New York Times Editorial
Be Kind to Our Whistle-Blower Friends
May 24, 2007
The most endangered species inside the Washington Beltway is the federal worker who dares to disclose waste and mismanagement by government superiors. The vulnerability of the workers is palpable lately at the Commerce Department, where the inspector general -- who is charged with protecting, not silencing, whistle-blowers -- was found taking vengeance on two subordinates who dared to question his expense accounts. The Washington Post reports an independent investigation concluded the inspector general, Johnnie Frazier, committed ''egregious violations'' by reassigning his top deputy and counsel to peripheral jobs after they refused to sign off on expensive trips and office renovations.
The abuse is denied by Mr. Frazier, but follows the pattern of the Bush administration's muting of internal critics. Whistle-blowers have been systematically denied, demeaned and demoted by political appointees flouting laws designed to protect workers with the courage to come forward. Mr. Frazier is one of four different inspectors general in the administration under investigation for allegedly subverting their responsibilities.
The House has approved an overdue remedy that would strengthen whistle-blower protection and the penalties for retaliators. The measure is particularly important for extending protection to national security workers so they feel freer to report misconduct and gaps in antiterrorism defenses. One provision would bar a familiar tactic of retaliation -- the revocation of a complaining worker's security clearance.
The White House, of course, is threatening a veto, claiming the measure weakens national security. Tell that to Coleen Rowley, who quit the F.B.I. after documenting the agency's failure to follow up on field office warnings before the 9/11 attacks. In truth, it is vital for national security that the Senate vote final approval of the measure with the same veto-proof support shown by the House. Whistle-blowers honor government service. It is time to strike back at their tormentors.