- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
Obama blamed for NSA spying revelations by whistleblower advocate group
An advocate for government whistleblowers blamed the Obama administration Tuesday for failing to provide protections for intelligence employees who want to report abuses and wrongdoing, as authorities intensified their global manhunt for national-security leaker Edward Snowden.
For the second consecutive day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to deflect blame away from the administration for Mr. Snowden's unprecedented and unauthorized disclosure of secret surveillance programs by the National Security Agency. He said Mr. Obama had strengthened protections for government workers who come forward through proper channels to air concerns.
But Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center in Washington, said the administration "is to blame in large part for the situation we now see."
He said Mr. Obama retreated from a 2008 campaign promise to extend whistleblower protections to national-security workers.
During negotiations on whistleblower legislation in 2009, Mr. Kohn said, he met at the White House with Norman Eisen, a law school classmate of Mr. Obama who was then the administration's special counsel for ethics and government reform.
"I confronted Norm ... that there had been a promise to protect national security whistleblowers and let them have access to court," Mr. Kohn said. "He told me to my face that the administration was not going to honor that promise, and I was free to tell the world that they broke it. That's what he said. The White House completely reversed their position. So the Enhancement Act that he is now praising does not cover NSA, CIA among others — it completely stripped out all protections for national security whistleblowers."
Mr. Carney blamed the law's shortcomings on Congress; Mr. Kohn agreed that influential House Republicans at the time also opposed extending protections to national-security employees.
Mr. Snowden, 29, who was last seen in Hong Kong, was officially fired Tuesday from his $122,000-per-year job by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for "violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy."
Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, publicly branded Mr. Snowden a "traitor," while a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that Moscow would consider granting him asylum.
Mr. Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, came forward for the first time to say that she is "lost at sea without a compass" since her boyfriend's disappearance. She described herself as a "pole-dancing super hero."
At the White House, Mr. Carney enumerated the steps that Mr. Obama has taken to encourage government workers to report abusive policies and wrongdoing. As an example, he pointed to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which Mr. Obama signed into law last Nov. 27. It provides for expanded judicial review and enhanced penalties when whistleblowers experience retaliation.
"The Obama administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting whistleblowers," Mr. Carney said. "There are established procedures that whistleblowers can employ that also protect, or rather, ensure protection of national security interests."
Because the law wouldn't cover national-security agencies, Mr. Carney said, the president in October 2012 signed a directive to extend "whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities for the first time."
"The directive prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers who report information through the appropriate channels and established procedures," Mr. Carney said. "The president's commitment on this issue far exceeds that of past administrations, which have resisted expanding protections for whistleblowers, and in doing so, have steered away from transparency."
But Mr. Kohn said the executive order is "window dressing, or worse" because it doesn't provide for judicial review and the agency head retains authority over the whistleblower at all times.
"The Obama administration, in my view, is to blame in large part for the situation we now see," Mr. Kohn said. "There is no avenue for a national-security employee to raise concerns about illegality and misconduct. Any avenue that exists is so heavily weighted against the whistleblower, we recommend against it."
He said currently "there is no recourse" for national-security workers like Mr. Snowden who believe they are witnessing abusive government practices.
"Up until Snowden, most of them tried to go anonymously, and leak it, which is a smart move if you have no other move," Mr. Kohn said. "The choices are bleak."
The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation of the national-security leaks, and several lawmakers have called for Mr. Snowden's extradition back to the U.S. The White House on Tuesday refused to characterize Mr. Snowden either as a leaker or a whistleblower, with Mr. Carney saying they didn't want to comment during an ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, a coalition of privacy advocates and online companies asked Congress Tuesday to halt the National Security Agency's surveillance programs and conduct an investigation.
"This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at the bedrock American values of freedom and privacy," the group said in a letter to Congress. "This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy."
Among the signers of the letter are the ACLU, Reddit, Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Demand Progress, a liberal advocacy group focused on civil liberties and civil rights.
The coalition called for a numbers of specific reforms in their letter to Congress, including reforming Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the "business records" section which, through secret court orders, was used to collect phone records of millions of Verizon customers.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at email@example.com.
- Skeptics on all sides take aim of John Kerry's tentative deal on Ukraine
- Obama commutes drug dealer's sentence because of clerical error
- U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants
- Obama calls for prayer on anniversary of Boston Marathon bombing
- Obama urges Putin to defuse Russian separatism in Ukraine
Latest Blog Entries
- Obama and Boehner congratulate U.S. men's hockey on win over Russia
- Americans say income gap will shrink if government butts out, poll shows
- WH spokesman Jay Carney recognizes beard's 'insufficiency,' shaves it off
- Obama misses deadline again on budget
- Biden burns rubber in driveway, laments road restrictions
TWT Video Picks
By Joy Overbeck
Redemption by government is futile
- Joe Biden's first Instagram pic mocked as shill for sunglass ad
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- Obama taunts GOP, takes nationally televised victory lap on Obamacare
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Elderly Chicago man robs bank to go 'home' to prison; judge fulfills his desire
- Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch wrecked by retreating feds
- Chavez seizes Cargill factory
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
- IRS emails reveal discussion with Justice about suing nonprofits for election activities
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.