- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2001

Penetrating the stygian caverns of bureaucratic callousness and coverups, whistleblowers often pay a Promethean price for their critical service of enlightening the public. Just ask Notra Trulock, formerly the chief of intelligence at the Department of Energy. Mr. Trulocks years of warnings about the penetration of some of the United States most guarded secrets were finally vindicated in the Los Alamos debacle after Mr. Trulock had been demoted and driven from the department.
Such retaliation can happen to virtually any whistleblower, despite the 1989 unanimous passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). In the act Congress recognized that, "Federal employees who make disclosures … serve the public interest by assisting in the elimination of fraud, waste, abuse, and unnecessary government expenditures," and mandated that, "employees should not suffer adverse consequences as a result …"
Yet that statute has been significantly weakened through a few court decisions by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which currently has a monopoly on whistleblower cases. As a result, the leaders of six citizens advocacy groups said in a recent joint statement that "the WPA no longer provides a safe harbor for whistleblowers. Instead, it is a trap restructured to virtually guarantee formal legal endorsement of harassment."
As a remedy, citizen groups, including the National Whistleblower Center and the Government Accountability Project, have suggested that Congress again clarify the scope of protected disclosures and close the loopholes that judges have used to limit the scope of protection. They also want Congress to ensure that nondisclosure agreements are applied only to "classified" information (rather than the far broader category of "classifiable"), reduce the almost overwhelming burden of proof which whistleblowers must meet to prove that they have been retaliated and end the judicial monopoly of the Federal Circuit.
Citizens have also suggested that President Bush hold a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers. The symbolism of the ceremony would help establish the healthy climate of disclosure essential to government transparency. In a memo to department heads, Mr. Bush cited the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, which calls for employees to "disclose waste, fraud, abuse and corruption to the appropriate authorities."
If such a standard is firmly planted in the bedrock of congressional promulgation and executive practice, then government employees may again have a reason to whistle while they work.

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