Friday, March 2, 2007

The Heat Builds over Fired U.S. Attorneys

The Department of Justice's decision to remove seven U.S. Attorneys from their positions for purported performance reasons just got more sticky with charges by former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias that his termination may have been because he resisted political pressure to pursue more aggressively investigations of  Democrats.  A Washington Post story (here) details Iglesias' allegations, which came the day after he ended his term, that two federal elected officials called him in October 2006 asking that he speed up the investigation of Democrats before the November election.  One reason apparently cited by the Department for Iglesias' removal was complaints about him from members of Congress.  Putting two and two together, Iglesias asserts that his refusal to comply with the requests led to his dismissal.

That politics are involved in the selection and retention of U.S. Attorneys is nothing new -- these are appointed offices and political loyalty can be the price of admission.  Nor is it unknown that the Department of Justice uses prosecutions for political gain, and targets certain types of crimes to tout its credentials as an effective crime-fighting operation.  Crime is a political hot-potato, and U.S. Attorney's Offices are not immune, at least not completely.  Iglesias' claim is weakened by the fact that the did not report the contact in October 2006, as required by Department policy, and a DOJ spokesman strongly denied the allegation.

The problem for the Department of Justice is the growing perception, particularly in Congress, that the politicization of the process is reaching deeper than just the appointment of U.S. Attorneys.  It now includes their removal if they are viewed as falling out of line, and the Attorney General's new authority to appoint interim replacements with no limit on their terms can be viewed as insulating the office from review and oversight by the Legislative Branch.  The Department's credibility has suffered quite a few blows over the past couple years, from the search of a Congressional office to attacks on the policy for corporate crime prosecutions to the defense of secret telephone call monitoring.  Whether Iglesias' charges are true, DOJ suffered another black eye in removing a group U.S. Attorneys who will now be viewed as targets of a crackdown on "independent" prosecutors.  (ph)

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Dear Congress:

Although I am glad to see you rushing in to protect our wrongly fired U.S. Attorneys, I must ask you - WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? The very same political network, “good old boy clique,” that fired these attorneys, has been around for years attacking other federal government employees who dare to speak out against wrongdoing. Yet you, dear Congress, have done nothing to protect these brave souls who dare become National Security Whistleblowers.

Currently there is no real whistleblower protection for government employees on the front line of our national security (Border Patrol Agents, Customs Agents, Transportation Security Agents, etc.). Many of these government employees have endured wrongful firings, harassment, threats, and other retaliation on an enormous scale for simply doing the right thing. They have witnessed extreme instances of waste, fraud, abuse and corruption that they are required by law to report. For many of them, what they have witnessed are criminal acts by their mid-level and sometimes very high-level managers. If they don’t report these abuses, they the employees may be criminally charged with a felony (Misprision of Felony). Yet when they do the right thing, the whistleblowers are most certain to be severely retaliated against by the people benefiting from the wrongdoing.

Moreover, this has been documented and presented to Congress repeatedly by numerous organizations like The Government Accountability Project (GAP), the Project On Government Oversite (POGO), and the Patrick Henry Center. All three of these organizations list scores of National Security Whistleblowers that have testified repeatedly before Congress in different forums (e.g. the 911 Commission; the Blue Ribbon Commission; Whistleblower Counsel). Yet the Whistleblower Protection Act that was authored and sponsored by Senators Akaka and Grassley, and has passed the Senate, sits idle for months now on the House floor.

As you rush to protect these more powerful federal government employees (U.S Attorneys) who are often hand picked by their home state Senators, remember, there are others who have suffered much more because they have risks much more via the national security issues that they have reported. I doubt that these U.S. Attorneys will have to file bankruptcy because they are being “blackballed” by corrupt government officials, in the same way that National Security Whistleblowers do. I doubt that these U.S. Attorneys will fear the threats and intimidation to themselves and their families; repeated frivolous internal affairs investigations; the passing over of earned promotions, and numerous other tools that government managers have at their disposal to discredit whistleblowers and SHUT THEM UP.

Yet you, Congress, point the “Political Finger” at the folks who have fired these U.S. Attorneys, while you sit and allow much worse behavior to continue for others. Maybe someone should wave that same “Political Finger” back at themselves. Why is it that the U.S. Attorneys have been given preferential treatment over other government employees who, quite frankly, have put their necks much more on the line for this country than the U.S. Attorneys?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the firing of these attorneys is political, morally wrong, and perhaps illegal - BUT SO WHAT! Why are you rushing to their aid over the dead bodies of National Security Whistleblowers who were also government employees - and I do mean literally dead bodies. Numerous whistleblowers have had their lives so destroyed by doing the right thing, that they have died of heart problems due to stress, and/or have committed suicide. The whistleblower cases that I have witnessed, including my own, are much more egregious and appalling than what has happened to the U.S. Attorneys. One may conclude that the answer to this question is that U.S. Attorneys are simply more powerful in their positions, and can be of more assistance to Congress in said positions - hence fostering the notion that this sudden interest for Congress to protect them is merely POLITICAL! Therefore, while you waive the “Political Finger” at this administration for firing these attorneys, please take a close look in the mirror at the other end of that very same finger - which is pointing straight back at you! I would encourage you to provide protection to ALL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, not just the influential ones.


Darlene Fitzgerald
National Security Whistleblower & proud of it
Author: “BorderGate, the story the government doesn’t want you to read”

Posted by: Darlene Fitzgerald | Mar 14, 2007 2:36:53 PM

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