Recent surveys measuring public opinion and confidence in congress all arrived at the same conclusion: over seventy percent of Americans have lost faith and confidence in the United States Congress. The public no longer trusts this body of politicians who were elected to represent the people and the peoples’ interests. Instead, they now view these “representatives” as servants of special interest groups, corporations and high-powered lobbyists. Americans are tired of watching and listening to elected officials who refrain from taking a strong stand on crucial issues, and who almost never state their positions with conviction and sincerity. In the eyes of the nation these senators and representatives are nothing more than programmed publicity puppets, competing for face time in the media. Common adjectives used by our citizens to describe these officials clearly reflect their sentiments: “spineless,” “phony,” “corrupt,” “out of touch,” “timid,” “all show and no substance,” and the list goes on. Why have we Americans lost confidence and faith in those elected? Where and when did we go wrong; or perhaps more correctly, they go wrong? What have these representatives done, or, failed to do, that arouses such anger and loathing in the very same constituents who voted them into office?
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is a perfect example; an elected senator who has served six years in her seat, never taking a strong stand in support of her constituents on any serious or controversial issue; a senator who has used her record-breaking TV public appearances to say “nothing”; a senator whose senate office adheres strictly to a motto of “See no Evil, Hear no Evil”; an elected official who has no record of conducting investigations into cases that are matters of great concern to her constituents and to our nation; a senator who has consistently stood quietly on the sidelines when the issues at hand demand public hearings –waiting to determine the direction of each blowing wind; a politician who has spent all her focus and energy on a campaign of shallow publicity glitz and her PR empire behind it. Here are some documented illustrative examples:
James J. DiGeorgio and Carl Steubing died in ways no war veteran should. They were subjected to illegal drug experimentation by employees of the Stratton Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albany, New York; killed by servants of the very government they fought to protect. Scores of other veterans were injured in these experiments, and only by the courage of whistleblowers Jeffrey Fudin and Anthony Mariano was any measure of justice achieved for these misdeeds. One person was convicted of manslaughter, but investigations into other officials collapsed because of a lack of institutional nerve to follow the investigation to the end. A scape-goated employee went to prison, while those who supervised, facilitated, and reaped the benefits of the lucrative, illegal drug testing went on to other VA positions with promotions and raises.
Between 2000 and June 2006, numerous contacts with Senator Hillary Clinton over the Stratton tragedy went unacknowledged, or glossed over, or shuffled around to various offices with no substantive action. No less than five Clinton staff members heard presentations and received documentation about the experiments, and Senator Clinton herself is personally aware of the detailed facts of the case. This personal knowledge did not translate into action, for though Senator Clinton carefully scripts her numerous public appearances to give the impression of caring and concern, her actions speak otherwise. She noted "our nation made a pact with those who serve their country in the Armed Forces – a commitment that those who served would have access to quality health care through the VA hospital system . . . and they deserve to be treated as the best." But while Senator Clinton was issuing such lofty statements and mugging for photo opportunities with active duty military, she did nothing about the systematic abuse and murder of veterans within her own constituency. The Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers Coalition, and more recently the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, sent numerous letters and e-mails and copious documentation, pleading for help from the Senator to investigate and address the crimes committed at Stratton, including unrelenting retaliation against the whistleblowers who brought these matters to public attention
Notably, the VAWBC recognized that the motivations and incentives that led to abuse at Stratton were present at many hospitals throughout the VA system, and that greed and poor management in the VA guaranteed that the events of Stratton would be repeated elsewhere. The most vulnerable people, the sick and dying with nowhere to turn but to the VA, were exploited and killed by those tasked with their medical care, and their suffering and death were ignored by Senator Clinton. It is doubly offensive that this woman sits on the Armed Services Committee, which, along with the Veterans Affairs Committee, has the duty to provide for the well-being of current and former military service members. For all her posturing; for a senator who advertises herself as a hawk and pro military; how does she show it in action? By abandoning our veterans and war heroes in need!
