MARK GRUENBERG describes how the US’s largest union of federal employees is standing up to Trump’s presidency
WITHOUT whistleblowing FBI agents, there would have been no exposure of former US president Richard Nixon’s crimes in the Watergate scandal in the 1970s.
Without a whistleblowing agent in its Minneapolis office, the same agency’s failure to “connect the dots” before the September 11 2001 alQaida terrorist attacks would have stayed secret.
And without several whistleblowers — whom their union defended against management retaliation — Veterans Affairs Department managers would still be covering up their long wait times for patients.
Those items are among the evidence that David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union presents, as he once again goes in to bat for whistleblowing feds.
Cox defended the whistleblowers in a mid-August blog post just as both the President Donald Trump’s administration and the Republican-controlled Congress head in the other direction — threatening whistleblowers rather than protecting them.
Trump routinely denounces “leakers,” and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatens their prosecution. That’s on top of prior prosecutions by former president Barack Obama’s Democrat administration.
And Congress passed a Veterans Affairs Department law making protecting the whistleblowers — a key function of the AFGE union — harder, robbing senior workers of due process rights.
“As those three examples illustrate, federal workers serve as a vital watchdog against waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement occurring in our government agencies,” Cox said.
“Every civil servant takes an oath to support and defend the [US] constitution — and that includes ensuring our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and to the benefit of the people.
“That’s why the current war on whistleblowers waged by President Trump and others in his administration is not only disgraceful but downright dangerous to our democracy.”
It’s also dangerous to the planet, Cox says, as he focuses in on whistleblowers who defend the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to global warming.
“We have a right to know Trump administration officials ordered US Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees to stop using terms like ‘climate change’ and ‘greenhouse gases’ — since it could be a deliberate attempt to discredit scientific evidence humans are contributing to our warming planet,” Cox said.
“But without USDA staff sharing those conversations with the press, we might still be in the dark.”
And citizens have a right to know why Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke involuntarily reassigned a career scientist who spoke publicly about the danger of climate change to the Alaskan native communities he served. The scientist was dumped into an accounting office.
“And it’s in the public interest to know [Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt] is pushing to undo dozens of environmental regulations, largely without the input of the agency’s scientists and other career employees. Yet we wouldn’t know the scope of this regulatory rollback if the Environmental Protection Agency employees didn’t come forward.
“Federal employees have a right, and even an obligation, to speak out on issues that affect taxpayers and citizens.
“And by the same token, journalists are just doing their job when they reach out to federal workers for information on the activities of political appointees.”
The only exceptions, he admitted, would be in obvious cases of classified information or jeopardy to national security.
“A free and open press is one of the fundamental tenets of our democracy. So is having a non-political civil service that’s beholden to taxpayers, not their political bosses.
“Whistleblowers aren’t the problem. But the White House’s preoccupation with them certainly is,” Cox concluded.