Saturday, July 08, 2006

Whistleblowers Dirty Dozen Interwiew with Sibel Edmonds

Dirty Dozen. Blowing the Whistle - Part 1 of 3

Sibel Edmonds joined the FBI as a translator in the immediate aftermath of 911 and she came across some disturbing, nefarious behavior. When she reported this illegal activity to her superiors and then to Congress, she was retaliated against and fired. Attorney General Ashcroft illegally gagged, retrospectively, the entire US Congress to prevent them from her discussing case - which has been buried using the States Secrets Privilege. She has been described as the most gagged woman in the country, ever. Sibel is the founder and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (for more, see her bio).

For some background on the NSWBC, this from their website:
"National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), founded in August 2004, is an independent and nonpartisan alliance of whistleblowers who have come forward to address our nation’s security weaknesses; to inform authorities of security vulnerabilities in our intelligence agencies, at nuclear power plants and weapon facilities, in airports, and at our nation’s borders and ports; to uncover government waste, fraud, abuse, and in some cases criminal conduct."
The NSWBC has 84 whistleblower members from various National Security agencies, with an average tenure of over 20 years of service to the national security of the United States. The members list includes some familiar names - among them, Daniel Ellsberg, Larry Johnson, Karen Kwiatkowski, Ray McGovern, Russ Tice, Robert Wright, and of course, Sibel Edmonds.

Last month, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) announced their Dirty Dozen campaign. I interviewed NSWBC's Sibel Edmonds about the campaign last week (full transcript here) - I was specifically interested in the purpose of the campaign, and why each person made the list. In this instalment, we take a brief look at the campaign, and look at three specific whistleblower cases: 1) torture in iraq 2) murders in VA hospitals 3) domestic spying and espionage at the NSA.

The Dirty Dozen campaign lists a dozen members of Congress who:
by their action or inaction, have stood against real investigations, hearings, and legislation dealing with government whistleblowers who have exposed waste, fraud, abuse, and or criminal activities within government agencies.
The Dirty Dozen names the following Congressional culprits (in alphabetical order)
  • Senator Hillary Clinton
  • Senator Mike DeWine
  • Rep. David Dreier
  • Rep. Dennis Hastert
  • Senator Orrin Hatch
  • Rep. Peter Hoekstra
  • Senator Jon Kyl
  • Senator Joseph Lieberman
  • Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger
  • Senator Rick Santorum
  • Rep. James Sensenbrenner
  • Rep. Mark Souder
There are four criteria for making the list:
1) If they have specifically let whistleblowers down
2) If they are powerful in the relevant committees
3) If they are visible
4) If they are up for election
And the purpose of the campaign?
Sibel Edmonds (SE): We started the NSWBC 2.5 years ago, and all of our whistleblowers are now asking 'What more does it take? We have been pounding on their doors, doing action-alerts, sending them letters - how can we force them to do something? How can we provide that push?'

Well - one way is the media, and we have been doing a lot of that. There are two other ways - especially when in DC (I call DC the real sin-city - it's not Vegas, it's DC!) - sticks and carrots.

When you observe what is going on with lobbyists and congress and the whole DC machine - it's all about either carrots, or sticks. Of course, the lobbyists have the carrots - giving them money and donating to their campaigns. We are not about that - we are not that kind of organization. So when we call on congress people they simply say 'Hey - these people are not important. What can they do for me? I will not meet with them, I will not give them any briefings - I'm not even going to look at these cases - because who are these people? " You know what I'm saying? They just ignore us. We don’t have any carrots for them.

We know that Congress is aware of many of these cases - there are reports in the media all the time - but they still don't do anything. And so we realized that we may not have carrots, so let's try using sticks. And so that's what we're doing with the Dirty Dozen.

It's time for these people to leave congress, and hopefully we will replace them with someone who will do the job properly. And so this is what we are going to do from now until the election in November. Some of us are ready to travel, to go and give speeches before these the constituents, and to actively let the constituents know that they should consider this when they are voting for or against these people. We aren’t going to tell them who to vote for - but we are going to tell them what their representatives are not doing, and also the effect of them not doing this, and not doing that. The effect on them individually, and the effect on their national security, and on their taxes being wasted. This is our pledge, and this is what we are going to do.

This is about accountability - we're saying that it's time for these people to go, and hopefully if we are successful with some of these people (I'm not all that optimistic with all of them) - that might send a message. Next time we knock on their doors, in January, they might say 'Hey, we'd better pay attention here - because our constituents obviously care about these issues.'

It's been so frustrating, like banging our head on the wall - now we are hoping to bang our heads against the election instead! And we are going to bang it big time! (laughs) and we will put our efforts towards contacting the local media (paper, radio, bloggers) and also getting the attention of the challengers who want to look into the issue of whistleblowers and also take a position on this - so we would like to see that too.
We'll go through the list a little later and explain exactly why each person made the list.

