Picture this: while at work you become aware of conduct that you believe is unethical, illegal, or qualifies as government waste, fraud, or abuse. You decide you want to blow the whistle. But before you act, be careful! Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Your work computer and phone are not private. When you use a company or department computer, assume everything you do is monitored. These computers are an easy way for your employer to determine you are the whistleblower.
On Monday, August 1st, four federal agencies celebrated National Whistleblower Day with an event sponsored by the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. This was the first time any federal agencies have ever recognized Whistleblower Day, although the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution four years in a row proclaiming July 30th as National Whistleblower Day.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, a bi-partisan bill designed to protect FBI whistleblowers. The bill, introduced by Committee Chair Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, will reform current FBI whistleblower protections by providing compensatory damages for whistleblowers, expanding the scope of protected activity, ending bureaucratic delays in processing cases, and allowing for case review by independent administrative law judges. Now it will advance to the full Senate for a vote. Continue Reading Senate Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves FBI Whistleblower Reform
But IG Recommendations Fall Far Short
Twenty. Years. Yesterday, July 16, 2014, the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its third report of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Lab misconduct first alleged twenty years ago – in 1994 – by Dr. Frederic Whitehurst.
Washington Post Investigative Reporter Spencer S. Hsu, in his coverage of this latest report, summed it up by saying, “Justice Department officials have known for years that flawed forensic work might have led to the convictions of potentially innocent people, but prosecutors failed to notify defendants or their attorneys even in many cases they knew were troubled.”
To review the timeline:
In 1994 Fred Whitehurst first made his whistleblower allegations of shoddy science and manipulated evidence during court proceedings in the first World Trade bombing case and later to the Justice Dept. Inspector General.
In 1996, the Department of Justice (DOJ) set up a Task Force to investigate Dr. Whitehurst’s claims in order to determine if anyone was wrongfully convicted. At the same time, the OIG conducted its own evaluation, and issued the “1997 OIG Report” that found problems with 13 FBI Lab examiners and suggested that all of the forensic work of the criticized examiners be reviewed by the DOJ Task Force. The ensuing DOJ Task Force review was done in secret, they never issued a final report, and the FBI and DOJ later claimed that no convictions were overturned as a result of their intensive reviews.
In 1998, the FBI and DOJ agreed to settle Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblower retaliation claims and paid him a record-breaking settlement amount of $1.16 million. [CNN, “FBI whistle-blower leaves, gets $1.16 million” (Feb. 27, 1998).] Continue Reading Justice Dept. Inspector General Report Once Again Validates Whistleblower’s Allegations About FBI Lab Scandal
Truthout reporter Jason Leopold is reporting today that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released five pages of a PowerPoint presentation that describe a previously unknown program of "blackballing" records that would not be disclosed in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Labor historian Trevor Griffey obtained the document while following up on Manning Marable’s research on Malcolm X. Dr. Marable was a Columbia University professor who founded the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He died last year, and Griffey made a FOIA request to the FBI to ask for its documentation about Dr. Marable’s requests about Malcolm X. An FBI analyst eventually disclosed that a search on Marable turned up a single file that was "blackballed" per the "standard operating procedure." Griffey made another request for documents about the blackballing procedure. This request produced the five pages from a PowerPoint presentation. It says that the FBI would blackball a record if it
Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law
This text is from FOIA Exemption (b)(7)(E) [5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(E)]. What is disturbing is that instead of producing a copy of the document with the classified information blacked out, the FBI was denying the existence of documents that actually do exist. The whole point of FOIA is that we can build trust and confidence in government operations through a process by which government offices share their information, with certain limited exceptions. While the government retains the right to classify certain information, or even to respond that the existence of non-existence of a document is itself classified (the so-called "Glomar response"), it undermines public confidence when it makes a false statement that no document exists. The PowerPoint pages themselves had certain portions redacted so that we in the public cannot even know all the categories of documents that are "blackballed." Hopefully, wiser heads will soon prevail and the FBI will reform its FOIA procedures so that the public will have accurate information about when and why information is withheld.
Today, FBI whistleblower Jane Turner issued a statement on the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran Agent, blew the whistle on the FBI’s failure to provide protection for child sex crime victims on the North Dakota Indian Reservations. Ms. Turner reported the allegations to the highest level of the FBI, including Director Mueller. Her allegations included the FBI’s: failure to act on leads concerning a international long haul truck driver pedophile, cover-up of a rape of a 2-year old child by declaring her injuries to be a result of a car accident, and failure to follow-up on the direct evidence that a television personality was sexually molesting children on the Indian Reservation.
In retaliation for exposing FBI failures within its child crime program, Ms. Turner was removed from her position. She was forced to wage a 10-year legal battle to establish her right to blow the whistle. Ms. Turner eventually won her case in front of a federal jury in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jane Turner issued the following statement:
Unfortunately, I witnessed first-hand the institutional inaction that often happens when someone reports child abuse. It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions. It simply boils down to the fact that those in power have a stronger desire to preserve the reputation of their institution, then taking the road of truth or justice. Entities like Penn State, the Catholic Church and the FBI all share something in common; they operate in an insular world where rules or laws that apply to everyone else, do not apply to them.
By Guest Blogger: Jane Turner
Member of NWC’s Board of Directors and Director of NWC’s FBI Oversight Program
I am a FBI whistleblower. In my childhood, I did not dream of growing up to be a whistleblower, I dreamt of growing up to be an FBI Agent. I not only accomplished my dream, but I was a true believer. A true believer of the FBI family, a true believer of having Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity. I worked hard, and broke many barriers, being the first woman on the Seattle Division SWAT team; being the first woman Senior Resident Agent, and first woman working full time in Indian Country. I was given high rating scores and was one of the first woman Field Profilers. I worked on several high profile FBI cases and also taught on a national level on interviewing and interrogating sexual offenders and their victims. I never lost a case in federal court, and I loved my job.
