Sheryl Hall, who supervised the staff that assisted White House employees with computer problems, told a recent whistleblowers conference a chilling story of how employees in the Clinton White house who uncovered wrongdoing were silenced. “They were threatened with their jobs. They were threatened with their lives,” she said.
In November 1993, she was assigned the task of developing a computer software system that would combine the files of the Democratic National Committee with those of the White House into a taxpayer-funded master database. When she said this was illegal, she was told to figure out a way to circumvent the law. Marsha Scott, a close friend of Bill Clinton, told her that the database was top priority for Hillary and that the president was very interested in it. She was accused of disloyalty. Her staff and duties were cut severely. She became the target of threats.
Sheryl Hall said, “It’s very unsettling to go to work and find a death list, titled ‘Friends of Bill,’ on your chair or in your desk, of people who have been associated with the president from his time in Arkansas forward, and the First Lady, who have all died. I wasn’t the only one to receive this.” It would be easy to dismiss this as the sick joke of a prankster but for the fact that a similar message was delivered to Linda Tripp from someone very close to the president C Monica Lewinsky.
White House contract workers involved with the computer system told her about Project X. This was to correct the mis-direction of e-mails to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that had kept them from being archived in a searchable mode for about two years. It was discovered in June 1998, but nothing was done about it until November. Those who knew this were warned that they would be sent to jail if they told anyone about it. This enabled the EOP to avoid searching its e-mail for material subject to subpoenas at a crucial period of time.
Judge Royce Lamberth directed the White House to restore the missing e-mails before the election, but that deadline was not met. It is now up to the National Archives and the Bush administration to complete the job. Sheryl Hall fears that records have been destroyed or lost, and that we may never know the full extent of the scandals concealed by the missing e-mail.
Sending A Message To Bush
Opening the conference, which was sponsored by AIM, Judicial Watch, the Free Congress Foundation and the National Whistleblower Center, Reed Irvine said that whistleblowers are punished, not rewarded, for exposing wrongdoing. He pointed out that officials with the power and responsibility to uncover the truth, such as former Independent Counsel Ken Starr, all too often fail to do their jobs. Irvine called on the Bush Administration to reward and honor whistleblowers to encourage those who want to root out corruption.
Speaking at lunch, Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman, who is representing Hall and several of the other speakers, praised them as “truth-tellers.” Klayman said that Judicial Watch is encouraging others to come forward through the web site www.confidentialwitness.org, where individuals with evidence of wrongdoing in government can provide their information on a confidential basis.
Klayman said that President Bush should have rehired Linda Tripp, the veteran civil servant who exposed the Monica Lewinsky scandal. “If there’s one person that George W. Bush owes for his presidency, it is Linda Tripp,” Klayman said. Tripp was forced to resign from her Pentagon job in the last days of the Clinton administration. She claims that her chance to get another job with the military was quashed by Cliff Bernath, the Pentagon official who had previously violated the Privacy Act in giving a reporter information from her personnel file and was never prosecuted or disciplined.
Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said his former boss, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has proposed that every new president hold a White House event to honor whistleblowers. This would send a signal to the government that disclosures of wrongdoing should be encouraged. Kolesnik expressed the hope that pressure could be brought to bear on President George Bush to hold such a ceremony.
Among those who should be honored is former FBI special agent Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, who blew the whistle on corruption and incompetence in the FBI crime lab. But honoring Whitehurst would clash with Bush’s decision to let Louis Freeh finish his term as FBI director. Freeh punished Whitehurst and began the process of easing him out of the FBI. He put him on administrative leave after the Justice Dept. Inspector General issued a report confirming Whitehurst’s criticisms of the FBI crime lab. Freeh had ignored and dismissed those criticisms.
The treatment of Whitehurst, a Vietnam veteran with a Ph. D. in chemistry and a law degree, was a disgraceful episode in the history of the FBI. “I knew I needed attorneys when they sent me off to the shrink,” Whitehurst cracked. He decided he had to sue the government. He said one reason why he was ultimately successful in getting the Inspector General to confirm his charges and the FBI to agree to a financial settlement of his case was that he had documents to prove it. Through his Forensic Justice Project, he is providing information about FBI testimony in court that was based on flawed crime lab work.
Whitehurst thanked Congress, especially Senator Grassley, who made a Senate speech on his behalf, and the major media. He said most of them covered his case fairly. He emphasized that, all along, he was only seeking the right to go into a court of law and tell the truth about FBI operations. He also expressed his gratitude to the many AIM members who sent him post-cards expressing their support and urging him to stand firm.
