For Immediate Release
Failure to Protect National Security Whistleblowers Threatens US Security and Liberty, ACLU Testifies
Legislation Needed for Intelligence Agency Employees and Contractors to Have Full Access to Courts
WASHINGTON - American Civil Liberties Union Policy Counsel and former FBI Special Agent Michael German testified today before a House committee about the need for national security whistleblowers to have full access to courts as a matter of U.S. security and liberty. German, who has first-hand experience as a former whistleblower, told lawmakers that H.R. 1507, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009, would deter retaliation against the conscientious federal agents who risk their own safety to secure ours and provide Congress with information it needs to check executive abuse. The hearing, held by the House on Oversight and Government Reform, was entitled, "Protecting the Public from Waste, Fraud and Abuse: H.R. 1507, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009."
"The reforms in this bill provide real protections for those willing to speak truth to power," said Michael German, ACLU Policy Counsel and former FBI Special Agent. "This legislation promotes competence and accountability in the agencies that wield extraordinary power under a cloak of secrecy."
Federal employees are required to report any waste, fraud, and abuse of authority they see on the job. This obligation only deepens when the agencies responsible for our national security, such as the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies that have the most serious and direct impact on our liberty and security, are involved. President Obama has recognized that federal employees are often the best source of information about wrongdoing within the government and has encouraged whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism that can save lives and taxpayer dollars.
"Congress must have access to information about misconduct within the intelligence community in order to perform its constitutional duty to check these awesome and easily abused powers," said German. "But Congress cannot perform effective oversight unless informed federal employees and contractors are willing to tell the truth about what is happening within these agencies and it is unfair to expect them to tell you the truth if they know it will cost them their jobs."
In testimony, German reminded lawmakers of the consequences of national security employees who clearly knew, but did not report, that gross mismanagement of the FBI's counterterrorism program posed a substantial threat to public safety. In the week leading up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, FBI National Security Law Unit officials denied a New York agent's request to start looking for a known al Qaeda operative who had entered the United States in what the 9/11 Commission would later call a clear misunderstanding of the law. The agent warned that "someday someone will die." At almost the same time in Minneapolis, an FBI supervisor stymied from searching Zacharias Moussaoui's computer shouted that he was trying "to stop someone from taking a plane and crashing it into the World Trade Center." But neither employee formalized their complaints or pushed them up the chain of command.
For Michael German's testimony, go to www.aclu.org/safefree/general/39593leg20090514.html.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.