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Project on Government Oversight

Advocates Applaud Progress of Bill to Strengthen Protections for Whistleblowers and Taxpayers

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July 29, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:
Cathy Ball, National Treasury Employees Union, 202-572-5596
Danielle Brian, Project On Government Oversight, 202-347-1122
Angela Canterbury, Public Citizen, 202-445-7887
Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project, 240-888-4080
Mike German, American Civil Liberties Union, 202-675-2312
Celia Wexler, Union of Concerned Scientists, 202-390-5481
Charity Wilson, American Federation of Government Employees, 202-639-6440
Michael D. Ostrolenk, Liberty Coalition, 301-717-0599;
Dane von Breicheruchardt, United States Bill of Rights Foundation, 
Pete Sepp, National Taxpayers Union, 202-547-7079

Statement by the Make It Safe Coalition

Today the Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) praised the hard work of the Democratic and Republican leaders on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, particularly Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Claire McCaskill, as well as that of the White House, to move the Senate to a place it has never gone before in providing whistleblower protections for federal workers.  The Committee today approved, by a bipartisan unanimous voice vote, S. 372, The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009.

S. 372  now provides for jury trials for many federal employees and offers protections to national security workers.  The Coalition is looking forward to now working with the House to ensure that remaining issues are addressed so that all federal workers have meaningful protections.

The bill is a significant step toward providing a safer and more effective process for protecting courageous federal workers to report wrong-doing.

The bill's cosponsors and staff, other Senate offices, White House liaison, and agency representatives have worked tirelessly to achieve meaningful and strong protections for federal whistleblowers. The legislation approved today reflects the commitment of all involved to fixing the broken system for whistleblowing in the federal government.

Several improvements were made to the bill since it passed the Senate in the last Congress, bringing it much closer to H.R. 1507, the version under consideration in the House. S. 372 will give many federal workers access to a jury of their peers should the administrative process fail to settle their claims of retaliation. Coverage is extended to federal scientists and transportation security officers (airport passenger and baggage screeners). The bill also closes several loopholes in the current laws that have gutted available protections.

Although the Coalition supports the bill, there are remaining issues to be addressed as it moves through the House. The Coalition is seeking a final bill that includes permanent access to jury trials for all whistleblowers, truly independent and functional due process for employees of the FBI and other intelligence agencies, and coverage for all federal contractors. Members of the Coalition are hopeful that the goodwill efforts evidenced so far will result in strong legislation to deliver to President Obama shortly after Congress returns in September.

The Coalition, representing over 300 organizations, reflects a bi-partisan constituency. Many of these groups have been working for years to secure vital legal protections for whistleblowers. Currently, a majority of whistleblower cases have not allowed to be heard by an impartial jury. The current flawed federal judicial process has rarely brought justice or vindication for their brave acts in exposing misconduct or fraud and abuse in the federal workplace.

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.