Foreign Policy & Terrorism | December 9, 2005
an "F" in Homeland Security,
Bush Administration Retaliates Against Whistleblowing
of the U.S. Park Police & Agents of the FBI.
Douglas Drenkow, Editor of "Progressive
Posted in "OpEdNews",
From Left Field", & "GordonTalk"
we safe? We are safer — no terrorist attacks have occurred
inside the United States since 9/11 — but we are not as safe
as we need to be. ... There are far too many C's, D's, and F's
in the report card we will issue today. ... Our leadership is
distracted. Some of these failures are shocking. ... We
are frustrated by the lack of urgency about fixing these
problems. Bin Ladin and al Qaeda believe it is their duty to
kill as many Americans as possible. This very day they are
plotting to do us harm. On 9/11 they killed nearly 3,000 of our
fellow citizens. ... We should not need another wake-up call.
... While the terrorists are learning and adapting, our
government is still moving at a crawl."
by Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chair Lee H. Hamilton, Final
Report of the Bi-Partisan 9/11 Public Discourse Project,
December 5, 2005
at a crawl": if only it were so passive, so benign. But it
isn't. In a growing number of incidents that should make any
red-blooded American's red blood boil, this administration has at the very least fostered a
general climate in which a paranoid lust for power has trumped a
love of country.
it seems like the executive branch of our government is cracking
down more on whistleblowers who expose our shortcomings in the war on terror (and I don't refer to
that self-fulfilling prophesy and orgy of violence in Iraq) than
on the terrorists themselves.
that can make us only less — not more — secure.
me to cite two of the most outrageous, well-documented cases out of many,
involving not wild-eyed radicals but seasoned professionals of
the law enforcement community whose warnings were disregarded
and whose careers were trashed in this pattern of abuse of
executive power; then let us briefly consider the shocking state of
affairs for whistleblowers in general.
come cheap, the stuff of cowards; truth is priceless, the soul
first dedicated law enforcement officer I would like to
mention, with unreserved respect, who suffered and still suffers
injustice for daring to speak the truth — about very real,
unaddressed terrorist threats — is Ms.
Chambers, former Chief of the U.S. Park Police.
November 20, 2003, after nearly two years of sterling service as
the first female chief of the oldest uniformed law enforcement
agency of the federal government, Chief Chambers was interviewed
by David A. Fahrenthold, of the Washington Post, about the needs
of her organization. Such public relations work had always been
part of her job; the reporter already had much of the factual
basis of the story from public accounts and a previous interview
with a labor representative of the U.S. Park Police Fraternal
Order of Police; and immediately following the interview, Chief
Chambers would notify her chain of command as to the nature of her
remarks for the
article, which would appear in print on December 2, 2003. Upon
instruction from the Department of the Interior, which oversees
the National Park Service, she would serve as sole spokesperson on
this issue, as in radio and television interviews that followed.
In all this, Chief Chambers' remarks were by all accounts truthful
and consistent, accurately reflecting what she also communicated
during this period to her appropriate contact in Congress, the
staff director of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, and,
upon request, to the Director of the National Park Service, Ms.
2005 budget] does not provide funding for hiring during that
fiscal year, which could
potentially bring our sworn staffing to its lowest point since
1987 and more than 250
officers below the level recommended by the Director of the
National Park Service in his report
to Congress in March 2000 — one and
years before the horrific events of September 11, 2001, that
tremendously increased the staffing
needs of law enforcement agencies
our current lack of adequate staffing, I must alert you that the
National Park Service's ability to
protect these precious historical icons — the
Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Washington Monument, the
Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson
Memorial, the grounds that support the Golden
Gate Bridge — or our guests who visit them is increasingly
compromised. The continuing threat
to the future of these American symbols
becomes even more acute with any additional loss of personnel.
My professional judgment, based upon
27 years of police service, six years as
Chief of police, and countless interactions with police
professionals across the
country, is that we are at a staffing and resource crisis in the
United States Park Police — a
crisis that, if allowed to continue, will almost surely
result in the loss of life or the destruction of one of our
nation's most valued symbols
of freedom and democracy."
I might add, this
is what happens to homeland security when you play Santa for
Iraq, Scrooge for the U.S.)
shortly after her interview with the Washington Post reporter,
Chief Chambers informed her immediate superior, NPS Deputy
Director Donald Murphy, of what she had said; and he reassured her
it was "no big deal."
it would soon become a very big deal, for Chief Chambers, the
National Park Service, and all of us who value our security and
a week, Mr. Murphy was throwing tantrums in meetings blaming Chief
Chambers (not present) for the funding woes, even though by all
accounts she had always managed her force efficiently and
cooperated fully in the budgetary process. Once Chief Chambers got
wind of this, from others who were present (and shocked), she
filed a complaint with his boss, Director Mainella, who assured
Chief Chambers that she had spoken to him about his inappropriate
this wasn't the first time Mr. Murphy had, in Chief Chambers'
words, "impugned" her character and
"slandered" her, she had delivered to Director Mainella a
formal, written complaint, on the afternoon of December 2,
few hours later, Mr. Murphy left voice-mail and sent e-mail to
Chief Chambers issuing an apparently illegal gag order, ordering
her to not speak to the media on any topic, anymore. He also told
her to attend a meeting with him and Director Mainella later that
week, to discuss "general United States Park Police
several days of getting rather strange looks and responses from
her colleagues, Chief Chambers arrived in the headquarters of the
National Park Service with her Assistant Chief. Mr. Murphy greeted
them, then entered his office. Three armed agents and an attorney
arrived; the attorney and one of the agents entered Murphy's
office; the other two agents flanked the door, to stand guard.
