Holding the Government Accountable

KBR Whistleblower Comes Forward

Today we learn about yet another story of a government employee who was retaliated against for doing his job honestly. Charles Smith, a senior civilian official at the Pentagon, was removed from his position and reassigned after he attempted to hold defense contractor KBR accountable for failing to substantiate $1 billion in spending. His astonishing story told in today's New York Times follows the experience of so many other whistleblowers who have been retaliated against in recent years, including:

  • Department of Interior auditor Bobby Maxwell, who lost his job in a one person "reorganization" after he blew the whistle on federal drilling fees that Kerr-McGee oil company had shortchanged the government. A jury later ruled that Kerr-McGee owed the government $7.5 million.
  • Edgar Domenech, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Deputy Director, who was demoted after raising concerns about the director of his agency to higher-ups at the Justice Department. That director resigned "while under investigation for alleged financial mismanagement," and Domenech's allegations were substantiated.
  • Jack Spadaro, the former head of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, who lost his job after he blew the whistle on a government cover-up of a 300 million gallon coal mining slurry spill in Kentucky and West Virginia.
  • Anthony D'Armiento, a Coast Guard whistleblower who has been on administrative leave since October 1, 2007, after he disclosed a document to the public revealing the Coast Guard's complicity in allowing Lockheed Martin to bilk the taxpayers on the $24 billion Deepwater contract. The Coast Guard later gave POGO a full version of the document in question in response to a FOIA request. Yet, it appears D'Armiento is being subjected to a retaliatory investigation for disclosing the document.
  • Federal Air Marshal Frank Terreri, who raised concerns about the ability of the Marshals to protect the public from terrorist hijacks and has, as a result, been the target of numerous retaliatory investigations. Among the concerns he raised, the Department of Homeland Security changed its dress policy so that the Marshals would no longer be easily identified.
  • Federal Air Marshal Robert MacLean, who blew the whistle on plans to reduce coverage of "high-risk" flights and was fired as a result. MacLean's exposures led to an immediate reversal of the faulty plan.
  • Mike German, a successful undercover FBI agent who reported serious misconduct in a terrorism case, and ultimately chose to resign from the FBI rather than face continuing retaliation.
  • Bunnatine Greenhouse, a senior Army Corps of Engineers contracting official who was demoted for questioning the award of a no-bid $7 billion contract to defense contractor KBR.
  • Richard Levernier, a DOE security whistleblower who documented lax security at the nation's nuclear labs, only to be rewarded with having his security clearance taken away, substantively ending his career. DOE overhauled its security, implementing some of the reforms Levernier pointed out. Levernier later said: "Given my experience, I would not do it again, even though I truly believe it was the right thing to do."

Meanwhile, legislation to improve the laws that protect these whistleblowers is stalled on Capitol Hill.