He said that serious problems remain in the FBI crime lab despite the favorable settlement of his case. The Inspector General documented inaccurate or false testimony in such high-profile cases as the Oklahoma City bombing. Whitehurst described the testimony of one FBI agent in the trial of Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of the bombing, as a “bald-faced lie.” The same agent testified in the trial of Terry Nichols, the other convicted bomber, and is still testifying in the courts on such matters today. A one-year follow-up report by the Inspector General said that the problems in the lab were years in the making and the solution would take years as well. Whitehurst said this showed that the FBI’s internal oversight processes had massively broken down.
Exposing Chinese Espionage
If President Bush can be persuaded to hold a ceremony to honor whistleblowers, Notra Trulock, former director of intelligence at the Department of Energy (DOE), should be high on the list of honorees. Trulock uncovered the espionage problem at the Energy Department labs, only to see the FBI botch the investigation and try to put the blame on him. Kris Kolesnik, who was an aide to Sen. Grassley at the time, said he had personal knowledge of the smear campaign against Trulock waged by the FBI.
Trulock said that if Louis Freeh had any integrity he would resign, and if he didn’t, Bush should fire him. The fact that Robert Hanssen, a senior FBI counterintelligence agent, was found to be a Russian spy reflected badly on Freeh. Trulock recalled being lectured by Freeh about security problems in the DOE. There were such problems, Trulock said, and he had done his best to fix them. Freeh, on the other hand, didn’t have a clue that the FBI itself was seriously compromised.
While Robert Hanssen was selling secrets to the Russians, FBI agents entered Trulock’s townhouse without a search warrant and seized his computer. They were supposedly looking for classified information that Trulock had taken with him, but no charges were ever filed. He said the raid was part of the FBI smear campaign against him.
Trulock, who was eventually forced out of the DOE for exposing the espionage problem in the labs, said that the safeguards for whistleblowers “are worth little more than the paper they’re are printed on.” He said that whistleblowers are always told to work through the “chain of command.” He had stayed within the chain of command at the DOE for well over two years, and nothing was done. The office of Inspector General (IG) is supposed to honestly investigate whistleblower complaints but at DOE, at least during the Clinton era, Trulock said the IG “became just another tool of political intimidation.”
“For a time,” he said, AI was the darling of the Republicans on the Hill as I was reporting on the refusal of a Democratic administration to deal with a serious national security problem. “We’ll protect you,” I was told. ‘We know that they will come after you, and we’ll protect you,’ I was repeatedly assured.” Legislation did get passed, mandates levied on the department regarding security, and even some additional whistleblower protection was built into the agency’s authorization bill. But his support on Capitol Hill dried up.
Trulock said the real test came in the summer of 2000 when the Clinton administration came after him full force. Except for two Senators, Arlen Specter and Bob Smith, and one Congressman, Curt Weldon, every other former congressional supporter couldn’t get away quick enough. He said that Senator Richard Shelby and Rep. Porter Goss, chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, failed to respond to his repeated requests for assistance. His own Senator, John Warner of Virginia, Acouldn’t be bothered.
Trulock said he is troubled by President Bush’s references to “moving on” beyond the scandals. He wondered if this includes moving on past “Chinagate,” the selling of U.S. security for cash, and the cover-up of Chinese espionage in the labs.
Selling Out to China
Clinton-Gore dealings with China came into view again when President Bush ordered the bombing of Iraq’s air defense network on a Muslim holy day, when work on the site was shut down and Chinese workers would not be killed. The Chinese were said to be building an underground fiber optic network for Iraq’s air defense system.
Dr. Peter Leitner, a senior adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told the conference that if the Clinton administration permitted such exports to China, “It will be interesting to add up the cost to the U.S. taxpayers of disrupting the Chinese fiber-optic installation and the costs of the airplanes, the men, the stationing of carriers, and the cost of the ordnance.” He suggested comparing that to the profit made by selling China the fiber-optic manufacturing equipment.
On the matter of export controls, he explained, “When you sell manufacturing technology, it’s gone forever. When you sell a product, you can regulate its flow to some extent.” He said it’s one thing to sell the Chinese fiber-optic cable for civilian purposes. “But you don’t sell them the manufacturing capability to do it themselves,” he added. He said if you do, “They become an independent and rogue player on the world scene, and we have to take some action later on to counter it when it becomes a direct threat to our forces or our way of life.”
