INDIANAPOLIS: The Society of Professional Journalists, along with the Government Accountability Project, The Project on Government Oversight, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Public Citizen and 112 other organizations, have signed onto a letter addressed to Sen.’s Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.); Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii); and Rep.’s Henry Waxman (D-Calif.); Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) in support of increased protections for whistleblowers.
The letter calls upon Congress to complete a landmark, eight-year legislative effort to restore a credible Whistleblower Protection Act, also known as H.R. 985 and S. 274. In the letter, the groups offer personal assistance and ask that the final bills:
• Grant employees the right to a jury trial in federal court;
• Specifically protect federal scientists who report efforts to alter, misrepresent, or suppress federal research;
• Extend meaningful protections to FBI and intelligence agency whistleblowers;
• Strengthen protections for federal contractors, similar to those provided to Department of Defense contractors and grantees in last year’s defense authorization legislation;
• Extend meaningful protections to TSA screeners;
• Neutralize the government’s use of the “state secrets” privilege;
• Bar the Merit Systems Protection Board from ruling for an agency before whistleblowers have the opportunity to present evidence of retaliation;
• Allow a whistleblower the right to be made whole, including compensatory damages;
• Grant comparable due process rights to employees who blow the whistle in the course of a government investigation or who refuse to violate the law; and
• Remove the Federal Circuit’s monopoly on precedent-setting cases.
“To keep a balanced check on government power and spending, we strongly urge members of Congress to extend protections to whistleblowers,” SPJ President Clint Brewer said. “Everyday, journalists rely upon these brave men and women to uncover stories of corruption and wrongdoing and that the public has a right to know about. Offering protections and a promise of less retaliation will further enable the free flow of information that our country relies upon.”
Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, whistleblowing is defined as disclosing information that an employee reasonably believe is evidence of illegality, gross waste, or fraud, gross mismanagement, abuse of power, or substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. To learn more about the Government Accountability Project, visit Whistleblower.org. To write a letter in support of H.R. 985 and S. 274, find your Congressman at House.gov or Senate.gov. A sample letter can be found on the Whistleblower Action Web site.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism advocacy organization. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For further information on SPJ, visit www.spj.org.