Defense Secretary Mattis Urged to Review Whistleblower Retaliation Cases

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A coalition of whistleblower advocates wants Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to hold two-high ranking officials found to have retaliated against whistleblowers accountable, saying proper action would set the tone for his tenure.

In a letter organized by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and sent today to Mattis, the advocates cited the cases of National Security Agency (NSA) Inspector General George Ellard and Navy Rear Admiral Brian Losey.

Last May, after a review panel found that Ellard had illegally retaliated against a whistleblower, NSA head Admiral Michael Rogers proposed firing Ellard. However, Ellard appealed and Mattis’s predecessor, Ashton Carter, failed to act on the appeal, leaving Ellard’s fate unresolved.

Given the importance of Ellard’s position and the seriousness of the findings, Mattis should review the case and take appropriate action, the coalition wrote.

In Losey’s case, a Department of Defense Inspector General investigation found he retaliated against staff members suspected of reporting him for allegedly misusing taxpayer funds for personal travel. While Losey was cleared of allegations, he drew up an “enemies list” of those he believed turned him in, the investigation found.

The case ultimately led Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) to urge then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to deny Admiral Losey’s promotion, which Mabus did in March of last year. Unfortunately, it appears the Navy secretly reversed that decision, giving Admiral Losey a retroactive promotion, back pay, and a bigger pension.

The advocates urged Mattis to review this case, as well, stating that it is extremely rare for a DoD IG to substantiate retaliation, which creates a belief that senior officials can act against whistleblowers with impunity. That Losey received special treatment even in the face of the IG’s rare substantiation of retaliation reinforces that belief.

The letter was signed by Demand Progress, Government Accountability Project, International Association of Whistleblowers, James Madison Project, Katz Marshall & Banks, The Multiracial Activist, National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen and The Rutherford Institute.

To see the letter, go here.

Photograph of Mandy Smithberger

By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.

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