An unnamed pilot posted videos on YouTube showing how baggage handlers can access aircraft just by swiping their ID cards at a door. Meanwhile, TSA subjects pilots to thorough searches, even those some pilots are permitted to carry firearms on-board, and have access to a hand ax in the cockpit. Now, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has responded -- not by addressing the security issues, but rather by subjecting the pilot to an investigation. According to San Francisco attorney Don Wersto, federal authorities have confiscated the pilot's firearm and removed him from a program that trained pilots on advanced security procedures.Mr. Werno told the Associated Press that the pilot has now removed the videos from YouTube. They had documented the difference in security screenings between pilots and ground crews at San Francisco International Airport. The episode raises a concern that TSA is more concerned about its public image than it is about real security. Real security policy makers welcome disclosures about weaknesses in current practices that they can fix. Hopefully, Mr. Wersto will be advising his client about the right to file a retaliation claim within the 90-day time limit under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century ("AIR 21").
We have received confirmation from two sources that a Senator has placed an anonymous hold on S. 372, the Senate's flawed version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). This hold effectively kills the bill as the Senate adjourned tonight until the next Senate is seated. Earlier this evening, the House passed a modified version of S. 372. The House's modification was to remove the provisions for employees of intelligence agencies.
Hopefully, there will be unity for strong whistleblower reforms that the entire whistleblower rights community can support in next Congress. It won't be easy after the recent conflict, but unity is required for true reform.
Captain Dan Hanley (center in photo) is the host of the Whistleblowing Airline Employees Blog Talk Radio Program and a leader of the Whistleblowing Airline Employees Association. He is a former United Airlines pilot, and succeeded in getting the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate improprieties in United's bankruptcy. When the Senate passed its flawed version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA), S. 372, and the National Whistleblowers Center called on the House to fix the flaws, Capt. Hanley initially signed onto a letter urging NWC to support House passage of S. 372, as is. Now he has retracted his support of that letter. Here is what he says today through Facebook:
My overriding concern is the continued corruption that lies within the DOJ and all intelligence services, which will be exacerbated with passage of the bill in its present form. It is for these reasons that, although some improvements were achieved in specific areas, the overall bill is sorely lacking in areas of import to me and our association.
S. 372 would coral the whistleblower complaints of federal employees in the intelligence agencies to a panel run by the heads of those agencies. Capt. Hanley now rejects the idea that we can advance our cause with legislation that is "sorely lacking in the areas of import to me and our association."
When the Iraq was was about to begin, Bunny Greenhouse alone challenged the legality of awarding no-bid, no-compete, cost plus contract to Haliburton. The Army swiftly retaliated and she lost her career and position as the Army Corps of Engineers top procurement executive. Today Bunny spoke out against S.732, the Senate's version of a Whistleblower Enhancement Act, asking the House to ensure that the "poisons pills packed into S.732" be removed instead of passing the bill in its current state. Bunny would be one of the first beneficiaries if a whistleblower enhancement bill were passed because she can still bring that claim. But Bunny realizes that "the Senate's version of this bill treats whistleblowers as second-class citizens, rolls back some existing protections and leaves national security whistleblowers out in the cold." Congress needs to deliver a meaningful whistleblower bill Bunny Greenhouse and all of the nation's federal workforce deserve - one that doesn't treat whistlebowers as second-class citizens or that rolls-back existing protections.
You can join Bunny Greenhouse in taking action to urge the House of Representatives to correct the flaws in S. 372.
Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, wrote a history lesson published today by England's Guardian. Responding to recent calls to prosecute WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning under the 1917 Espionage Act, Kohn recounts how the Espionage Act was actually used. "The law has nothing to do with prosecuting spies. From its inception, it had everything to do with suppressing dissent," Kohn says. He explains that:
intellectuals, journalists, film producers and pacifist religious figures were also prosecuted. Prison terms were long, and some political prisoners died in federal jails. The abuses under the law were legendary, and mark a sad day in US history.
Kohn concludes with this plea:
The attorney general should stop trying to resurrect the Espionage Act, and instead dust off his copy of the US constitution. If he has any question as to the meaning of the first amendment, he should read James Madison's 1789 speech, in which he introduced the bill of rights in the first Congress of the United States: "Freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable."
Julia Davis is an award winning screenwriter and published photographer. She is Vice President of Fleur De Lis Film Studios, and the LA Homeland Security Examiner for Examiner.com. In her column today, she decries the flaws in S. 372, the Senate's version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). She objects to its creation of a summary judgment procedure at the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). "Unless the bill is amended, Administrative Judges with the MSPB will now be able to dismiss whistleblower claims without a hearing, based solely on affidavits filed by the agencies." She notes that whistleblowers will have to survive this expensive process to benefit from the right to request a jury trial in district court. With MSPB's track record of ruling for employees 1.7% of the time, S. 372 offers little hope for whistleblowers. Davis says:
The same MSPB judges who rule overwhelmingly in favor of the agencies will be empowered to be the gatekeeper for federal court. Much as an elusive oasis in the desert, the illusion of access to federal court is just that – an illusion.
Davis also faults S. 372 for failing to provide substantive reform of the MSPB and the Office of Special Counsel. Her production company has released a letter to Congressional leaders urging correction of S. 372. She invites readers to take action to correct S. 372's flaws.Continue Reading...
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is retiring this year, after 30 years in Congress. Sen. Dorgan served as Chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC). In an address on the Senate floor last week, he reviewed the Committee's hearings on contracting waste, fraud and corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan. He recalled the testimony of my client Bunny Greenhouse. The remarks caught the attention of David Isenberg who quoted it on the Huffington Post as follows:
A very courageous woman came to testify before our committee. Her name was Bunnatine Greenhouse. She was the highest civilian official at the Army Corps of Engineers, the highest civilian official in the Pentagon in charge of contracting. Here is what she said. She objected to the way the Pentagon was doing these contracts, massive contracts, sole-source, a massive amount of money, and she watched as the normal processes were avoided and ignored. She testified in public:
I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.
This is an extraordinary woman, the highest civilian person in the Army Corps of Engineers. She was in charge of contracting. Two master's degrees, came from a family in Louisiana. All three kids have advanced degrees. Her brother, by the way, was one of the 50 top professional basketball players in the last century, Elvin Hayes. Bunnatine Greenhouse. Remember that name. A very courageous woman, she saw abuses, spoke about it publicly, and for that she lost her career. She gave up her career. She was told: Resign or be fired.
Bunny is still employed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, although the Corps removed her from her top contracting post shortly after her testimony to the Committee. Her legal case is still pending.