December 21, 2020

Government Accountability Project and Allies Demand Federal Agencies Inform Workforce of Whistleblower Rights to Protect Democracy

Organizations focused on democracy protection send letters to 25 government agencies calling on them to encourage employees to report wrongdoing during politicized transition period

WASHINGTON — Today, Government Accountability Project, along with American Oversight, Protect Democracy, and Public Citizen, sent letters to 25 agencies across the federal government warning them against chilling employees from exercising their legal rights to blow the whistle on serious abuses, and asking them to reinforce the existence and importance of those rights to their workforces during the presidential transition of power.

Agencies receiving letters included those with workers who have blown the whistle on serious misconduct during the past four years, such as the Departments of Justice, State, Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, as well as many other agencies likely to witness abuses during the transition. In the letter to Department of Homeland Security, the groups note:

“Federal employees may soon be witness to, and choose to disclose, evidence of a whole host of abuses, including but not limited to federal records destruction, politicized censorship of science or intelligence data, fraud related to COVID-19 relief spending, gross misuse of funds, or misinformation used by political appointees and elected officials used to justify military actions or to prompt retaliatory investigations against politically disfavored individuals. Your workforce should not be prohibited or chilled from, or retaliated against for, legally reporting evidence of such wrongdoing. Rather, they should be encouraged to do so.”

In the last two years alone, whistleblowers have raised the alarm about shocking abuses of authority, including President Trump’s effort to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election; politicization at the Department of Justice favoring friends and disfavoring foes of the outgoing Administration; the Administration’s failure to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, instead directing funds towards bogus drug therapies; the use of excessive, unprovoked force on peaceful racial justice protesters at St. John’s Church for a Presidential photo-op; and the use of political appointees to interfere with journalistic independence at the U.S. Agency for Global Media’s Voice of America.

Despite this, across the government whistleblowers have faced reprisal and efforts to chill communications between themselves and the president-elect transition teams. Additionally, President Trump recently signed Executive Order (EO) 13957, which would reclassify federal workers under a new Schedule F, essentially stripping them of civil service protections— including whistleblower protections–before the transition to a Biden administration.

The groups sending the letter are part of Government Accountability Project’s Democracy Protection Initiative, an effort designed to support and protect employees who choose to blow the whistle on  illegality and abuses of power aimed at undermining election integrity and sabotaging the peaceful transition of power.

Government Accountability Project Executive Director and CEO Louis Clark commented:

“Federal employees can ensure a peaceful transition of power by providing and preserving information essential to both the nation’s security and our democracy. Ethical civil servants, our last and best line of defense against wrongdoing, need to be empowered to report problems, free from reprisal, during this highly politicized transition period. Truth matters, and that’s why we are asking agency leaders to ensure their workers are aware of their whistleblower rights and protections.”

American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers commented:

“As the clock runs down on the Trump administration, the incentive for bad actors to seize their final opportunities to destroy evidence, line their own pockets, or punish decency grows daily. We insist that during this dangerous time for our democracy, the government take every step to guarantee that whistleblowers will be protected from retaliation.”

Protect Democracy Counsel John Langford commented:

“As we transition to a new administration, it’s essential that we guard against unlawful behavior by the outgoing administration, including any attempt to destroy federal records. All agencies should remind federal workers of their right to blow the whistle on illegal conduct.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 202.926.3304

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization.
Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.