Jun. 4, 2008  

SPJ Signs Letter Supporting Whistleblower Act

The Society of Professional Journalists, along with the Government Accountability Project and 50 other organizations, has 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 rights to employees to have a jury trial in federal court after exhausting administrative remedies;
  • Specifically protect federal scientists who report efforts to alter or suppress federal research;
  • Extend meaningful protections to FBI and intelligence agency whistleblowers;
  • Extend meaningful protections to 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 in whistleblower lawsuits;
  • Bar the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) 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 refuse to violate the law; and
  • Remove the Federal Circuit’s monopoly on precedent-setting cases even under “all circuits” review.

In a related letter addressed to House members, the groups asked for support of H.R. 4047, the Private Sector Whistleblower Protection Streamlining Act of 2007. This legislation would establish a uniform, coherent system of legal protections for all private sector and other non-federal employees who are retaliated against for disclosing threats to public safety or violations of Federal laws on issues ranging from consumer protection standards, to homeland and energy security, to food and drug safety. Additionally, H.R. 4047 would clarify existing protections and fill in specific gaps in coverage to help those citizens who step forward to report violations of the law.

“To keep a balanced check on government power and publicly-traded company managers, 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.”

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