We discussed a few whistleblower cases, but Sibel was first keen to point out that the major story isn't the whistleblowers themselves, the major story is the criminal activity, and the waste, fraud and abuse that is taking place with the implicit consent of Congress.
SE: Often when the public hears about whistleblowers - they often think 'oh - these poor people, I feel sorry for them - their careers have been destroyed, and the retaliation and so on' - and I always try to emphasize that what we're doing isn’t only about the whistleblowers - this is about the public's right to know, and it's about stopping these crimes. It is about stopping this illegal activity.

Let me give you an example that I often use: If you are a private citizen and you see some criminal conduct - you see a rape, for example - what do you do? You call 911, right? But let's say you are working for these agencies - law enforcement, or intelligence - and you witness criminal conduct, or severe cases of government waste, fraud or abuse - what do you do? You don’t have a 911 that you can call! You can’t call the police. The only thing that you can do is contact the Inspector General, but these departmental IG's aren’t really independent, they are part of the agencies, they're part of the system. So the only '911' that is available to whistleblowers is the Congress - and they have these committees for OVERSIGHT.

In the example I just used, whistleblowing is about stopping the rape - much more than being about Joe Citizen's right to call 911.
As an example, we discussed the case of Sergeant Provance. His case has received a lot of attention recently because Donald Rumsfeld was recently subpoenaed by Chris Shays, chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on national security:
SE: Some of our cases have been high profile cases - like Sergeant Provance. Remember when we fought for those hearings that Congressman Shays eventually held in the House Government Reform Committee - we convinced Shays to have Sergeant Provance as a witness. He was military, stationed in Iraq - and with some of these torture cases, he immediately reported these really big-time illegal activities.

The military in Iraq were bringing the children of the detainees - 3 years old, 5 years old - and they would beat up and torture the children in front of the detainees - and they'd threaten the detainees that they would keep torturing the children until they talked! So Sergeant Provance reported this stuff and he was disciplined and put on administrative leave.
The Rumsfeld subpoena calls for Sergeant Provance's unredacted testimony. Perhaps if Provance's claims were addressed appropriately when he first tried to blow the whistle then many children would have been spared torture. I wonder if they water-board three year olds.

These are the crimes that Sibel and her group is trying to prevent. Congress is responsible for these crimes, and they can stop these, and other crimes by a) holding hearings and b) providing whistleblowers with the appropriate protection when they bravely step forward.

The NSWBC has joined forces with a few other like-minded organisations. One of them is the Veterans Affairs Whistleblowers Coalition (vawbc.com) - a group of doctors, nurses and pharmacists from VA hospitals who have blown the whistle on severe abuse, murder and fraud/waste cases. Sibel talked about a particular case that they have been involved with where patients are being murdered, and Hillary Clinton's crimes of omission.
SE: In one case, some pharmaceutical companies give the VA hospitals $2000 per patient if the patient gives consent and signs up for some experimental drugs - and in some cases, some of these administrators and doctors - they forged patients' signatures in order to get the $2000 per head - just like guinea pigs - and some of these patients died. And because of the medical history of some of these veterans, they shouldn’t even have been given these experimental drugs - even if they had given their consent.

One guy involved in this case has been jailed for life - but they didn’t pursue the issue with the other doctors who were involved. What happened was that before it even became a public issue - these pharmacists and doctors blew the whistle, and instead of looking into the issues and investigating it, these people were fired. They had to go and fight it with Inspector Generals and other such bodies - some of them got their jobs back but they're still being harassed there. But most of these problems that they reported haven’t been corrected.
Sibel sent me the letter that the VAWBC sent to Hillary Clinton documenting some of the attrocities. You can read it in full here. (insert link) - here's a snippet:
To put it bluntly, the actions of these people caused the deaths of veterans, and there seems to be few people interested in discovering the truth and preventing a repeat of the Stratton catastrophe.

Another whistleblower who has been in the news of late is Russ Tice because of the illegal eavesdropping story. He has been trying to blow the whistle on a "deep black" spying program that has not yet been 'outed.'
"Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans.

