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Fact Checking the President on Edward Snowden and Whistleblower Protections

By: MSPB Watch Saturday August 10, 2013 10:15 pm

For a copy of PPD-19, click here.

For information about Congress’ role in stripping whistleblower protections for intelligence community contractors in December 2012, click here.


DC Activists Sleuth Out Long-Term Police Infiltrator with Active Social Media Life

By: MSPB Watch Tuesday August 6, 2013 8:38 pm

An interesting read from Popular Resistance:

Rumors have flown for many years that DC police routinely infiltrate and spy on the frequent protests in the nation’s Capitol. But until now, activists have never been able to identify a specific undercover cop at a protest. Now, after months of piecing together evidence, attorneys Jeffrey Light and Sean Canavan working with United Students Against Sweatshop (USAS) have confirmed that under an assumed name, Metro police officer Nicole Rizzi has participated in USAS protests against companies doing business in Bangladesh who refuse to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh following the death of as many as 1,129 workers in the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

The story of how Rizzi was uncovered reads like a mix of “Gossip Girl” and “The Wire.” Activists pieced her identity together from her obsessive posting to social media sites, including Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, FacebookWordPress and Yfrog [ed: screen captured here].

Lacy MacAuley, an activist and media manager for the Institute for Policy Studies, has suspected for the past several years that a protester named “Missy” was an undercover cop. “Missy” seemed to be at every protest, but no one knew her. However, MacAuley had no way of proving her suspicions.

Then, in November of 2012, MacAuley was at a bar on U Street when a friend recommended that she follow a Twitter account of a funny person with the handle @snufftastic. MacAuley immediately identified the user in the photographs as the person she knew as “Missy.” The user Tweeted frequently about the daily grind of being a police officer in DC.

It turns out there’s a law that might make Rizzi’s conduct illegal:

A law enacted by the D.C. Council in 2004 imposes strict guidelines on police when they investigate or attempt to infiltrate First Amendment-protected groups. The Police Investigations Concerning First Amendment Activities Act of 2004 specifies that the MPD departments can only investigate free speech activities if they can prove sufficient cause that protestors are engaged in crime and they have the authorization of the Executive Director of the DC MPD Intelligence Fusion Divisions (or an appropriate supervisor of similar rank). To send in undercover officers, they have to go through the same authorization process again.

But USAS attorneys Sean Canavan and Jeffrey Light say the MPD rarely follows this law. To wit, a 2012 investigation of the department by the Office of the District of Columbia Auditor concluded that the DC police failed to obtain authorization for 16 of 20 investigations into protest groups between January of 2005 and November 21, 2011. (Another seven cases were open during this period, but the files were destroyed before the review.) The report also found that the MPD never obtained official permission to send in undercover officers to protests, but did so in 17 cases.

Read the rest at Popular Resistance.

OSC Defends Whistleblower Who Refused to Disclose Classified Information

By: MSPB Watch Wednesday July 31, 2013 10:02 am

Usually it is the whistleblowers who are accused of disclosing classified information, but here is an example of a whistleblower suffering retaliation for refusing to disclose classified information.

On July 25, 2013, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel filed a stay request with the Merit Systems Protection Board on behalf of Brendan Hickey, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who refused to compromise an investigation and risk disclosing classified information.

The Board granted the stay request four days later. According to the Board, the agent was involved in a top secret, counter-proliferation investigation involving a confidential source provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency. At one point in 2012, he was ordered to create reports on the investigation in the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, but he refused to do so, explaining that the law prohibited the storage of top secret information on TECS.

“Knowing that TECS was not sufficiently secure to store investigative information related to classified material, Hickey believed that inputting such information into TECS would violate federal laws that restrict disclosure of classified information, such as 18 U.S.C. § 798,” the Board said.

(18 U.S.C. 798 is believed to be one of the statutes NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is alleged to have violated.)

After refusing to comply with other such orders, he was told by a superior that he would be insubordinate, and that “when you challenge the [Special Agent in Charge], you will lose.”

Hickey attempted to comply with the order while following the law, by entering only general details about investigation into TECS. But this was met with a supervisor’s threat to reassign him to “Puerto Rico, the Mexican border, or an immigration group outside his commuting area.”

After the birth of his child in March 2013, Hickey requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A month later he requested additional, open-ended leave due to medical issues experienced by his wife, necessitating his continued care and support at home. A few weeks later, his supervisors nominated him and another agent to a detail in Puerto Rico, the only two agents nominated in response to a nationwide call. Despite protesting, he reported there on July 8, 2013.

The Board issued a 45-day stay of the agent’s detail, effective August 5 through September 19, during which Hickey will remain in his position and perform regular duties as a Special Agent with ICE, assigned to the ICE office in Providence, Rhode Island (the stay is timed to allow him to complete his affairs in San Juan).

It is not uncommon for OSC to request additional stays while it conducts an investigation into the alleged agency retaliation.

MSPB Chair Susan Tsui Grundmann granted the stay request.

OSC ex rel Hickey v. DHS July 29, 2013

Markos Moulitsas’ Ugly, Reverse-Racist Smear

By: MSPB Watch Wednesday July 31, 2013 12:19 am

Here’s the Daily Kos founder on the Snowden revelations:

I don’t give a shit (183+ / 0-)

Seriously, I just don’t care.

