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Today, the Washington Post has two articles on whistleblowers, the first one exposing the previously quiet rift between President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates on national security whistleblower protections. . The other, on how advocates are determined to see whistleblower protection pass, is not a big surprise.

First of all, Obama should pull rank on this one and remind Gates that Obama endorsed new protections for national security whistleblowers as part of his campaign.  Second, look at the cast of characters against whistleblowers: a rogue's gallery consisting of Gates, McConnell, Mukasey and Chertoff.  That tells you what you need to know right there.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' tirade against the whistleblower bill last year was joined by the usual cabal: then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, and then-Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.  Of course people like Chertoff are against whistleblowers!  Whistleblowers like me snarled his confirmation hearings to become a federal judge and later Director of DHS--a stewardship I think people of any political stripe can call an abysmal failure.

Their argument that whistleblower protections would

create protections for disgruntled employees whos jobs would not otherwise be secure

sounds like they are describing themselves, not the high-caliber whistleblowers we have seen in the national security arena: Joe Darby (exposed torture at Abu Ghraib), Erik Shinseki (said we'd need more troops in the Iraq war), Mark Klein (exposed secret surveillance), and at least a hundred others.

The bottom line is that national security employees are the ones we most need to blow the whistle, but are the federal employees who have the least protection.  People like Coleen Rowley at the FBI, who tried to report before 9/11 that Zacarias Moussaoui was paying for flying lessons in cash and had no interest in learning how to land a plane.  People like veteran CIA analyst Franz Boening who filed memos questioning the agency's tolerance of huuman rights abuses by friendly governments in Latin America.  Federal employees at the NSA and Justice Department who exposed Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, most recently Thomas M. Tamm.  National security whistleblowers are unprotected, and have no recourse when they are retaliated against in spades.  A popular tactic perfected during the Bush administration is to pull their security clearances, rendering them unemployed and unemployable, followed by a litany of bogus psychological exams, pretextual criminal investigations, and blacklisting.

Whistleblower protection is a politically popular idea--until dissent is directed at those in power.

Originally posted to Jesselyn Radack on Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 05:17 AM PST.

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