Whistleblowers seek protection

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The White House did not return a request for comment. However, Mr. Obama has a history of supporting whistleblowers, defending them as clients, and supporting Illinois legislation for whistleblower protection.

The House amendment would grant employees the right to a jury trial in federal court, and protect federal scientists, FBI and intelligence agency whistleblowers, contractors and airport screeners. It would neutralize the government’s use of the “state secrets” privilege and provide whistleblowers with the right to be made whole, including compensatory damages.

A similar bill passed the House 331-85 in March 2007, but died in the Senate.

According to Tom Devine, legal director for the Government Accountability Project, the bill died in the Senate in the last week of the session after two senators placed secret holds on the legislation.

“We since have learned those actions were a courtesy to the Justice Department´s Civil Division, which always has fought whistleblower rights, regardless of the president or party leading the administration, because it serves as counsel for the government in civil-service retaliation cases,” Mr. Devine said.

“When it wouldn´t have triggered final enactment, the Senate earlier twice had approved the bill by unanimous consent,” Mr. Devine said.

Asked who opposed the legislation, Mr. Devine said, “No one who´ll admit it. Opposition is always in back rooms under cloak of denial.”

Former Rep. Pat Schroeder, Colorado Democrat, who supported whistleblowers and authored whistleblower-protection legislation during her tenure, said Congress has been neglectful in its oversight or protection of federal whistleblowers.

“They need to pull out the legislation and revitalize it,” Mrs. Schroeder said. “We used to honor whistleblowers.”

The proposal for the executive order was drafted by current and former Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) whistleblowers, including Robert MacLean, who was fired after blowing the whistle on plans to eliminate protection on long-leg or coast-to-coast flights to save money, contrary to a congressional mandate that such flights have air marshals.

The information made public by Mr. MacLean was not classified at the time, but was retroactively classified as “sensitive security information” after Mr. MacLean was fired for the leak.

“This executive order will send a message to federal government managers or those employees tasked with combating terrorism and protecting public safety that the new administration will not condone whistleblower retaliation when gross mismanagement and corruption is exposed, or when public safety is being endangered,” the order said.

It asks that a panel be convened to review whistleblower retaliation to determine whether employees should be reinstated.

“The Government Accountability Project believes in the justice of their petition, and we have decided to use all of our resources as advocates to champion this,” Mr. Devine said.

Mr. MacLean says he does not regret blowing the whistle; he just wants his job back.

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