Senator Clinton’s failure concerning Stratton is not an isolated event; it is part of a pattern of studious avoidance of principled action in the face of serious government misconduct, and the refusal to come to the aid of those people who expose that misconduct. When Bunnatine Greenhouse exposed extraordinary graft and impropriety in government contracting with Halliburton, when Sergeant Samuel Provance reported prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, when Russ Tice disclosed violations of the Constitution by the National Security Agency, and when Jay Stroup, Thomas Bittler, Jim Griffin, and Ray Guagliardi exposed serious defects and negligence in the Transportation Security Administration that puts travelers at risk, Clinton did nothing. No words of support, no calls for investigations, no efforts to prevent the lives and careers of whistleblowers from being destroyed. Documents on numerous cases were shared with her office, offers to brief her and her staff have been made on many occasions, pleas for her to live up to the words she so casually utters, have all been ignored, or even ridiculed.
In her six years as senator she has done nothing but attempt to position herself for the presidency, done nothing but avoid acting out of principle and justice, done everything to offend no one. We respect our opponents in much greater measure than we respect Senator Clinton, for with our opponents at least the fight is joined; at least they have the courage of their convictions, at least they place their bets in public. But Senator Clinton, by trying to be something to everyone ends up being nothing to anyone. Where she cannot act safely, she does not act. The current times call for politicians to act with conviction and intelligence, not with cynical, calculated action in response to what opinion polls indicate. If Senator Clinton cannot even come to the aid of constituent veterans being killed through grotesquely immoral and illegal medical experimentation, if she cannot commit herself to call for investigations of national security vulnerabilities that risk national catastrophe, if she cannot offer even moral support to those who disclose outrageous government incompetence and impropriety, is there anything that would prompt her to take a stance out of conviction? Such a person has no business representing the people of this country. Nothing stirs her soul except for her own selfish ambitions; ambitions that she places in front of the nation’s welfare.
Two weeks from today, New Yorkers will cast their vote to determine their upcoming democratic candidate. We hope that they will ask themselves a few hard questions and consider their answers before they cast their vital votes. Are they among those who are tired and disgusted with the current Congress, which has abdicated its duty and responsibility to the public at large? Are they going to have “needed change and reform” in mind when voting for their next candidate? Will they vote for someone with an established record of failure? Or will they take a chance on new blood? Are they going to take into consideration this incumbent’s misuse of “national security and terrorism”? Will they reflect on her failures when presented with real issues threatening our security - brought to her by those on the front lines? Will they consider having raised more money than any other democratic candidate a plus or a minus - questioning all she had to promise and everyone she had to sell out in order to raise those millions? Will they simply ask, isn’t six years long enough? Isn’t it time for a change? Isn’t it time to give another democrat the opportunity to step up and become what we all long for – a true representative of the people?
We have confidence in the sophistication of our New Yorkers. We believe they’ll say: “Ms. Clinton, fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice shame on us.”
Sibel Edmonds is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her case have been blocked by the assertion of “State Secret Privilege”; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University. PEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award.
Professor William Weaver is the senior advisor and a board member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Mr. Weaver served in U.S. Army signals intelligence for eight years in Berlin and Augsburg, Germany, in the late 1970s and 1980s. He subsequently received his law degree and Ph.D. in politics from the University of Virginia, where he was on the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review. He is presently an Associate Professor of political science and an Associate in the Center for Law and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He specializes in executive branch secrecy policy, governmental abuse, and law and bureaucracy. His articles have appeared in American Political Science Review, Political Science Quarterly, Virginia Law Review, Journal of Business Ethics, Organization and other journals. With co-author Robert Pallitto, his book Presidential Secrecy and the Law is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press in the spring of 2007. His views and positions arising from his affiliation with the NSWBC do not reflect the sentiments of, or constitute and endorsement by, the University of Texas at El Paso.
© Copyright 2006, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition