Earlier this month Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, attended a roundtable discussion with the National Security Agency (NSA) Inspector General (IG) Robert Storch. The meeting served as an avenue for the IG to hear comments on the NSA’s whistleblower program.

In attendance was Andrew Snowdon, NSA whistleblower coordinator and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) counsel, as well as representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Project on Government Oversight, and Government Accountability Project, among others.

Continue Reading “No Right Without a Remedy”: Why NSA Whistleblower Protections Are Lacking

Over the weekend the Daily Beast reported on a leaked draft investigative report that exposed the systemic failures in the flawed intelligence community whistleblower program. According to this report, late last year the Trump Administration put a lid on the finalization of an investigation of the whistleblower program failures by the Inspector General for all intelligence agencies.  Continue Reading National Security Whistleblowers: Systemic Failures and Broken Promises Exposed in Leaked Report

The Whistleblower Protection Blog’s most popular posts during the past year covered a wide range of whistleblower topics including court victories improving whistleblower rights, the introduction of new whistleblower legislation,  and the Congressional celebration honoring whistleblowers.

We really appreciate the support from our loyal readers. You have given us another successful year. If you’d like to be the first to know when we post a new blog, you can get notifications by subscribing to our RSS Feed here.  Or you can use the box to the left to receive our posts via email.

Here are the top 10 posts of 2015, in order of popularity:

  1. Big Win For Whistleblowers At Labor Department;
  2. House Passes Bill to Expand Protections for Federal Employees Against Discrimination;
  3. Appeals Court Rules That KBR Can Keep Evidence Of Contract Fraud Secret;
  4. House Investigation Reveals Commerce IG’s Pattern of Retaliation Against Whistleblowers;
  5. Senators Honor Whistleblowers at First Congressional Celebration of National Whistleblower Day;
  6. Court of Appeals Rules NSA Domestic Surveillance Program Illegal;
  7. SEC Sanctions KBR for Illegal Non-Disclosure Agreement;
  8. Tax Court Delivers Victory For Tax Whistleblowers;
  9. IRS Whistleblower Program Releases 2014 Report to Congress;
  10. NWC Releases Press Statement Regarding FBI Crime Lab Errors.

 

Washington, D.C.  May 7, 2015.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) telephone metadata collection program, which gathers up millions of phone records on an ongoing daily basis, is illegal.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden first revealed documents confirming the illegal program’s existence in June of 2013.

The government argued that it was authorized by the Patriot Act to secretly collect such data. Judge Gerard E. Lynch, writing for a three-judge panel, said the program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” Lynch continued that the Patriot Act “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

“Whether you supported or opposed Edward Snowden’s disclosure of this massive privacy violation committed by the NSA, the courts ruling today demonstrates the importance of whistleblowing,” stated Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center.

“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives the American people the right to know about government misconduct. When our government is systemically violating the rights of its citizens, it often takes the courage of a whistleblower to alert the public to threats to our Liberty,” said Kohn.

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in a New York Times Op-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of  The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself.

Related links:

Decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in ACLU v. Clapper.

U.S. NSA domestic phone spying program illegal: appeals court

NSA mass phone surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden ruled illegal

Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, joined Chuck Todd to discuss Brian Williams’ extensive interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and the various legal challenges that the former NSA contractor faces. Click link below to watch the interview.

Snowden faces felony charges at home

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Washington, D.C. January 17, 2014. Today President Obama gave a much anticipated speech in which he addressed the National Security reforms his administration will put in place.  The reforms he identified are woefully shortsighted with regard to providing protection for National Security whistleblowers.  President Obama acknowledged the potential abuse that can arise from the NSA surveillance programs, citing the illegal surveillance of civil rights leader Dr. King.  However, he offered no meaningful way for patriotic whistleblowers to bring forward concerns and abuses taking place out of pubic view.  

The President of the National Whistleblower Center, Michael D. Kohn issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s reforms:

“Until President Obama recognizes the critical and essential role whistleblowers play in keeping us safe from illegal invasions of privacy and civil liberties, the changes to the programs under consideration are nothing more than short-term widow dressing.  

It is time that the President and Congress step up to the plate and work with the National Whistleblower Center and other public interest organizations to forge a framework that provides national security whistleblowers a meaningful avenue to air concerns and cure retaliation.  Congress and the President must do their jobs, and stop destroying the lives of civil servants who try to report misconduct. A free and open society deserves nothing less.”

