Statement of Sibel Edmonds
Meetings with Senate & House Committees
National Security Whistleblowers
April 28, 2005
Individual Accountability: The ‘‘Or else’’ Factor
Good Morning, my name is Sibel Edmonds, and today I am here on behalf of 50 national security whistleblowers. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.
I will start by introducing our group, its mission and its concerns. Then, I will briefly discuss our main objective: Accountability; and present you with our requests. And finally, I’ll introduce four National Security Whistleblower (NSW) members who will present brief statements on (NSW) issues and the many failures of the current system.
It does not come as a shock that in recent years the number of national security whistleblowers has grown exponentially; so has the level of retaliation and harassment against these whistleblowers by the government. Our group, which started as a few national security whistleblowers in the summer of 2004, has rapidly grown to over 50 people currently. Our members are experts and veterans from various intelligence & law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, CIA, DIA, FAA, and NSA. Here are their names and backgrounds (Name List, attached).
In listening to whistleblowers’ stories, heart wrenching stories about how the careers, marriages, lives, and physical and mental well-being of these conscientious patriots have been destroyed for doing the right thing, for fulfilling their first & foremost duty, protecting our nation, I realized how we all fit the same pattern and how these agencies’ retaliation tactics follow the same blueprint; as if there is a government agency manual for retaliation against whistleblowers, truth tellers. They yank our security clearances, they force us to take polygraphs, they engage in humiliation, demotion, threats……and the list goes on. I kept asking myself why, and I think I have an answer, a very simple one: Because they CAN, thus they will. They CAN, because there is NO deterrence. They CAN, since they are allowed to hide behind agency walls and dodge liability and responsibility.
Laws without means of enforcement are meaningless. There is no point in having rules or laws, unless we are prepared to follow them with ‘‘or else.’’ You will observe the speed limit, or else, you’ll personally pay the fine for the speeding ticket. You will pay your taxes on such a date, or else, you’ll be fined and/or sent to jail. But somehow, this ‘‘or else’’ rule is completely disregarded when it comes to laws dealing with the government and whistleblowers.
In almost all cases, even after a whistleblower’s case is established, confirmed, and the whistleblower vindicated; the wrongdoers in the agencies remain in their positions, and many are promoted and rewarded.
A whistleblower is retaliated against, harassed, and then fired. He or she goes to the appropriate congressional committee that has oversight of the agency in question, and files a complaint with the appropriate inspector general’s office. In many cases, the complaint is not even addressed or processed. But let’s say it is. The congressional committee waits for the inspector general’s report. The inspector general, after a long, a very long, time period, issues a report. Let’s say the report is not classified (in many NSWB cases it is), and let’s say the report vindicates the whistleblower, and determines that firing was retaliation against reporting the misconduct/criminal activities/wrongdoing. Then, what happens?-----------NOTHING; Absolutely NOTHING. Maybe, just maybe, the head of the agency in question is mildly criticized; a big maybe. The wrongdoers, incompetents, those engaged in waste, fraud and abuse, and even those who engaged in criminal activities, remain in their positions, and are promoted. Who are the losers in this picture? No, it is not only the whistleblower who reported waste, fraud, abuse, and/or criminal activities within his or her government agency. It is the American people, their security, interests and wellbeing that suffer the biggest loss. Not only do they incur this cost, they also pay for it. Their tax money sustains, promotes, and rewards the wrongdoers, incompetents, and criminals in government agencies. We the citizens are paying these wrongdoers who jeopardize our security, interests, and welfare.
A whistleblower files a claim with a federal court, if he or she is able to (many NSWBs are prohibited one way or other); if she or he can afford the hefty legal fees and a long and painful court battle, a big if. Let’s say the whistleblower ultimately prevails, which is very unlikely, considering the hostile and biased climate of the specific courts designated to deal with NSWBs. Let’s say the whistleblower is awarded some monetary compensation for damages incurred. Then what happens? -----------NOTHING as far as the wrongdoers and retaliators are concerned, and NOTHING as far as the agencies that allows these wrongdoings are concerned. The taxpayers pay for the legal fees and resources used by the government agency to fight the truth teller in court; the taxpayers continue to support, sustain, and reward the wrongdoers for many years afterwards. Our taxpayers’ money awarded to national security agencies is being used to fight conscientious truth tellers who fulfill their obligations to their country, rather than being used to fight the threats, criminals, and terrorists facing our nation.