Chief Chambers was summoned in; her Assistant Chief was told to
Mainella was nowhere to be seen. Murphy said she would not be
coming and Chambers couldn't see her. He then handed Chief
Chambers a memo: With absolutely no forewarning — with no chance
to bring an attorney of her own — and with no specific charges
leveled against her, Chief Chambers was told that she was being
put on indefinite administrative leave.
December 5, 2003 — 25 years to the day since she had first
received a badge, with the Prince George's County Police —
Teresa Chambers was stripped of her gun and her badge, as Chief of
the U.S. Park Police.
— like some disgraced law enforcement officer accused of a crime
— she was paraded by the armed special NPS agents in front of
her colleagues and in front of the media back to her office, where
she turned in her communications devices but from which she had
been told by Murphy there would be no need to take her personal
belongings (which she would not be allowed to retrieve until many
was left to find her own way home, in uniform and unarmed but by
now well known: She might as well have had a target painted on her
week later, legal representatives of the NPS met Chambers in
"a secret location" to offer her a deal: If she would
agree to let Deputy Director Murphy screen all her contacts with
the media and the Congress from then on, and if she would transfer
another outspoken colleague, the charges against her — still
unspecified — would be dropped. But because to
"cooperate" would have meant gutting the independence
and power of her office as Chief, by accepting what she felt to be
illegal restrictions on her First Amendment right to free speech
and her right to contact Congress, as well as committing the
undoubtedly illegal act of transferring another whistleblower,
Chief Chambers refused the deal in no uncertain terms.
Ruch, Executive Director of PEER (Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility), a respected organization now part
of the Chambers defense team, put it, "One day Don Murphy
says these allegations are so serious that termination is the only
recourse while he was really saying that all would be forgiven if
Teresa Chambers would agree to kiss his ring."
a week, Chief Chambers received a letter from the NPS informing
her of their intent to remove her from federal service and (for
the first time) detailing six formal charges against her.
may well be six of the most trumped-up charges ever to be filed.
In a later deposition, even Murphy himself could not cite specific
rules or laws that applied to many of the alleged violations; and
in those few instances where he could quote chapter and verse from
federal regulations, it
was a stretch to say the least to make them fit the facts of this
most independent accounts, Ms. Chambers as Chief did nothing
improper, nothing that others in her position had not done;
indeed, Mr. Murphy and Ms. Mainella were apparently
"guilty" of two of the alleged offenses themselves:
speaking to the press about the funding shortfalls of the NPS and
publicly mentioning how many U.S. Park Police officers were
stationed at certain national monuments.
the legal battle had begun. Two of the charges were thrown out by
the administrative judge in an initial hearing before the Merit
Systems Protection Board, an appeals panel for the personnel
issues of federal employees; but as of today — two years after
being "ambushed" out of service (during which time a new
chief has been named) — four of the charges still hang over her
head, there being no timeframe specified for a response from the
MSPB to her formal appeal, after which, if charges remain, she and
her supporters are prepared to fight on, in the federal court
not simply on the defensive but also on the offensive: According
to the Chambers legal team and most outside observers, the actions
taken by the National Park Service constitute a blatant violation
of the federal Whistleblower Protection Act, protecting employees
who reasonably disclose "a substantial and specific danger to
public health or safety."
apparently such "niceties" as keeping Lady Liberty and
her visitors safe in New York Harbor are less important to this
administration than seeing to it that any and all critics are
silenced. And by tactics that are unethical at least, illegal at
most. For example, a glowing performance review of Chief Chambers
— that had been written by none other than Deputy Director
Murphy just before all the controversy arose — was withheld for
months by the NPS; then it mysteriously disappeared; and then,
after denials by the NPS that it even existed in the first place,
it just as mysteriously reappeared when the Chambers legal team
filed suit in federal court. However, over nine months later, it
has yet to be turned over!
you are as outraged as I am by this egregious abuse of power —
attempting to destroy the reputation and livelihood of a dedicated
public servant as well as compromising our homeland security
(Subsequent reports have confirmed what Chief Chambers had warned,
that the security for our much-treasured, much-visited national
monuments is woefully inadequate) — then I hope you will learn
more about this case on the website created by Ms. Chambers'
faithful husband, retired from law enforcement, http://www.honestchief.com.