Leitner believes the Chinese have penetrated the labs not only at the DOE, but also at the Department of Defense. This “still goes unaddressed,” he said. He noted that Chinese citizens work in Silicon Valley and our high-tech industries, where much of our weapons technology originates, without a basic background check. “When a company wants to hire a Chinese or foreign national, all they do is send into the government a copy of a resume written by the individual.” There’s no determination of whether the information is true or whether the individual is an intelligence agent. If you go to work for Wal-Mart, he said, you’re subjected to a greater level of security.
Leitner called the Hanssen arrest an extreme example of the problem we face. He said many security problems stem from officials who simply want to continue with their careers and protect their jobs, rather than serve the national interest. Leitner said he works with such people every day. He believes the end result of these short-sighted policies will be our sons and daughters in the military coming home in body bags.
Corruption at the United Nations
Another speaker, Linda Shenwick, was fired by the Clinton administration for telling Congress about waste and corruption at the U.N. She was our top budget analyst at the U.S. mission to the U.N. Without Shenwick in place, Congress has no effective way to monitor where our money at the world organization is going. Some members of Congress, including Senator Charles Grassley and Congressmen Cliff Stearns and Roscoe Bartlett, have spoken out on Shenwick’s behalf, but 18 months later she is still paying the price for telling truths the State Department did not want Congress to know. She should also be invited to the Rose Garden and restored to her job.
“The United Nations has very, very shoddy management practices,” Shenwick said. After going to her superiors with this information, she said, they confirmed it but insisted that it not be shared with Congress. Shenwick was told by one official at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. that telling the truth about U.N. mismanagement just didn’t serve the interests of the Clinton administration.
After receiving a series of outstanding performance evaluations, she got an unsatisfactory evaluation as punishment for telling the truth. The government then tried to transfer her to a job in Virginia unrelated to her expertise. She was locked out of her office, her safe combination changed, telephone lines cut, and told to leave the building under armed guard escort. She said, “Madeleine Albright taught me what I never wanted to learn ? that there was a reason to fear the U.S. Government.” Shenwick was told that if she fought the corruption and cover-up, she would be ruined financially and would lose her case. She thanked Judicial Watch, which represents her, for helping her fight this injustice.
Shenwick said the U.N. itself “doesn’t want to identify and change the way it does business,” and that this behavior was encouraged by the Clinton administration. For example, as early as 1995, they knew that U.N. troops being sent into Africa and Asia as peacekeepers were spreading AIDS.
“They did nothing to deal with that problem,” she said. “They only recognized and began talking about the problem one year ago today,” in early 2000. She said that when Madeleine Albright briefed the U.S. mission about the problem, Albright told them, “Don’t go out of the room with this.” Noting that the U.N. is spending millions of dollars supposedly to fight the AIDS epidemic, Shenwick said one solution might be for the U.N. to stop sending AIDS-infected soldiers around the world.
The IRS Is Above The Law
As tax deadline day approaches, it should be of interest to taxpayers that the IRS itself has been caught violating the law. It’s actually an old story. The IRS not only violated the law and got away with it, but the whistleblower inside the agency who disclosed this wrongdoing was forced out of her job. That was Shelley Davis, who has written a book about her experiences titled, Unbridled Power: Inside the Secret Culture of the IRS.
Davis suffered for telling the truth about the IRS, but she said she would do it again. She lost a career making $69,000 a year as the IRS historian, a retirement package, and she didn’t get a settlement from the agency when she left. More importantly, she said, “I lost my faith in my government, and I lost my faith in my fellow citizens to do the right thing.” She could have stayed in the agency and kept quiet. However, she chose to resign in protest in 1995 because she thought she could do more good on the outside.
Davis was the first and last IRS historian. She had ten years of experience as a historian for the Defense Department when she went to the IRS. She understood what federal agencies were supposed to do, in terms of maintaining historical records. After she got to the IRS, she went to the National Archives looking for agency records. She was shown a few shelves with a few boxes. She said this was the tip-off that the IRS is even more secretive than the CIA, FBI or the National Security Agency. For over 100 years, Davis said, the IRS has been destroying its historical records, making it more difficult for the public or the press to discover agency wrongdoing.
Davis, who worked for the IRS for a total of seven and one-half years, tried to fix this problem. Some co-workers supported her privately but not publicly. They told her to continue her battle to make the IRS open and accountable. But Davis found herself under investigation by the IRS itself. Her story was covered by the Wall Street Journal, but the establishment media in general showed little or no interest in her case, which is not at all unusual.
