Michael Horowitz, DOJ IG

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to talk about his report on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The debate over the whistleblower complaint about President Trump and the Ukraine was playing out elsewhere. But Senator Dianne Feinstein of California took the opportunity to ask Horowitz about whistleblower protection.

From The Hill:

“Whistleblowers have a right to expect complete, full confidentiality in all circumstances,” Horowitz said, calling it a “very important provision.”

Horowitz added that “any politically motivated investigation undermines the rule of law.”

His support of whistleblowers is well established. Horowitz was joined by about 60 inspectors general in an October letter to the Department of Justice lawyers. They note that the DOJ decision to essentially overrule the Intelligence Community Inspector General over the Ukraine call whistleblower complaint set a bad precedent.

Whistleblowers play an essential public service in coming forward with such information, and they should never suffer reprisal or even the threat of reprisal for doing so. For over 40 years, since enactment of the Inspector General Act in 1978, the IG community has relied on whistleblowers, and the information they provide, to conduct non-partisan, independent oversight of the federal government. Because the effectiveness of our oversight work depends on the willingness of government employees, contractors, and grantees to come forward to us with their concerns about waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct within government, those individuals must be protected from reprisal.

Continue Reading Horowitz and other inspectors general stick up for whistleblowers

Two whistleblowers are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill this morning. Both hearings begin at 10 a.m.and will be broadcast live.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear will testify about retaliation she faced after complaining about bullying and harassment at the Coast Guard Academy.  In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general confirmed her complaints. From the New London Day. (The academy is based in the Connecticut city.)

Young-McLear says she endured four years of abuse at the academy, including her supervisor making belittling comments toward her, using her as a scapegoat and undermining her work. She said she exhausted the complaint process, making reports to her Coast Guard chain of command, including senior leadership at the academy and the commandant, and through the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security’s civil rights reporting processes.

“They all failed me. The reporting systems that we have in place failed, and I was retaliated against,” said Young-McLear, who left the academy this summer for a cybersecurity fellowship under the Department of Homeland Security.

Coast Guard officials say they have addressed Young-McLear’s concerns but problems at the Coast Guard persist.

Continue Reading Whistleblowers head to Capitol Hill today to tell their tales

Brazilian scientists reported in November that 3,769 square miles of forest cover had been lost in a one year – the biggest decline in a decade.

The New York Times reports that President Jair Bolsonaro “who has long argued that conservation policies stymie economic development, has been disdainful of the environmental measures that reduced the Amazon deforestation rate between 2004 and 2012. His government has weakened enforcement of environmental laws by cutting funding and personnel at key government agencies, and it has scaled back efforts to fight illegal logging, mining and ranching.”

At the same time, more than 150 environmental activists were murdered in worldwide last year, according to one report.

Forest Watch app

When laws are weak or ignored and informers risk their lives, whistleblower laws can offer protection. The National Whistleblower Center announced a new program Monday to help environmental whistleblowers worldwide get lawyers, remain anonymous and get rewarded. The program will focus on the logging and fossil fuel industries.

Corruption and organized crime sound like urban problems. But illegal logging by criminal gangs is a well-established barrier to ending deforestation. It happens in countries with weak rule of law and systemic corruption, according to Interpol, the international law enforcement agency. The tropical forests are vast and often remote, thus hard to monitor. Continue Reading Can whistleblowers save the Amazon rainforest?

Today the National Whistleblower Center launches its Climate Corruption Campaign. I would like to share why I believe this campaign and the whistleblowers who will be at the heart of it are so badly needed.

For those fossil fuel and industrial logging company executives who may be reading this and be familiar with the corruption I describe: I encourage you to contact the National Whistleblower Center on our secure intake form and engage with us in a conversation about becoming a confidential whistleblower!

Climate Emergency

Last month, 11,000 scientists from around the world came together to issue a clarion call: “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” They predicted that “untold suffering” would ensue without an “immense increase” in effort to address the climate crisis.

I have always believed we are an intelligent species, quite capable of rescuing our civilization from the miseries of runaway climate change. The impressive gains in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the past few decades have only reinforced this belief. We now have the technology we need to get us most of the way to solving the climate puzzle and we have the ingenuity to take us the rest of the way.

Yet just last week, the Global Carbon Project released a report finding that in 2019, despite impressive progress with clean energy, global fossil fuel emissions had increased for the third straight year. Meanwhile a blizzard of studies strengthened the links between rising carbon emissions from fossil fuels, deforestation and other sources and the intensification of fires, floods and other extreme weather events as well as rapid ice melt on the world’s glaciers.

The urgent need for action is clear. We must not only bear down on proven strategies like rapidly deploying wind and solar energy. We also must finally come to grips with what is happening inside the companies producing fossil fuels. (I will write at a later date about coming to grips with the illegal timber trade.)