There you may read (or read of) the many news reports, including
great series in the Washington Post and by Timothy Noah in MSN
Slate; commentaries, as by CBS News' Bob Schieffer and the dean of
television anchorpersons, Walter Cronkite; an audio library of her
radio and television interviews across the country; lists of
supporters, including senators and members of Congress; a
petition you may sign, anonymously, with a comment of your
own; and a
link to the defense fund established by PEER to help cover her
enormous (and growing) legal bills, taking on what at times must
seem like the entire federal government.
our correspondence for this article, I asked Ms. Chambers what she
was doing now. She replied: "I'm here ... at the computer
fighting my case every day. To keep the pressure on and to
help assist my attorneys in their exceptional representation, my
husband and I each spend an average of 12 and 16 hours a day
working on this case. This is what we do — this is our
she will one day be rightfully reinstated in her job as Chief of
her beloved U.S. Park Police; but even now, Teresa Chambers is
going above and beyond the call of duty to perform a vital service
not only for her own career but also for our nation as a whole:
Those who would intimidate and silence would-be whistleblowers
must not be allowed to succeed, particularly when the very
security of America is at stake.
Very Special Special Agent
German loved the FBI; to his credit, he still does, even
though certain members of its leadership drove him out for
telling the truth.
of the specialties of this special agent was infiltrating groups
of militias, skinheads, and other homegrown terrorists. In 2002
Agent German was called upon by the Tampa, Florida, office to
take part in an undercover investigation to determine if a
money-laundering operation, perhaps funded by a drug ring, was
funneling money to terrorists overseas. Although the lead would
eventually prove to be false, at the time it seemed promising to
the agents involved.
as months passed, problems amassed. Leads were not followed,
meetings with informants were not documented, laws governing
wiretaps were not obeyed. Ever the professional, Agent German
alerted his supervisors that the case was being "seriously
the supervisors took no timely corrective action. In fact, about
the only "corrective action" that seems to have been
taken was the backdating of documents ("White Out" was one weapon
of choice in this assault on the truth).
the violations of policy and law became more blatant, Agent
German became more outspoken; in 2003 he e-mailed his complaints
to the Director of the FBI, Robert S. Mueller III, who has a
reputation of supporting honest whistleblowers.
instead of being hailed as a hero, Agent German became shunned
as a pariah, by agents from Florida to Oregon and Washington,
DC. Perhaps most devastating to his career, Agent German was
shut out of prized undercover teaching assignments by the head
of the FBI undercover unit, who told another agent that German
would "never work another undercover case."
the bulk of his claims have been substantiated in a recent
report by the inspector general of the Department of Justice,
Agent German is no longer with the FBI. In an interview, he has
said: "I still love the FBI. And I know that there are
good, honest, hard-working agents out there trying to do the
right thing; and this hurts all of them."
Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has stated: "Unfortunately, this
is just another case in a long line of FBI whistleblowers who
have had their careers derailed because the FBI couldn't
since 9/11, many of these cases of retaliation have involved
federal investigations into suspected terrorist operations
(which sounds ever so much like what happened to Valerie Plame,
now leaving the CIA).
Whistleblowers in General
this report, released the same day as the 9/11 Commission Report
above (December 5, 2005) by PEER:
GET NO HELP FROM BUSH ADMINISTRATION — Record Numbers
Are Blowing the Whistle but Fewer Cases Investigated
"Washington, DC — The
U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the agency that is supposed to
protect federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud
and abuse, is dismissing hundreds of cases while advancing
almost none. ... Despite record numbers of federal employees
filing whistleblower disclosures and complaints of retaliation,
there are fewer investigations and a much greater likelihood
that those who blow the whistle will be silenced.
Bloch, the Bush appointed Special Counsel, has been in office for
nearly two years, during which time positive results for
whistleblowers have plummeted. ...
Scott Bloch at the helm, the Office of Special Counsel is acting
as a Plumber's Unit for the Bush administration, plugging leaks,
blocking investigations and discrediting sources,' stated PEER
Executive Director Jeff Ruch. 'Under Bloch, political
appointees, not civil servants, decide which cases go forward
and which cases are round filed.'"
the importance of whistleblowers to the modern history of our
country — everyone from Deep
Throat to the 2002
Time magazine "Persons of the Year" (Cynthia
Cooper, of WorldCom; Sherron Watkins, of Enron; and Coleen
Rowley, whose warnings to her superiors in the FBI about the
presumed "20th Hijacker" of 9/11 fell on deaf
ears) — the prosecutions and persecutions of whistleblowers
by this administration is absolutely mortifying, yet not in the
results that defy all statistical probability and
journalists paid-off in
this country and in
our "showcase democracy" overseas to intelligence
and facts "fixed around the policy" of going to war
first indictment of a sitting senior White House official since
before Grant was in his tomb, this administration has
demonstrated a consistent — some would say criminal —
pattern of utter contempt for the truth; and in a democracy,
that translates into utter contempt for every last one of us
citizens (of every political persuasion) and for the very concept
suppressing those who blow the whistle on shortcomings in our
fight against terrorism jeopardizes the very existence of
least in the opinion of those of us who believe in the
inestimable value as well as the inalienable right of free
speech and a free press.
Archive of PEACE: Foreign Policy & Terrorism
| Editor | Values
| Legal | Links