A coalition of 112 religious, scientific, consumer, civil liberties, civil rights, peace, small-business, labor, libertarian, journalism, environmental, and good-government organizations, representing millions of Americans, is urging key U.S. Senate and House negotiators to agree to the strongest possible federal employee whistleblower protections. They want a bill delivered this year to President Bush. In a letter delivered to Capitol Hill last month, a diverse array of organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Society of Professional Journalists, American Association of Small Business Owners, Consumers Union, the Liberty Coalition and the Rutherford Institute, praised congressional whistleblower rights leaders for the steps they have taken to conclude an eight-year struggle to provide meaningful whistleblower protections to federal employees.
The letter was spearheaded by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Public Citizen, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Stronger whistleblower protections are badly needed. The public, and the groups that represent them, define that to mean “jury trials for all employees paid by the taxpayers.” Government corruption sustained by secrecy can’t be tolerated and whistleblowers are the public’s eyes and ears.
Last year, both the House and Senate passed versions of whistleblower rights legislation designed to restore meaningful protections to federal employees who expose waste, fraud, abuse, and illegality. Over the past several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have been meeting informally to resolve differences between the two bills. Senator’s Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are championing the measure in the Senate. In the House, lead sponsors and negotiators include Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Davis (R-VA), Todd Platts (R-PA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). This legislation is an essential building block toward restoring a more accountable, responsible, and effective government for all of its citizens.
In the letter, the 112 groups offer their support to “expeditiously conclude” the reconciliation of the two bills. The letter stipulates that certain reforms must be part of a meaningful, final comprehensive whistleblower law, such as:
Ensuring that the fundamental right to a jury trial in a federal court is provided to all federal employees;
Including specific protections for scientist-whistleblowers; and
Extending meaningful protections for national security whistleblowers at the FBI and intelligence agencies.
Public Citizen has been fighting to protect whistleblowers and their efforts should now pay off. David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, had this to say about the need for Congress to act:
Government workers who warn us of waste, fraud and abuse should be protected, not punished. All federal employees – including scientists, contractors, and intelligence agents – should be able to expose wrongdoing without fear of reprisal. Congress should send a bill with an unmistakable message to the White House: We stand by the patriots who keep the public trust.
It should be noted that the critical reforms for government scientists and national security whistleblowers passed the House by an overwhelming, veto-proof margin, despite a threat from the administration to veto the House bill, H.R. 985. Other organizations endorsing the letter include Common Cause, the American Association for Justice, the National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, National Taxpayers Union, and many more.
Source: Public Citizen
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