Government Whistleblowers

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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

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

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

This weekend, the Secretary of the Navy gave up his job after a dispute with President Donald Trump over plans to penalize a Navy SEAL charged with war crimes.

New York Times reporter Dave Philipps, who wrote about the case in April, noted “The biggest story in a war crimes case isn’t always the crime itself. Sometimes what the crime reveals about the culture and inner workings of a military unit is the real headline.”

That was what he thought when he learned that Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, the head of a Navy SEAL platoon, was charged with murdering civilians in Iraq. War crimes are easy to cover up, he wrote in a Times Insider column, where reporters share how they got the story.

So why had a popular chief who was almost eligible for retirement been turned in by several men in his own platoon for stabbing a captive teenager to death and gunning down civilians, including a young girl, with a sniper rifle?”

Philipps made a lot of calls but no one in the platoon would talk to him. Then, someone gave him more than 400 pages of confidential documents from the Navy’s criminal investigation. The headline on this story: Navy SEALS Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief For War Crimes. 


Continue Reading Whistleblowers reported problems with Navy SEAL leader Gallagher

The Christian Science Monitor offers an editorial that comes close to calling it the year of the whistleblower.

Congress has yet to determine the guilt or innocence of President Donald Trump over his alleged wrong behavior with Ukraine. Yet one thing is sure: The world has witnessed the powerful impact of a whistleblower calling out his or her boss.

They also offer a nice roundup of what is happening worldwide.

In October, the European Parliament approved a directive to protect from retaliation employees who report crime, corruption, and public health dangers from retaliation. Countries in the European Union have two years to implement the law. The mood in Europe shifted after a French accountant, Antoine Deltour, exposed widespread tax evasion by multinational businesses operating through shell companies in Luxembourg. Despite attempts to punish him for his actions, he endured. “The worst thing for a whistleblower,” Mr. Deltour said, “is not to be heard. The world then makes no sense.”

In February, Australia passed a new standard for whistleblower protection. Also this year, Lebanon and Tunisia became the first Middle East countries to pass such laws. And in June, the Group of 20, made up of leading rich and developing nations, further cemented a global norm by endorsing a set of principles for “effective” protection of whistleblowers. 

 FT: Whistleblowers fare poorly at accounting firms

The Financial Times spoke to 20 former employees of major accounting firms for a November 20 story on how the companies treat whistleblowers. Former staff from EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC said they were subject to “harassment, bullying and discrimination.” (Note: FT has a paywall.)


Continue Reading “The world has witnessed the powerful impact of a whistleblower”

 John Kostyack is the executive director of the  National Whistleblower Center

A national conversation is underway about whether the President’s actions on the Ukraine matter warrant impeachment – a question on which the National Whistleblower Center does not take a position. However, an equally robust conversation needs to happen on a related question: how to respond to the President’s hostile actions toward the Ukraine whistleblowers.
Continue Reading It’s time for Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight role and protect whistleblowers

I was punished for telling the truth. You hear that a lot from whistleblowers. Not what they expected for doing the right thing. Some organizations see whistleblowers as disloyal. So, when they fire, harass, demote, dox, or professionally blacklist a worker, supervisors see it as punishment, not retaliation.

So, anonymity is key. The laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation are strengthened by provisions for anonymity. What do they need to be protected from? Anyone who has ever gotten on the wrong side of a toxic boss or an unfair co-worker has had a taste of it.

Protection tips

The National Whistleblower Center offers a list of whistleblower protection practices to avoid retaliation. The NWC site shares the story of Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran special agent with the FBI who is also the chairwoman of the NWC’s Whistleblower Leadership Council. She led the FBI’s  programs for women and children on North Dakota Indian reservations and reported problems with the program. Turner said the aftermath was the destruction of her career and finances and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Here’s how they describe her case:
Continue Reading Why anonymity? This is what retaliation against whistleblowers looks like

11/6 update: Chris Cillizza at CNN comments on Rand Paul’s strategy at a Monday Trump rally,

“What Trump and Paul are trying to do is put the whistleblower at the end of this process. Unless the whistleblower reveals him or herself, how we can trust that anything he or she says is right? We have to know who this person is to judge whether they are some bitter Democrats or loser Never Trumper!

That’s not what a whistleblower is or what they do. Whistleblowers are the start of a process, not the end of it. And they are rarely the centerpiece of the process.”
He gets NWC director John Kostyack to explain how it works.

11/4: The Ukraine scandal whistleblower’s work is done, but the president and his supporters continue to call for him or her to come forward. They say his bias must be exposed. Democrats say he is no longer a key witness; others have confirmed the facts in the whistleblower complaint. Anonymity will protect him or her from certain harassment and retaliation.

Still, some lawmakers and conservative media sites are naming a CIA officer they say is likely the whistleblower. On Wednesday, the conservative news site Real Clear Politics reported that the whistleblower is CIA analyst who worked at the White House – something the New York Times reported to some outcry. Real Clear Politics puts a name to it and offers this confirmation: the name of “a government official fitting that description… has been raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.“

The whistleblower’s lawyers won’t confirm or deny. They have offered to have the whistleblower answer written questions from GOP lawmakers under oath.  Most major press outlets are not reporting the name.
Continue Reading Push to unmask whistleblower continues despite confirmation of facts in complaint