"It's an angle that you haven't heard about yet," he said."" (Congress Daily)
Tice's name has also come up in speculation regarding Pete Hoekstra's (more on him later, he's on the Dirty Dozen list) latest disclosures about a major, hidden spying program - but apparently Tice isn't involved in this particular story. Tice has been trying to whistleblow on his program to Hoekstra - but Hoekstra first ignored Tice's advances in December, and then:
Tice met with Hoekstra's staff in early April -- and it didn't go well. "They had a lawyer there, and the lawyer said, 'If you tell us anything at the SAP [highly-classified Special Access Program] level you could be arrested,'" Tice recalled. "The rest of the meeting comprised of them twisting my arm trying to get me to tell them everything." (Tice declined.)
I mention this by way of background - you see, Tice has had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twice. This from Democracy Now:
RUSSELL TICE: Some time ago I had some concerns about a co-worker at D.I.A. who exhibited the classic signs of being involved in espionage, and I reported that and basically got blown off by the counterintelligence office at D.I.A. and kind of pushed the issue, because I continued to see a pattern of there being a problem. And once I got back to N.S.A., I pretty much dropped the issue, but there was a report that came across my desk in April of 2003 about two F.B.I. agents that were possibly passing secret counterintelligence information to a Chinese double agent, Katrina Leung, and I sent a secure message back to the D.I.A. counterintelligence officer, and I said I think the F.B.I. is incompetent, and the retaliation came down on me like a ton of bricks.
Earlier I mention that Sibel's group is working to achieve whistleblower protection laws. We didn't discuss Tice's case specifically, but she did described what happened to Tice when he tried to blow the whistle the first time:
SE: He was retaliated against - that was when they sent him to the shrink's office.

That is the way the NSA retaliates - they gave him the 'Red Badge.' When NSA pulls a whistleblower's security clearance, it gives them this Red Badge to wear at all times, which shows everyone that they are not 'clear', they have no access to info, they are under investigations.

Then, they put them in these low positions - in Tice's case they made him a parking attendant, where they are humiliated and are seen by every other employees with their Red Badge. They want to humiliate the whistleblower; they want to intimidate others.

They put Tice on administrative leave and then they fired him.
And now he's trying to blow the whistle again! What a brave man. (more here). Sibel described what life is like for whistleblowers:
SE: Many of our members are unemployed, and broke - after decades of decorated service to their country! They are despondent - trying to make their mortgage payments, trying to keep their marriages together, trying to find work - and yet, still committed to stopping these crimes that are going on.

Some of these people have already lost their homes - and their marriages break up because it has been so hard for them - economically, and physically, and mentally.

These people are like today’s Paul Revere - they're the ones who are doing the right thing - above their career - and above their future and above their 401k and their retirement. How many people would do that? Obviously - 99% don’t! Because they say 'hey - even though I think this is wrong - I’ve got to protect my family and my money etc' - so whistleblowing is awful, ok.
It sure sounds awful.

Whistleblowers are treated like dirt, and in many cases they don't stop the crimes that they are trying to stop.

In the next installment of the interview, 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. In part three , we go through the Dirty Dozen list and document the atrocities for each of them.

(please note that Sibel will be posting the transcript at NSWBC.org)

11 comments:

calipendence said...

Jonathan Tasini just announced over the weekend that he's collected enough signatures to enter the primary against Hillary Clinton. Someone should send him a copy of Luke's interview to him. He should know how much of a roadblock Hillary Clinton has been to whistleblower's issues and make it a campaign issue. Even if he isn't as likely to beat Clinton as Lamont is Lieberman, he can still bring this issue out to the open with Hillary and force her to take a stand (and perhaps action) on it. We can't lose by doing so.

lukery said...

Have done. thnx.

rimone said...

thank you for the interview, lukery, although it pains me to read it.

lukery said...

thnx rimone. does it read ok?

rimone said...

i only finished reading it just now (duh me). yeah, it's really good and should be diseeminated all over, i'm hoping.

rimone said...

'disseminated.' lol

lukery said...

thnx. fingers crossed. it actually didnt get much traction

Anonymous said...

I wonder why neither one of the various Wikipedia entries on Hillary Clinton does mention the Dirty Dozen campaign? There is already an item called "Hillary Rodham Clinton controversies", so I guess it would fit in there?

Anonymous said...

I wonder why neither one of the various Wikipedia entries on Hillary Clinton does mention the Dirty Dozen campaign? There is already an item called "Hillary Rodham Clinton controversies", so I guess it would fit in there?

StateSurge said...

Take a look at some of the Dirty Dozen's current legislation.


Senator Hillary Clinton - http://www.statesurge.com/members/908
Rep. David Dreier - http://www.statesurge.com/members/794
Rep. Dennis Hastert - http://www.statesurge.com/members/857
Senator Orrin Hatch - http://www.statesurge.com/members/933
Rep. Peter Hoekstra - http://www.statesurge.com/members/724
Senator Jon Kyl - http://www.statesurge.com/members/939
Senator Joseph Lieberman - http://www.statesurge.com/members/892
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger - http://www.statesurge.com/members/615
Rep. James Sensenbrenner - http://www.statesurge.com/members/734
Rep. Mark Souder - http://www.statesurge.com/members/847

Tools for bloggers are available at StateSurge.com for free. Find legislation at StateSurge.com.

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