NSA spying is bad! So is stop and frisk. So is splitting up families by deporting children to countries they’ve never been to and don’t speak the language. So is harassing American muslims.

Government overreach is bad. But to act like having the government track who you call is the height of government abuse is a very white privileged view of the privacy issue.

But as for Greenwald and Snowden? Seriously, I don’t give two shits.

(Emphasis mine.) Please, Mr. Moulitsas, tell us, what is the proper, non-privileged, multi-cultural view of the “privacy issue”? Is it one that stays within the confines of what’s allowed by the Democratic Party? Is it one that is relevant to the war on women, or voting rights, or immigration, but ignores the collapse of the rule of law and the justice system (which is far from a “white privileged” issue)? Because it seems to me that the war on whistleblowers and civil liberties is not a concern to this administration, as those issues challenge its legitimacy and unfettered discretion. Neither is it a concern to you, apparently.

It was to this guy, however. Remember him, from 2007?

Chris Hedges Advises the Green Party to Break Bread with Activists to Gain Influence and Credibility

By: MSPB Watch Saturday July 27, 2013 5:35 pm

Description: “Chris Hedges, radical journalist at TruthDig, talks about a Strategy for Radical Change at Green Party of New Jersey Convention. Activism and providing support on the front lines.” Video date: April 17, 2013.

“The time for talking is over,” Hedges says. “They can either act, or atrophy into utter irrelevance.”

Also, “too many chiefs.”

Hedges’ message is that buying a food bus and showing up at Zuccotti Park with bagels and peanut butter would allow the party to listen to the concerns of the oppressed, rather than make moral, abstract pronouncements of corporate power, which we all know about at this point.

My 5-10 Year Plan to Defend Federal Whistleblowers

By: MSPB Watch Thursday July 25, 2013 7:50 pm

As some of you may know, I am a federal whistleblower and an attorney who focuses on whistleblower issues. I joined the FAA in 2009 and was fired less than a year later in what I allege is retaliation for whistleblowing. The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that protects whistleblowers, found my allegations to have merit. The case is currently under investigation.

Since that time, I started blogging about this that and the other, raising hell among whistleblowers and advocates for anti-democratic conduct by veal pen NGOs (what Chris Hedges would call the bourgeois liberal betrayal of the people they claim to champion). I wasn’t particularly radicalized before this experience, but this has been my reality. Some of you may have seen this ruckus on fdl. There’s been some quiet progress on that front, primarily because Edward Snowden raised the stakes and clarified the mission for many people. Whatever, this post isn’t about that.

What this is about is my plan going forward. Whether I win my case or not, I’m not going back to the government, as I would always have a bullseye on my back (the bureaucracy never forgets). I started a law practice representing federal whistleblowers. It’s in the early stages but I’m hopeful. My hope is to build the practice to the point that I get both corporate and federal whistleblowers. The corporate whistleblowers would bring in high dollar winnings, which I would then use to bankroll a legal services corp./law school clinic to help the federal employee whistleblowers. The forum for that is the Merit Systems Protection Board (hence my handle), where justice is hard to come by (less than 2-3% of appellants win on the merits each year). My anecdotal view so far is that agencies and the non-independent hearing examiners exploit appellants’ ignorance of the rules. This is where the legal services corp./clinic can come in handy, where for low cost or even free representation, many abuses would be deterred and whistleblowers would get a meaningful day in court. An added benefit is that this would train new generations of employment lawyers who could hit the ground running. Another is that the org would then use all its collective knowledge to reform whistleblower laws in a genuine, inclusive and hard-hitting fashion.

I’ve been here long enough to know that there are different forms of setting up these entities. I would definitely want to practice what I preach and create a truly democratic and horizontal institution. If anyone has any suggestions for books or websites, please let me know where I can seek inspiration.

Obama Transition Website Goes Down, Removing Inconvenient Campaign Promise to Protect Whistleblowers

By: MSPB Watch Thursday July 25, 2013 9:37 am

From Sunlight Foundation (via emptywheel):

Sunlight Foundation discovers the Obama Administration has removed access to his 2008 campaign promises from the White House website. It suggests one of the promises Obama may want to hide has to do with his support for whistleblowers.

While front splash page for for has linked to the main White House website for years, until recently, you could still continue on to see the materials and agenda laid out by the administration. This was a particularly helpful resource for those looking to compare Obama’s performance in office against his vision for reform, laid out in detail on

According to the Internet Archive, the last time that content (beyond the splash page) was available was June 8th – last month.

Why the change?

Here’s one possibility, from the administration’s ethics agenda:

Protect Whistleblowers: Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

It may be that Obama’s description of the importance of whistleblowers went from being an artifact of his campaign to a political liability.

Emptywheel notes that June 8–the last day the content of was available–was two days after Edward Snowden first disclosed wrongdoing by NSA.

Chris Hedges: America Is a Tinderbox

By: MSPB Watch Saturday July 20, 2013 9:34 pm

From the description: “On Reality Asserts Itself, Paul Jay asks Chris Hedges if the American Left bears responsibility for the weakness of the mass movement; Hedges says the gravest mistake of the left is not articulating a viable vision of socialism – Pt. 4 of 7