Davis was also disappointed by Congress. She said her story was one factor in the congressional hearings into IRS operations several years ago but that those were “a lot of bombast” and died away rather quickly. At one point, before the hearings, Davis said she was the “darling” of Congress. But after the hearings, she couldn’t get her telephone calls returned.
More Corruption Under Reno
Martin Edwin “Mick” Andersen, a liberal Democrat who supported the Clinton-Gore administration, blew the whistle about leaks of highly classified information, sexual harassment, sexual favoritism in hiring, violations of travel rules, general mismanagement, and other wrongdoing at the Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno. His disclosures sparked a three-year criminal investigation by the department’s Inspector General.
Andersen worked on international training programs for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Some of his initial disclosures concerned the diversion of resources away from fighting organized crime and drug trafficking in Latin America to supporting the corrupt regime in Haiti. This was discontinued five years later, confirming Andersen’s complaints.
Andersen said that when the Inspector General’s report was released last year “it found that the person Miss Reno had appointed in 1997 to ‘clean up’ the Immigration and Naturalization Service [Robert K. Bratt] had, at the time, secured two highly questionable visas for Russian women, one of whom he was allegedly sleeping with…It also found that he had paved the way for a waitress at Lulu’s bar on M Street to get a well-paid professional job at the department.” Anderson said the Inspector General confirmed that Bratt had been indifferent to security breaches, and that highly classified law enforcement and intelligence documents had been mishandled.
Andersen had sparked this probe, and as you might now expect, he was the one who was punished. His security clearance was lifted. He was stripped of his duties and sent to a room where he had virtually nothing to do for a month. “I took that time to read six books on the American Revolution and the Civil War,” he said. Ironically, the room contained classified documents that were supposed to be destroyed. “This is after my security clearance had been taken away,” he said. His charges were confirmed because he had documents proving his case that he was eventually terminated.
Until he became a whistleblower, Andersen had received outstanding performance evaluations and letters of recommendation. He had been recommended by Vice President Gore’s office for a senior position in the Peace Corps. He said media interest ? except for Insight magazine ? was nonexistent. He emphasized that media coverage is the key to achieving justice for the whistleblowers.
Without such coverage, he said, whistleblowers are more vulnerable to retaliation. Republican Senator Charles Grassley supported his case, but he said that his “erstwhile Democratic Party friends were silent.” Andersen recalled that after the Clinton administration came to power, Vice President Gore in an interview in USA Today gave his “personal guarantee” that there would be no reprisals against whistleblowers. But it was Al Gore’s brother-in-law, Frank Hunger, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, who was responsible for Mick Andersen’s case.
Andersen is now working with the Government Accountability Project, (GAP) to strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act. He said that the act has been neutered by the special court established to handle whistleblower cases. The Office of Special Counsel, which is supposed to protect the rights of whistleblowers, cannot even litigate on their behalf, and the deck is now stacked against the plaintiffs. Anderson said there is bipartisan support for new legislation on this matter to be introduced this year. It would broaden the scope of protected disclosures, expressly allow whistleblowers to communicate with Congress, and provide judicial review of whsitleblower cases. The National Center for Whistleblowers has joined GAP in supporting this badly needed reform.
The Farm Loan Scandal
Thomas Kalil, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) attorney who blew the whistle on the officially sanctioned farm-loan scam described in detail in our 2000 #3 report, covered this scandal at the conference. As we reported, $600 million has already been paid to 12,000 blacks who have claimed, but not had to prove, that they were denied USDA farm loans because of racial discrimination. Kalil warned that as many as 60,000 more people are trying to get on this gravy train. If a judge certifies them as members of the class that filed the lawsuit, they have a chance of collecting $50,000 tax-free.
The media have shown almost no interest in exposing this scam. Kalil revealed that he had given the story to a Washington Times reporter before the election last year, but it was not used. George Archibald, who was covering the conference for the Times, volunteered the information that he was that reporter. He said that the story was complicated and was not in his area of expertise, he passed the information on to his editor, who apparently did not assign it to anyone else. The Times ran Archibald’s story on the conference, which was good except that it said nothing about the $600 million scam. Later , the Times ran Reed Irvine’s column about it.
What You Can Do
Send the enclosed cards, or your own cards or letters to, President George W. Bush, to Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs and to Rep. Dan Burton chairman of the Committee on Government Reform.