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Federal Employees News Digest : Oct. 22, 2012
October 22, 2012 Vol. 62, No. 15 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com tions enacted into law, but the protection is needed now," POGO's Newman said. "There's still some real work to be done in terms of putting together the rules and how it's all going to be implemented. We're not saying it's over, it's not across the finish line yet---but it's a big step. "Obviously there have been some very real contradictions on the handling of whistle- blowers in this administration," Newman added. "We've had to be very critical of this administration's handling of some national security whistleblowers." Newman noted that the group was "very concerned" about the Obama administra- tion's use of the Espionage Act, "to intimidate and retaliate against some national security whistleblowers." "Our concerns still exist---and we're cer- tainly not going to really cheer until the final rules are in place," Newman said. Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine, who like POGO generally praised the directive, paralleled Newman in noting that while it represented a major stride forward for national security whistleblowers, it was still a directive without teeth. "Until agencies adopt implementing regu- lations, no one whose new rights are violated will have any due process to enforce them," Devine said in a statement. "Further, there are only false due process teeth on the hori- zon. Regulations to enforce whistleblower rights will be written by the same agencies that routinely are the defendants in whistle- blower retaliation lawsuits." "This policy directive represents a signifi- cant breakthrough," Devine said, "but it is no substitute for Congress to legislate perma- nent rights for national security whistleblow- ers, with third-party enforcement the same as for other employees." Another nonprofit concerned with good government, Public Citizen, also weighed in, offering both praise and concerns about the directive. "This is a problem with a long history--- marginalizing groups in the [federal] sys- tem. And this directive changes that," Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advo- cate with the group, told FEND. "I have to say it's great that the White House has picked up where the Senate left off. " "People who come from a private-sector situation---who are not federal civil employ- ees, or intelligence employees---who want to speak up about something in the work- place---are protected by laws, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act," Wrightson said. "The OSH Act has a whistleblower pro- vision in it---Section 11-C---which grants us that right without fear or repercussion," Wrightson continued. "However if you are a federal intelligence community employee, you have never had the right. "Anything you have been dealing with as an intelligence community member was classified as secret---so you weren't allowed to say, 'Hey, this is a fraudulent practice,' or 'This is wasteful.' If you spoke up about these things, in most instances you could lose your security clearance. And you would be blacklisted," Wrightson said. "Essentially you would be without that job, because you need security clearance to do a lot of this kind of work, to work for the [National Security Agency], and so on. That's what this came down to." "What the new directive says here is there is this language---a 'prohibition against retaliation,'" Wrightson said, reading from his copy of the document. "'Any officer or employee in the executive branch who has the authority to direct others,' etc., 'affecting any employee's eligibility to access to clas- sified information, shall not---with respect to such authority---take or fail to take, or threaten to take,' etc., 'any action affecting an employee's eligibility for access to classi- fied information as a reprisal for making a protected disclosure.' "What this essentially means is if some- one speaks up and says something---blows the whistle---you can't just take away their security clearance anymore while the alle- gation gets resolved in the system, or pos- sibly court," Wrightson explained. "And that process takes forever, still, and that's not helpful---the way appeals are handled by the Merit Systems Protection Board. That's a long process, and hopefully that's what gets reformed next." "If you do speak up, according to the new directive, you are not going to instantly lose your job," Wrightson summarized. "Instead, you'll be entering a process, with the inspec- tor general, and he'll have oversight over everything that will take place. And that's not how it was in the past. And so this problem is being addressed." Wrightson cautioned that media disclo- sures---and disclosures to Congress---are not covered by the White House directive. "The only way you will be covered is if you go through your chain of command," he said. "The bill is the broadest language protect- ing federal and civil employees on this ever to exist," Wrightson added. "It addresses all the judicial activism since 1994---after the original Whistleblower Protection Act---all of which was just to water that original law down. They just didn't know how to handle this. But now, this directive addresses all these problems---and as I said, it is the broad- est and most progressive language to protect employees in decades." Next steps Like Public Citizen, some other employ- ee advocates said that in addition to the presidential directive, they still want to see the Senate pass the reform bill---S. 743--- preferably in the strong, original version, and not the weaker version passed by the House. "We ... hope Congress will eventu- ally statutorily enact the president's new IC and national security whistleblower protections, but go further and specifi- cally protect disclosures to Congress continued from page 1 continued on page 4 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com.
Oct. 15, 2012
Oct. 29, 2012