition and the Rutherford Institute, praised congressional whistleblower rights leaders for the steps they have taken to conclude an eight-year struggle to provide meaningful whistleblower protections to federal employees.

The letter was spearheaded by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Public Citizen, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

“POGO is proud to join our colleagues in support of this historic legislation to protect the courageous men and women willing to risk their careers and family to stand for the truth,” stated POGO Director of Investigations Beth Daley.

“This is an unprecedented public mandate for freedom of speech when it counts the most – challenging abuses of power that betray the public trust,” added GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. “It also reaffirms voters’ demands for stronger whistleblower protections. The public, and the groups that represent them, define that to mean jury trials for all employees paid by the taxpayers. Whistleblowers are the public’s eyes and ears against government corruption sustained by secrecy.”

Last year, both the House and Senate passed versions of whistleblower rights legislation designed to restore meaningful protections to federal employees who expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. Over the past several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have been meeting informally to resolve differences between the two bills. Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are championing the measure in the Senate. In the House, lead sponsors and negotiators include Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Tom Davis (R-Va.), Todd Platts (R-Pa.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

“This legislation is an essential building block toward restoring a more accountable, responsible, and effective government for all of its citizens,” added GAP Legislative Representative Adam Miles. “The congressional offices deserve recognition for the marathon commitments they’ve put forth toward making this reform a reality.”

In the letter, the 112 groups offer their support to “expeditiously conclude” the reconciliation of the two bills. The letter stipulates that certain reforms must be part of a meaningful, final comprehensive whistleblower law, such as:

  • Ensuring that the fundamental right to a jury trial in a federal court is provided to all federal employees;

  • Including specific protections for scientist-whistleblowers; and

  • Extending meaningful protections for national security whistleblowers at the FBI and intelligence agencies. 

“Government workers who warn us of waste, fraud and abuse should be protected, not punished,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “All federal employees – including scientists, contractors, and intelligence agents – should be able to expose wrongdoing without fear of reprisal. Congress should send a bill with an unmistakable message to the White House: We stand by the patriots who keep the public trust.” Arkush also noted that the critical reforms for government scientists and national security whistleblowers passed the House by an overwhelming, veto-proof margin, despite a threat from the administration to veto the House bill, H.R. 985.

Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D., UCS senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program, highlighted the specific need to protect government scientists. “Whether it is unsafe drugs, defective toys or environmental degradation, we depend on federal whistleblowers to protect us from harm. Of the thousands of scientists we have surveyed at nine federal agencies, 1,100 have told us that they fear retaliation if they express concerns about their agency’s mission-driven work. Federal whistleblower law must protect scientists who report efforts to alter or suppress vitally needed federal research.”

Other organizations endorsing the letter include Common Cause, the American Association for Justice, the National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, National Taxpayers Union, and many more.


 

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.