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Project on Government Oversight

Dozens of Groups Urge Rep. Issa to Help Pass S. 372 to Protect Whistlebowers and Taxpayers

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December 16, 2010

Honorable Darrell E. Issa
2347 Rayburn Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Issa:

Your support is crucial. After months of your support for the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), our community was deeply disappointed to read in the Washington Post this morning that you want to delay passage of S. 372. The time to pass whistleblower reform is right now.

Citing "new areas of concern that have been raised by the WikiLeaks" disclosures, your spokesman, Keith Bardella, “said the congressman believes the measure should be considered next year, when Republicans control the House,” the Post reported.

Whistleblowers have waited more than a decade to get the protections they deserve, and the protections that will enable you to engage in the vigorous oversight you are planning as the incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Our groups spanning the ideological spectrum urge you to reconfirm your support for this legislation.  The WPEA has been exhaustively considered, with three House and Senate hearings since 2006, and seven months of negotiations with the minority staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, satisfying all concerns raised by Intelligence Committee staff.  Importantly, the one hundred senators did not share your concerns and passed S. 372 by unanimous consent on December 10. 

S. 372 will prevent leaks and strengthen our national security. It creates a safe, responsible channel to work within the system, when none currently exists. Further, S. 372 does not under any circumstances protect public disclosures of classified information. Nor does it protect disclosures of sensitive sources and methods information to any unauthorized person or entity.

Many issues that have been raised by WikiLeaks have nothing to do with this bill and efforts to draw a connection between WikiLeaks and this good government measure are misguided.  However, S. 372 is an anti-leaks measure.  If you have any qualms about its national security implications, please review the following facts.  In 2006 Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), then Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, recognized that whistleblower rights are necessary to prevent leaks. He stated,

[P]eople [must] feel free that if they are observing illegal activity or they are observing activity within their departments that they are uncomfortable with, that they feel there is an effective process to bring that to the attention of the management within the community or to the committees of jurisdiction…. And that's why we need to make sure the whistleblower process is an open door, so that these folks are not faced with a, you know -- believing they're in an environment where they don't have a choice, that they don't -- see something they don't like, that they just go, "Well, I'll just go to the press.”

For the first time, the WPEA provides genuine due process rights to challenge retaliation, enabling employees to work through safe channels within the government, so they are not tempted to go to the media with illegal disclosures. That is a win-win both for national security and intelligence community accountability.

The Post further reports:

“The irony here is that as legitimate avenues for exposing not classified information but valid, documented concerns about government operations are blocked, the more attractive routes such as WikiLeaks become”

As incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, you will rely heavily on federal workers willing to blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse.  But the message the Post reports you have sent today to whistleblowers and would-be-whistleblowers is that they will not be protected.

We urge you to reconsider and support the swift enactment of the critical reforms to protect whistleblowers and taxpayers in S. 372.

Sincerely,

Affiliation of Christian Engineers

AFGE National Council of EPA Locals #238

American Association of Law Libraries

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

American Civil Liberties Union

American Federation of Government Employees

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

Beyond Nuclear

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Californians Aware

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest

Center for Media and Democracy

Citizen Power

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Colorado Clean Water Advocates

Concerned Citizens of Petersburg

DC Employment Justice Center

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO

Disaster Accountability Project

Ecology Party

FAA Whistleblowers Alliance

Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association

Federation of American Scientists

Focus on Indiana

Fort Worth Citizens Against Neighborhood Drilling Operations (FWCANDO)

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Government Accountability Project (GAP)

Green Party of Pennsylvania

Help Abolish Legal Tyranny (HALT)

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (HADD)

Implode-Explode Heavy Industry, Inc.

International Association of Whistleblowers

International Medical Council on Vaccinations

Liberty Coalition

National Forum On Judicial Accountability

National Judicial Conduct and Disability Law Project, Inc.

National Taxpayers Union

National Treasury Employees Union

National Women's Health Network

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

New Orleans Women's Shelter

OAK - Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs

OMB Watch

OpenTheGovernment.org

POPULAR, Inc. - Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored    

Private Citizen, Inc.

Project On Government Oversight (POGO)

Public Citizen, Inc.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

Reproductive Health Technologies Project

RightMarch.com

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace

Santa Monicans For Safe Drinking Water Coalition

Semmelweis Society International

Sunlight Foundation

Sustainable Energy and Economy Network

Tax Justice Network USA

The Employment Law Group

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The Society of Professional Journalists

Union of Concerned Scientists

USPIRG

Voices for Corporate Responsibility

Workplace Fairness