(9:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)
(Cross posted at the GOS)
When, in the coming days, weeks and months, the right wingnut noise machine (predictably) starts cranking up the squeeze box and running around with their hair on fire, screaming that taxpayer’s money from the “stimulus” bill is being wasted on the Democrat’s long delayed pet projects, it will behoove progressives to remind them that: the key measure in said bill designed to help expose that waste was quietly removed from the bill late last night — and, by one of their own, a senator who touts herself as a proponent of fiscal responsibility.
That self proclaimed protector of taxpayer’s
spoils money would be Susan Collins (R- Maine), a ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee, which, as an oversight committee, might be expected to promote protecting whistleblowers, a key tool in the accountability toolbox. She also sits on the Senate appropriations committee, which gives her added clout with which to hammer out the niggling details of the bills. Which might just explain why old “Give ’em Hell” Harry Reid decided to cave to Collin’s last minute “compromise” removal of the Whistleblowers Protection Provision in the final draft of the Stimulus Bill at the behest of the Republican minority. Yes… MINORITY. (Seems that fact has yet to sink in with our good leadership who have, over the past 8 years, developed severe curvature of the spine from so much habitual bending over).
As explained by TPM Muckraker
The House stimulus bill contained a provision designed to protect federal whistleblowers. Currently, those protections are shockingly weak. According to the Project On Government Oversight, whistleblowers who are fired or demoted can file a complaint with a government board — but over the last eight years, that board has ruled in favor of whistleblowers only twice in 55 cases…… the protections (which were remove from the stimulus bill) were designed to encourage federal workers to point out cases where taxpayer money is subject to waste, fraud, or abuse — a legitimate concern when Congress spends $800 billion, and one that centrists and Republicans have been particularly exercised about.
But, according to a person following the bill closely, Collins used today’s conference committee to drastically water down the measure, citing national security concerns as the reason for her opposition. In the end, the protections were so weakened that House negotiators balked, and the result was that the entire amendment was removed.
According to the person following the bill, Collins was the “central roadblock” to passing the protections.
What this means is that in future, good citizens like Bunny Greenhouse, the (former) Army Corps’ top procurement official, will have even less assurance of legal protection. The Halliburton employee, who had “developed a reputation among those in both government and industry as being a stickler for the rules”, was demoted by her superiors because she came forward to expose Halliburton’s cushy deal with the DoD. Government contacting rules generally forbid contractors hired to prepare plans and budget estimates from bidding for the work that grows out of these plans. But, apparently, it’s OK if you’re Dick Cheney’s former company.
“I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to (Halliburton subsidiary) KBR represents the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed” in 20 years working on government contracts, Greenhouse testified before a Democrat-sponsored Capitol Hill event on contracting in Iraq.
Sibel Edmonds, who was a contract linguist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and another well know whistle blower, is currently waiting for the Supreme Court to review her charges that the behavior of some of her fellow employees at the FBI compromised national security.
Lower courts turned down her case after the FBI claimed the “state secrets” privilege, arguing that any disclosure of Edmonds’ evidence (even in the judges chamber) would reveal classified information, and (you guessed it) “compromise national security“!!
Edmonds, who was fired from her position, was the subject of an investigation by the Department of Justice Inspector General, who found that her charges were the major reason for her dismissal.
organized and now leads the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, which includes more than 50 former employees of national security agencies. The group has called on congress to permit whistleblowers to sue government retaliators in their personal and official capacities and to bring suit against agencies for failure to rectify misdeeds by employees or provide sufficient safeguards against whistleblower retaliation.
Just this past October, the Associated Press, using Freedom of Information Act Requests and interviews with whistleblowers and advocates, reported:
• Although DoD IG received over 3,000 whistleblower claims over the past six years, it found no wrongdoing by the military over 90% of the time.
• 73% of the cases were closed after only a “preliminary review.”
• A confidential survey of the workers and managers in DoD IG found that the workforce was “demoralized and ambivalent.” and that one-third of the employees there were described as “disaffected.
Revelations of this kind would be of concern in any agency or area of government, but this story is particularly worrisome. We know that the men and women serving our country in the military witness countless acts of fraud, waste, abuse, and much worse (think Abu Ghraib). The size of the Defense Budget, and the volume of lucrative government contracts to private corporations in recent years (see Bunny Greenhouse), has increased the need for oversight and whistleblower protection for military employees. Further, military whistleblowers are often more vulnerable to retaliation, and they often have no recourse whatsoever if their claim is rejected by the DoD IG.
So, it’s up to us pony riders to pressure our oh so compliant Congress critters into re-introducing a Whistleblower Protection Provision just as soon as the dust settles. Real change means more than just a “D” after their names, it means shining a light on the shadowy deals and treacherous actions of the Bush administration, and moving toward real accountability and ethics in government. For Bunny, and Sibel, and the thousands of others who might come forward to reveal the waste, fraud, thievery, illegality, and treasonous behavior of their employers… in our names.