Interview with National Security Whistleblowers Coalition President Sibel Edmonds
In the first instalment we had a quick overview of the Dirty Dozen campaign, and we looked at three specific whistleblower cases. In this instalment, we discuss the NSWBC's frustrated efforts to get congress to investigate some egregious crimes, and we take an eye-opening look at the NSWBC's efforts to get some whistleblower protection passed in congress.
The NSWBC has a two-pronged approach for improving the situation for whistleblowing and for whistleblowers :
a) they try to force Congress to open investigations and hold hearings into the specific cases
b) they are trying to get Congress to pass whistleblower protection legislation.
Sibel describes the process for trying to get Congress to open hearings and investigations:
SE: You know, we've been begging the committees, giving them the details and relevant documentation of each of the whistleblower cases to the key offices and so on. Let's say the whistleblower is from the DoD, they report to the Armed Services Committee - so we send all the documents on a particular whistleblower and we say:How's that going?'We're asking you to launch an investigation into this whistleblower's case. Here is what we have so far, here are the issues, here are the documents etc. This person has already gone to the Inspector General, he or she has been put on administrative leave. Here's where we are so far 'If you're from the FBI, for example, you know that the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee has the oversight responsibility for the FBI. They have the power to withhold the funds from the FBI, they have the power to bring people in and hold hearings - and actually perform the oversight and accountability. So naturally you go to the Congress.
That’s why the NSWBC has had our entire focus on Congress - we write respectful letters, and follow-up with calls and emails and faxes, and sometimes we attend rallies in front of their offices - saying 'you need to meet with us'
SE: For 2.5 years, these people - particularly this Dirty Dozen - have done NOTHING. They have basically removed the only '911' that whistleblowers have - and in doing so, they have abdicated their oversight responsibilities.There appears to be two different ways that Congress can avoid having the hearings. The powerful Republican leadership can simply block them:
SE: For example, in my case, when Senators Grassley and Leahy came out and said all this stuff about how the case was so credible, and we need to turn the FBI upside-down - this is 4 years ago - and they came on CBS 60 Minutes and all that stuff. And after the Inspector General report came out, they wanted to immediately hold public hearings on my case - both of them. Grassley is a Republican, Leahy is a Democrat - but the person who prevented the hearings was Senator Hatch. Orrin Hatch was the Chairman at the time - and he basically told Grassley - a Republican, so this isn’t even a partisan issue - but Hatch just said "No. No. No. I'm not allowing any hearing on this woman's case."The other way that Congress can avoid having hearings and investigations is by employing what is commonly known as the 'ostrich method' :
One of the most detailed articles that first came out about my case was Gail Sheehy's piece in the New York Observer. It's not a particularly comprehensive piece, but it does deal with the whistleblower aspect. Ok - so you know how diplomatic these Senators normally are - they don’t normally come straight out and say 'this person is blocking this' or whatever. Despite that, Grassley got so pissed off that he even went on the record and said to Gail Sheehy "The only reason that we aren’t having these hearings is because Senator Hatch - the Chairman - is preventing it - and without the Chairman allowing it, we can't have any hearings."
SE: And so that is why we worded our message in the Dirty Dozen press release very specifically to say "Action OR Inaction" - on one hand we have people, like e.g. the Chair of the Intel committee, or in a leadership position like Hastert - who have actively opposed and said "No - I'm not going to put this up for a vote" or "No - I'm not going to allow this hearing." That's the active opposing. But we also have people who are actually aware of these whistleblowers cases by being in their position but by refusing to take any action. So even though they haven’t actively opposed, they've decided that they aren’t going to say anything about the cases, decided not to do anything about it, decided not going to give us a meeting. These people have the attitude that they don’t want to hear no evil, or see no evil. Again - so that's why we emphasize "Action or Inaction."For example, here is Sibel describing Hillary Clinton and her office:
SE: So for the past 4 years these people (the Veterans Affairs doctors) have been trying to blow the whistle (on this murder, fraud & abuse in the hospitals) - boxes of letters, faxes, emails to Sen. Clinton’s office for the past four years. Not a response! Sometimes they get a canned response of 3 lines saying 'Sen. Clinton has always voted for an increase of budgets for the VA.'...Not surprisingly, the Dirty Dozen list is populated with people on National Security- related committees, particularly the Judiciary Committee:
When we at the NSWBC found out about it, we were outraged - so we started sending letters. We called Clinton’s office, and we asked her to give us an appointment so that we could brief her and show her some of the patient files, together with the doctors. Nothing! No response...
The second issue with Clinton is that she's on the Armed Services Committee. We have had many DoD whistleblowers - both on a) big - very big - Halliburton related contract issues, and b) we have had whistleblowers on torture issues, for example Sergeant Provance who I mentioned earlier. He testified in the hearings in the House - it's just outrageous. These cases have been mailed to her office - and to this day, her office has not requested a single hearing into any of these DoD whistleblowers cases - some of them high profile. To this day they have not released a single press release, they have not responded to us, they have not responded to these whistleblowers (when I say 'they' I mean the staff members and Clinton’s office.)
We want to go to her constituents in NY and say 'let's look at this woman’s track record, really!' a) where does she stand? Because she's a woman who takes NO ACTION - that should be her motto! and b) she pretends she's a hawk - but on the other hand, she sits and watches these people being abused and being screwed up, and murdered in VA hospitals in her own state! c) she doesn’t even respond to any whistleblower cases and therefore she's anti-accountability - and is against oversight, and against the public's right to know.
When we request to go and brief her, and her staff - see with her office she doesn’t want to know. She’s not even giving appointments. Why? Because we are not defense contractors, we are not contributing to her campaign. Mrs. Clinton - why is it that your staff - being on the Armed Services Committee, and therefore responsible for DoD whistleblowers - why is it that they don't want to even become aware of the issues? or even give an appointment for half an hour? To me, that says a lot.