After twenty-one years in the FBI, I notified my immediate superiors that there was misconduct and malfeasance by FBI agents. I did this because I thought it would make the FBI a better agency, and because I believed in Fidelity, Integrity and Bravery. One incident was the brutal rape of a 5-year old Indian child that a FBI agent had covered up as a car accident. Another incident involved FBI agents who were recording individuals as informants without their knowledge. A third incident concerned FBI personnel taking property from Ground Zero after 9/11. All of these incidents occurred in the Minneapolis Division, where I was stationed. I dutifully notified my supervisors, who responded by downgrading my ratings. I took the complaints, backed by evidence, through official channels inside the FBI all the way to FBI Headquarters. Thus began a thirteen-year legal battle as senior management in the FBI decided that protecting the FBI’s image was more important than the FBI’s integrity. As this whistleblowing battle intensified, senior management pulled Minneapolis agents away from other duties in the terrorism and criminal realms to flood the area where I was stationed and ask questions regarding my sexual, mental and work habits. The investigation revealed nothing of a negative nature. People said that I was the "quintessential FBI agent." In February of 2007, I won a jury trial against the FBI. Even witnesses from the United States Attorney’s Office undercut the claims of high-ranking FBI officials that performance issues were the basis for their desire to terminate my employment as an FBI Agent.
I find it amazing when I look over these past seventeen years of having been involved with the National Whistleblowers Center and the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto that we have not moved so much further ahead in this nation with protections for whistleblowers. In 1992 when I first approached the law firm of Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto to represent me in my attempts to address the problems at the FBI crime lab, we were a nation in denial. Whistleblowers had a history of being dealt with brutally. And today the same brutality is evident in every whistleblower case the law firm and the NWC handles. Today I look at the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as countless lives and resources are destroyed and know that somewhere in that group of people who brought this disaster on our nation, there were potential whistleblowers who said to themselves that the risks of blowing the whistle on BP malpractices were just not worth the dangers to themselves and their families. After all, this nation cares little for the rights and protections of individuals who would proactively stop such disasters. This lack of concern is reflected in the actions of our Congressmen and Senators, some of whom have labored hard and diligently to establish whistleblower protections while most ignore obvious safeguards for our nation, our citizens and our natural resources. If we do not wake up in the face of this, the worst environmental disaster in history created by lax standards by the British Petroleum Corporation, then we deserve what we get.
In our recent attempts to strengthen whistleblower protections we have even faced almost insurmountable barriers to whistleblower protections from President Obama’s staff, in fact efforts to thoroughly gut whistleblower protections by that very staff. Present Barack Obama cannot be so blind as to believe that gutting whistleblower protections will do anything but lead to repeats in other forms of the BP environmental disaster we see going on now. And yet, as a nation, we maintain a society where individuals who would expose serious dangers to this nation are treated as criminals.
These many years later, I remain confused and saddened by this state of affairs, by the mistreatment of whistleblowers and the lack of protections for those individuals who would put the safety of this nation above the safety of themselves and their own families. In days gone by, these patriots would have been treated as heroes. Today, they are simply martyrs to lost causes. This is a shame on our nation, on our President and on our Congress.
By: Jane Turner
I find that the most amazing part of being an FBI whistleblower is watching while FBI managers who are directly involved in misconduct, malfeasance, obstruction, or criminal activity–which whistleblowers bring to light–are rewarded, promoted, and/or given bonuses. The Director of the FBI did not even have the common courtesy to exile the guilty parties to Butte, Montana or Minot, North Dakota. He allows them to continue to be elevated into the highest ranks of the FBI, receiving all the benefits that those lofty positions bring.
For instance, the Zacarias Moussoui debacle, where managers in the FBI would not allow FBI agents to get a search warrant for Moussoui’s personal possessions, even though evidence presented was compelling. It is a long and tortured story, one that might have ended in FBI agents possibly stopping the attacks of 9/11 if managers at FBI Headquarters had not been guilty of "obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism" (SA Harry Samit, FBI, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 3/9/2006).
Senator Charles Grassley (R) and others have pointed out that no one in the FBI management team has been fired or punished for 9/11, and in fact, several have been promoted. Later, I will name not only those individuals involved in 9/11 who were negligent, but also name those in my case who were involved in that obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism, and were subsequently promoted. One of the FBI managers in my case who was involved in misconduct, was also involved in the Moussoui investigation.
It is indeed a small world when one is a FBI Whistleblower.
By: Jane Turner
The world of federal whistleblowers is a very small one. I have met Sibel Edmonds, and others who qualified for the whistleblower title. Colleen Rowley was in two of the same FBI offices that I was assigned. Fred Whitehurst (of the FBI Laboratory fame) spent hours on the phone helping me through the emotional tornado that hits each and every whistleblower. There were whistleblowers I have met in other federal agencies. What amazes me is that there are any whistleblowers at all. Every whistleblower counsels almost anyone who reaches out to them for advice, that the road of a whistleblower is exceedingly difficult, and filled with terrible events. Intimidation, reprisal, being ostracised, loss of friends, and the destruction of a career are typical. Loved ones leave you, and friends are tired of hearing over and over again of the misjustice that was perpetrated against you. The low number of federal whistleblowers demonstrates the world in which we live. A world that is terribly hostile to those who speak truth to those in power.