Currently we have no system in place that applies direct, individual accountability when it comes to retaliation against whistleblowers. Thus, there exists NO deterrence for those who engage in government waste, fraud, and abuse, and criminal activities that jeopardize our nation’s security, interests, and wellbeing. Under the current system we all lose, not only whistleblowers. However, those who chose to do the right thing, those who put integrity and their duty above all, those who are referred to as whistleblowers, bear the greatest brunt of all. In addition, letting the wrongdoers go unpunished and allowing them to hide behind agency walls unfairly stigmatizes others within the agencies. Have you seen the statistics on how much public confidence in the FBI has dropped in the past few years? What kind of effect does this have on many, the majority, of FBI employees who do their jobs well and fulfill their duties? Who would be enthusiastic about working for an agency that is continuously labeled incompetent, inefficient and corrupt? Why are we letting so many good people be stigmatized for the failure of a few corrupt bad apples? Isn’t it time to pick the bad apples out?
Only through direct, individual accountability can we create deterrence. As long as wrongdoers and retaliators can hide behind the walls of these agencies NO whistleblower protection law can be successful. As long as the agencies protect and promote those who engage in wrongdoing and retaliation against whistleblowers, NO whistleblower law can be effective. Direct, individual accountability will deter retaliation; will deter wrongdoing. In addition, holding those directly involved responsible will prevent the rest of agency employees from being stigmatized. We propose the following simple, effective steps to increase the security of our citizens, recover a respect for government, and provide real protection for whistleblowers.
In order to provide the needed deterrence we propose that you create a cause of action permitting whistleblowers to sue retaliators for money damages in their personal and official capacities and to bring suit against agencies in respondeat superior for failure to rectify misdeeds by employees or provide sufficient safeguards against whistleblower retaliation. Also:
Recently jurors awarded $2.1 million to an ex-Lawrence Livermore Lab worker, Dee Kotla, after finding that in-house counsel and executives illegally fired her eight years ago chiefly because she was going to be a witness in a sexual-harassment case against the nuclear weapons lab. According to the General Accounting Office, in total the Department of Energy reimbursed 96.5 percent of its contractor litigation costs, settlements and judgments from 1998 to 2003, paying out more than $330 million. The Kotla case alone is likely to end up costing taxpayers $6 million to $9 million.
We request that you direct the Government Accountability Office to undertake a study calculating the costs in time, taxpayer money, and lost opportunities for diverted resources in retaliating against whistleblowers and defending against whistleblower claims for the years 2000-2005. These claims should not be limited only to those cases filed under WPA since many NSWBs are not included in WPA, and it should include claims filed by whistleblowers under FOIA and Title VII. We can provide you with more details if requested. This report must be presented to the American taxpayers.
There has never been a determination or an accurate estimate of the millions of dollars expended by the government in misguided actions to first retaliate against whistleblowers and then to resist with extraordinary vigor the attempts by whistleblowers to clear their names, get their jobs back, and expose agency wrongdoing. The money, human power, and foregone opportunities of these errant actions bleeds our government of its respect, its ability to perform its missions, and its claim to act with justice. If only a fraction of these funds and energy went toward making a hospitable environment for those disclosing wrongful activity in government, then the government would become more efficient, wrongful activity would decline, and the image of the federal workforce would be enhanced. For these reasons, we need to know with some degree of accuracy just what amount of resources is expended in defending against and deriding whistleblowers.
The methods we propose to curb retaliation against whistleblowers are direct and simple, requiring only the political will of our elected representatives. These methods speak not only to justice for the whistleblower but to something more intangible, but no less valuable: a restoration of confidence in the efficiency and honesty-of-effort of our government.
You, the congress, have oversight authority. Every single national security whistleblower in this group has turned to your offices at one time or another. You are familiar with many of our cases. We have continued to come to you because there is no other place to go. We have turned to you since addressing this issue is completely within the scope of your authority and duties. Our country, our national security, and our interests depend on the performance and strength of these national security agencies.
Thank you again for inviting us today. We believe this meeting is a good first step, but what is really needed is actual Congressional action.