Over the last eight years, members from the Make it Safe Coalition (MISC)i have arranged an assembly of whistleblowers in Washington, DC each year for an annual conference originally known as Washington Whistleblower’
Michael McCray, summit host and organizer explains, “Regrettably, some groups actually boycotted the Whistleblower Summit this year, which is so unfortunate because many of those people actually need the support and solidarity that the Whistleblower Summit provides."
McCray continues, “And there are other outspoken activists who reject the trans-partisan nature of the Whistleblower Summit, but the summit is not about Left vs Right, it is about Right vs Wrong—so in addition to Liberals and Progressives, we also invite Libertarians and Conservatives to participate in the conference.”
Patricia L. St. Clair, Assistant Director, Federal Sector Programs, Training and Outreach Division, adds “Meeting with our external stakeholders, and listening to their concerns is not only a part of my job duties, but also a welcomed confirmation for OFO to continue along our path of innovation and greater outreach/education.”
St. Clair concludes, “I was inspired to ensure our outreach efforts create broader and more accessible venues for education and information dissemination to stakeholders. It was my pleasure to be able to provide the EEOC's perspective and hearing Elijah Cummings speak was an added bonus!”
Senator John Boozman (R-AR) discussed the need for the Left and Right to come together and find common ground at least regarding waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government; and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) gave a rousing speech emphasizing the need for increased whistleblower protections. Also present was Robert MacLean, Whistleblower and U.S. Air Marshal, whose public disclosures about severe budget cuts at the TSA thwarted plans for a second and potentially more ambitious 9/11 attack by Al-Qaeda. “Air Marshal pulled from key flights” by Brock Meeks, MSNBC, July 29, 2003.
MacLean is preparing for the first United States Supreme Court challenge to whistleblower rights and protections under the new WPEA. In Department of Homeland Security vs. Robert MacLean (13-CV-894) cert granted, the Supreme Court of the United States will address the retroactive reclassification of national security documents to prosecute whistleblowers.
Tom Devine, Legal Director for the Government Accountability Project, commented, “This law is a landmark paradigm shift of legal rights, but it would be dishonest to say that any government whistleblower is safe. Since the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act’s passage, the Federal Circuit has ruled against whistleblowers in all final decisions."
Devine continues, "Unlike corporate whistleblowers, federal employees cannot seek justice through a jury trial. There is no legally safe option for Intelligence Community workers to challenge misconduct within the system, leaving media leaks as the only alternative to professional suicide. There is no protection against retaliatory criminal investigations or prosecutions, often more chilling than job reprisals. Our work is not over."
Honoring the 25th Anniversary of the Passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act, this year’s conference theme is—Is It Right?
“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but we must take it because our conscience tells us that it is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Michael McCray, summit host and organizer declares, “I want to personally thank every one of the whistleblowers, advocates, and attendees who made this year’s Whistleblower Summit a resounding success. I am most pleased by the spirit of camaraderie and cooperation that permeated the entire conference. While we don’t always agree, and some of us don’t get along very well—all of the Whistleblower Summit participants were able to put aside their differences in a true display of comity and civility.”
But in Washington, even unsubstantiated allegations of fraud have consequences. Marcel Reid, Pacifica Whistleblower Liaison explains, “Whistleblower retaliation is expected from those opposed to transparency, but attacks by the purported allies of Whistleblowers is disappointing. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of your friends’—that’
Michael McCray, summit host and organizer explains, “I blew the whistle on $40 million in waste, fraud and abuse and rampant discrimination at the U.S. Department of Agriculture back in the 1990s. See McCray vs Glickman, et al (00-cv-426) U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Columbia (TPJ). I have fought the federal government before USDA, EEOC, OSC, MSPB, Federal District Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. As a result, I have a very complicated civil record, which some people take issue with—but that is not fraud or impropriety."
McCray concludes, “I was attacked by baseless allegations of wrongdoing simply because I have suffered severe retaliation due to my whistle blowing and advocacy. However, I am a perfect target for these types of swift boat attacks since I recently ran for public office; but it is unfair to attack Marcel Reid, Pacifica Radio, American Banner Books or the Whistleblower Summit simply because they are my friends or business associates.”
Despite the controversy, the Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights was a tremendous success; including an Opening Plenary, Workshops, and Panel Discussions, Book Signing and Documentary Film Screening; National Whistleblower Appreciation Day Awards Luncheon and Welcome Reception, Pillar Awards Presentation, and Whistleblower Solidarity Dinner. See Summit Program Schedule and Participants.
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i The MISC is as assortment of various public interest/advocacy groups including the ACORN 8, the Government Accountability Project, the International Association of Whistleblowers, the American Federation of Government Employees, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, the No FEAR Coalition, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Voices for Corporate Responsibility, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters. MISC members focus on significant areas of public concern and individual rights, such as First Amendment, federal workforce, medical safety, national security, judicial reform, etc.