262 Groups Urge Congress To Protect Whistleblowers

February 11, 2009

A coalition of 262 citizen groups from many walks of life are urging the new Congress (111th) to pass legislation ending the widespread practice of government retaliation against federal employees who reveal government waste, fraud, and abuse.

The groups sent a letter January 27, 2009, to key Congressional leaders calling for them to finish work on whistleblower protection legislation, which was passed by both House and Senate in the previous Congress (110th).

The groups ranged from the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the California First Amendment Association to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, CorpWatch, and the Consumers Union. They not only included the American Civil Liberties Union and many environmental groups, but also many conservative and property-owners' groups.

Whistleblowers have been key sources — often confidential — in many of the biggest news stories of recent decades. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is supposed to protect them, but it rarely if ever does. That is because Congress and the courts have gutted it and the executive branch has not enforced it.

The House added whistleblower protection legislation January 28, 2009, by voice vote to the stimulus bill it passed the same day.

Similar language was not added to the Senate stimulus bill. Conferees are trying to reconcile the two bills this week.

The Washington Post editorialized against including the Whistleblower bill in the stimulus. The now-financially-flagging Post has based many of the stories from which it derived its former greatness on tips from anonymous whistleblowers, including those in national security agencies. The editorial argued that it was wrong to encumber the stimulus with a non-germane amendment — although proponents said whistleblowers were needed to keep the over-$800-billion from being wasted. The Post went beyond that practical argument to contend that the legislation did too much to protect national-security whistleblowers — the ones responsible for revealing some of the legal and Constitutional violations of the Bush Administration.

The Post used anonymous Defense Department whistleblowers to source a story as recently as February 9, 2009. The story by Juliet Eilperin exposed a secret DOD program paying landowners to protect bird species, offsetting harm caused by its training activities.