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. NWC Executive Director, Stephen Kohn, previously discussed this precedent in his New York Times Op-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself  (Lyons Press, 2011). 

The National Whistleblower Center’s position on President Obama’s “Policy Directive" on National Security Whistleblowers is linked here.  

Presidential Policy Directive 19 is a Directive that creates administrative procedures “protecting” employee-whistleblowers who work for U.S. intelligence agencies, including the NSA, CIA, DNI and the Defense Intelligence Agency. When first announced by President Obama in late 2012, the Directive was met with mixed reviews. Some public interest groups praised the President for taking this initiative, while others strongly condemned the measure.

The White House has repeatedly pointed to the Directive as part of its defense of the President’s handling of the Edward Snowden matter.   For example, at an August 9, 2013 press conference President Obama said:

I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community — for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions.

Attorneys associated with the NWC litigate cases on behalf of employee-whistleblowers, many of which have direct impact on national security. Based on these experiences we have learned what protections must exist in order to give courageous and highly vulnerable employees a fighting chance to protect their jobs. Unfortunately, the Directive lacks any of these provisions.

Continue Reading Where We Stand on Obama’s “Policy Directive” On National Security Whistleblowers

On Monday July 22, Stephen Kohn was interviewed by Kim Williams of 2SER Sydney, Australia. Mr. Kohn discussed NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden. Mr. Kohn explained how the United States has left National Security employees with little options for reporting wrongdoing as they have no whistleblower protections. He also gave a brief history of whistleblowing in the United States and compared how the U.S. Government treats whistleblowers much differently today than the Founding Fathers did during the War of Independence.  The segment is entitled “Whistleblowers: under the microscope.” Listen here.

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in his New York Times Op-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself  (Lyons Press, 2011).  

Request Based on Credible Evidence of Illegal 
Conduct Raised by Whistleblower Edward Snowden


Washington, D.C. June 13, 2013. Attorneys at the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund (“NWLDEF”) sent a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he open a formal investigation into criminal conduct by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and others. The request is based in part on the allegations raised by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden indicating that the DNI lied in testimony to Congress. 
 
The request cites Snowden’s June 9 interviews with the media where he raised credible and specific credible evidenced documenting that the March 12, 2013 testimony given by General Clapper to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was false.
 
Stephen Kohn, who co-authored the letter and is also Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, stated, “General Clapper and other executives at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency are not above the law. Although the use spying tactics applied abroad may be beyond the bounds of U.S. law enforcement, the actions and statements of General Clapper and associates before the U.S. Congress must conform to U.S. law. It is incumbent upon the Attorney General to hold executives within the Obama Administration fully accountable to the law.”
 
Kohn added, “No person may give false statements to the U.S. Senate, even under the guise of National Security. The title of Director of National Intelligence does not enable General Clapper to create a ‘truth-free zone’ when he testifies under oath before Congress.”
 
Important Links:
 

Continue Reading Whistleblower Group Requests Attorney General Holder to Open Criminal Investigation of DNI James Clapper for False Statements to Congress

We may be much closer to living in an Orwellian state than many think, suggests William Binney, a National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower. Binney served as an NSA employee for almost 40 years, including time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, before leaving his post in October of 2001. In his first interview since he quit his job because of the domestic surveillance program, he sat down with Democracy Now! to discuss the NSA’s colossal power to spy on Americans.

Binney interviewed with two other individuals who have been frequent targets of government surveillance: Laura Poitras, an Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker, and producer and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher and Wikileaks volunteer. Both have been interrogated and regularly detained upon entrance into the United States. Their computers, cameras, and cell phones have been seized and presumably copied.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2012/4/20/whistleblower_the_nsa_is_lying_us

William Binney began the conversation discussing the role of the NSA and how its operation drastically changed post 9/11. After the 2001 attacks, the NSA began collecting roughly 320 million records of US –to- US citizen communication from commercial companies, largely AT&T. After this occurred, Binney “knew [he] could not stay there” and “had to leave.” Not only did this collection infringe upon constitutional rights, it also violated the Pen Registry Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, and the Intelligence Acts of 1947 and 1978.

With knowledge of the illegal data collection that was occurring, Binney and a few colleagues filed a DOD-IG report to the Pentagon and Inspector General reporting on the corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse that was occurring at the NSA. Because his signature was on this document, his home was raided on July 26, 2007, with his family present. Roughly a dozen FBI Agents entered his residence with guns drawn. He was separated from his family and interrogated.

Continue Reading The Growing Power of the NSA