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Project on Government Oversight

Wounded Whistleblower’s Story of Retaliation Underscores Need for Reforms

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December 7, 2011

The story of a whistleblower who exposed the military’s shabby treatment of civilians who sustain war-related injuries—published today by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) along with previously undisclosed documents—underscores the need for reforms to whistleblower protection law.

Mike Helms, a civilian intelligence specialist who was later authorized to be a Humvee gunner, sustained serious brain trauma after a roadside bomb struck his vehicle in Iraq. After he disclosed to Congress his experience with the military’s medical system, his bosses retaliated against him by revoking his security clearance.

“The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act would go a long way to halting this far-too-common form of reprisal, which for this whistleblower, was adding insult to injury,” said POGO Director of Public Policy Angela Canterbury.

Newly released documents vindicate many of the whistleblower’s claims.

A Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) report obtained by POGO concluded that officials revoked Helms’ security clearance in response to Helms’ whistleblowing. And according to a DoD paper on Helms’ case, denying Helms medical treatment was a violation of DoD policy.

After Helms was injured and his health failed to improve in an Army hospital in Tikrit, he was forced to buy his own plane ticket back to the U.S. He was then improperly denied medical treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Helms made a series of disclosures to media outlets and congressional offices, and things only got worse.

His bosses initiated a retaliatory investigation into an unauthorized computer system that Helms set up, and then revoked his security clearance—a career-ending blow for someone in the intelligence community.

“I just told the truth about what happened to me,” Helms told POGO.

Today, Helms continues to grapple with lifelong injuries and a career in limbo.

To read his story, go here.