Continue Reading Enlisting Whistleblowers to Combat Crime in the Fossil Fuel and Industrial Logging Industries

“I should really tackle that vacuum closet,” Siobhan O’Connor told herself when her boss, Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, was out of town.

HIdden inside, she found a thick binder. It included documents from pending litigation charging priests with sexual assault. Many were still in their jobs. Last summer, she leaked the list to a local television station.

It took not one, but two whistleblowers to oust Malone, who resigned on Wednesday after evidence emerged that he was covering up for abusive priests.

O’Conner shared her story on NPR this morning.

I’ve been a Catholic all my life…I remember thinking that I was certain this was necessary. This truth had to come out  for the good of our Catholic community. But I did struggle with the knowledge that I would be betraying my bishop.

She also knew her actions would impact her life.

But I remember thinking that, if I don’t do something, it will it change my life in a far graver way. I could never move past this if I were to be aware of this  and walked away without doing something. I’m so grateful I did because I have had this lasting peace ever since then.

Continue Reading Whistleblowers key to exposing Buffalo church abuse cover-up

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cancelled a meeting in October to consider controversial changes to its whistleblower program. Clearly, the agency is reconsidering, but Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center, predicts we won’t see any details until 2020.

Stephen M. Kohn

Kohn argues that the proposed changes would destroy the program by discouraging whistleblowers from coming forward. When asked by a writer from the Corporate Crime Reporter how he feels about possible amendments to SEC’s proposals, Kohn had this to say:

“I’m on a wait and see on the outcome. The devil is in the details. They can meet us halfway. But on some of these, halfway is a disaster. But we will fight to the end. If the outcome is bad, we will litigate it and we will take it to Congress.”

However, he did say that the postponement of the decision suggests SEC staff are listening to what the NWC has to say. Kohn his team met with them several times and brought along emails and signature from 110,000 people.

Continue Reading Don’t expect changes to SEC whistleblower program until 2020

Over the past two weeks as part of our #GivingTuesday campaign, we’ve shared with you the stories of Gene Ross, Sheila White, and Sherron Watkins who all courageously spoke out against fraud, corruption, and injustice.

It’s because of whistleblowers like them that we do what we do. Without their bravery, we would all be worse off.

Now, #GivingTuesday is here, and we need your help to continue to fight for whistleblowers like Gene, Sheila, and Sherron.

Whistleblower protections and incentives are under attack from all sides – big business, agencies, the courts, even the President.

We’ve scored some key wins this year like exposing Facebook’s autogenerated terror and hate content, passing the Taxpayer First Act, preventing an SEC rollback of protections and rewards for securities fraud whistleblowers, and introducing key legislation like the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act and Whistleblower Programs Improvement Act, to name a few. But we still have a long way to go.

Continue Reading Today’s the day: join the #GivingTuesday campaign

The Washington Post reports that Congressional staffers worked through the holiday to complete a report on the House Intelligence Committee’s  Ukraine investigation. It is expected to go to the Judiciary Committee Tuesday. That committee will meet Wednesday review the report and its own findings as it considers articles of impeachment. Those will go to the House floor.

Much has been said about that whistleblower and whistleblowing in general over the past two months. Here’s a roundup of some of our posts.

9/24 Will whistleblower battle lead to a crisis of confidence in the intelligence community?

Whistleblowers from the intelligence community face a different set of rules than other government insiders.

Continue Reading Working overtime to deliver report linked to IC whistleblower complaint

As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign this year, the National Whistleblower Center is highlighting the stories of several whistleblowers who spoke at the 2019 National Whistleblower Day celebration.

Sherron Watkins, Enron whistleblower

Sherron Watkins is the former Enron Vice President who wrote a now infamous memo in the summer of 2001 to then-CEO Kenneth Lay warning him about improper accounting methods.

At the time, Enron was one of the largest corporations in the U.S. and a giant in the energy-trading and utilities field. Fortune had named it “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years. However, Watkins’ memo revealed that the company’s finances were sustained by systemic accounting fraud and corruption.

Enron was forced to declare bankruptcy in late 2001, and she was called to testify before both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate about the accounting irregularities that she had found in the financial statements.  Continue Reading The memo that brought down Enron

The Inspector General (IG) of the Intelligence Community, Michael K. Atkinson, calls IGs “first responders.”  In his semi-annual report to Congress, he writes:

As so-called first responders, Inspectors General must act swiftly and appropriately when – through audits, investigations, inspections, or reviews – possible wrongdoing is revealed. They must identify, stop, or correct the problem, and in the process,  they may need to alert those who can assist in the response, whether it be Congress, law enforcement authorities, or others.

He goes on to write that, like all ‘first responders, his team is dependent “upon those who first raise an alarm.” Often, whistleblowers are the first people to note waste or possible wrongdoing.

Continue Reading A “searing time” for whistleblower rights — and a pledge to protect them