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Lawmakers Sound Alarm on Obama’s NDAA Signing Statement

House and Senate whistleblower champions have expressed grave concerns with the President’s recent signing statement, objecting to disclosures to Congress. Today, Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent this letter to President Obama:

Individuals within our government are in the best position to protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money and ensure the integrity of their employing agencies and departments. You agreed with this sentiment when on November 27, 2012, you signed into law the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). As you know, this legislation closed judicially-created loopholes that adversely affected government employees who expose waste, fraud and abuse in the federal bureaucracy.

 

During the debate over this legislation, serious consideration was given to extending whistleblower protections to the country’s millions of non-defense federal contractor employees. While these protections were not part of the WPEA, they were included in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Sections 827 and 828 of the NDAA enhanced and strengthened current protections for defense contractor employees, and creates a four-year pilot program for non-defense contractors and grantees respectively.

 

However, we are concerned your statement that accompanied the signing of the NDAA into law may be perceived as undermining Congressional intent and discouraging individuals from helping to protect taxpayer dollars. With respect to Sections 827 and 828 you stated, “…I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.” This statement seems to ignore that sections 827 and 828 of the law contain clear exceptions for those employees working in the intelligence community.

 

Furthermore, your statement could be perceived as potentially eroding protections for federal workers and discouraging them from helping expose improper behavior. A Project on Government Oversight spokeswoman was quoted in the Washington Post saying, “It may not have been his intent, but with this signing statement, the president appears to be thumbing his nose at Congress, whistleblowers, and taxpayers.”

 

The Legislative Branch has the Constitutionally-mandated authority and responsibility to oversee the Executive Branch, and federal employees and government contractors have the right and obligation to bring information to Congress in a lawful manner. We encourage you to enforce the law as written. In doing so, your administration will show its dedication to transparency and accountability at all levels of the federal government.

The quote was made by POGO’s Director of Public Policy to The Washington Post. She also said:

It is encouraging to see these Members of Congress speaking out in defense of the new law to protect truth-tellers who risk so much to serve the public interest and protect taxpayer dollars. We also share their concerns about the balance of powers between Congress and the presidency.

In order for Congress to conduct oversight mandated by the Constitution, Congress must be able to hear about waste, fraud, and abuse from executive branch employees, contractors, and grantees—without restrictions. This letter is a critical first step in ensuring proper checks and balances and protections for whistleblowers.

By: Suzanne Dershowitz
Public Policy Fellow, POGO

suzanne dershowitz At the time of publication Suzie Dershowitz was a public policy fellow for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: NDAA

Authors: Suzanne Dershowitz

Submitted by Anonymous at: January 19, 2013
We need the Green Party to represent our country.
Submitted by Barbara at: January 19, 2013
What is Obama afraid of? It's been obvious for years, that Americans are fed up with corruption and fraud in our government. Obama should not obstruct the whistleblower disclosures to Congress.
Submitted by Tigermac at: January 19, 2013
I understand the bipartisan cosponsors of the bills have been working to iron out the few differences between the House and Senate versions. I hope they will include the best reforms from both bills for the strongest protections possible for federal whistle blowers. Whatever the compromise, the bill must improve the status quo and do no harm! I hear they are close to a compromise bill that could be offered in the House as early as this week. But as you know, time is very short to pass this bill in the House, and then send it back to the Senate for approval before you all leave to go on the campaign trail. But luckily this non-controversial bill has overwhelming support in Congress and throughout the country. More than 150 groups concerned with government accountability recently called on Congress again to pass the WPEA. I hope I can count on you to stand up for better government accountability for taxpayers and vote YES to fix the broken system for whistle blowers. Unfortunately, every month that the House delays passage of the bill means the public is deprived the benefit of disclosures from federal government whistle blowers about fraud, waste or abuses that could remain ongoing. On average, more than 15 whistle blowers a month lose initial decisions from administrative hearings at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and less than one prevails. The Whistle blower Protection Act was last restored in 1994, and has since fallen victim to judicial activism, which have created loopholes, making it ineffective. The MSPB found that federal whistle blowers were nine times more likely to be fired in 2010 compared to 1992. This culture of vulnerability maximizes government secrecy, which in turn breeds corruption. It seems that so little good for our country gets done in Washington--which is deeply frustrating. We all know the government needs fixing, and here is a bill that would help! I sometimes watch shows on prisons, the Prisoners don't care if you murdered, robbed, beat someone to the point they are in a wheel chair for the rest of their life, what bothers prisoners, criminals and drug users is whistle blowers. The same thing is true for our government, there are so many criminals in our government and corporations, who see whistle blowers as their worst enemy. Lets face reality, the more you have to hide, the less likely you are to support Whistle Blowers, the more criminal the politician, Corporation and government agency is, the less likely they are to support the only ones who can expose them. This Government has currently put people in prison for Whistle Blowing on Politicians, Government Agencies and on Criminals responsible for torturing and murdering people. The way this country is now, the Whistle Blower goes to Prison and torturer Murder gets a rise and promotion. The Whistle Blower is the watchdog of their work place and they’re for the reporter of misconduct. This is why we are having such a difficult time getting a Whistle Blower bill passed to protect them, we have to depend on those who are guilty of wrong doing and who most want to stay hidden, to support the Bill. When there is a favorable majority in support of the Whistle Blower Bill then we will know the county is moving in the right direction. The government has decided not to honor the Constitution and the Bill of rights, They have already shown that telling the truth to the American people is not how they are going to govern, when they all lied when they took their oath of office and then decided to keep the public misinformed and out of the information loop.
Submitted by Tom Park at: January 18, 2013
Whistle blowers must be protected and are truly patriotic Americans....

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