tv Washington Journal Elizabeth Hempowicz Discusses Whistleblower Protections CSPAN February 18, 2017 8:35am-9:02am EST
including her experience with racism in the newsroom. >> getting in the door because i survived being painted a certain way was one thing. but then i had to prove i could write, i could meet a deadline, i can be a good colleague in the newsroom and an environment are once again i was one of very few people of color. just getting in the door isn't enough. it's nice the door is open, but what do you do when you walk through it? >> for a complete schedule, go to c-span.org. washington journal continues. host: welcome back. liz hempowicz is with us. she is with us to talk about the rights and protection awarded to whistleblowers. thank you for being here. guest: thank you for having me. host: what exactly is it whistleblower? guest: for the purposes of this conversation we will focus on
federal whistleblowers and what an official federal whistleblower is. they work for a previous government or previously -- they work for the federal government or previously worked for the government and soft fraud or abuse in the agency. different agencies had different channels, that you can almost go to a member of congress, the inspector general, the agency special counsel. those are across-the-board. they go through proper channels and yes. wrongdoing host: these protections pertain only to people in the federal government or is there a similar thing in the private sector? guest: there are laws to protect private industry whistleblowers and protecting contractors of the federal government. host: what is the protected act? guest: to talk to somebody in a
protected channel. it is difficult to give a broad definition because there are different -- you are in the intelligence community, a dhs.actor, or at the -- essentially you can almost always -- it depends on the agency. you can almost always talk to your supervisor, the inspector general of your agency, the special counsel. you can get to a member of congress and their staff. and you can also go to the press in certain circumstances. then if you make a disclosure of something you reasonably believed to be fraud or abuse in the agency, that is protected. host: let's talk about going to the press. we heard that this past week about leaks. someone who leaks is not the same as someone who is a whistleblower? guest: it depends if you're
talking about information that is classified or not. talking to the press is theected, and i will get exact definition wrong, but if there is an imminent threat to public health and safety you can talk to the press. i think one of the things we see if theykers -- leakers don't think the channels they have in the agency are meaningful. we talked about having protections if you report up the chain of command. that is just one part of the story. butcan be protected whistleblowers are not blowing the whistle just for the sake of blowing the whistle. they want to see change within the agency. if they see either people going for them to go through proper channels and are either retaliated against and don't have the protection, they are more incentivized to leak. if they see someone who is still receiving protections but nothing changes, they are also incentivized to leak.
we are talking about nonclassified information going to the press. it is usually because they don't have confidence in the agency in the avenues provided to them to address their concerns. host: liz hempowicz is talking about whistleblowers. if you have any experience, we invite you to call in. what kind of evidence would someone have to provide as a whistleblower? guest: to blow the whistle or make a claim every calculation? host: blow the whistle. guest: i don't know exactly what kind of evidence they need. i think they need have a reasonable leaf -- the leaf -- belief in what they are providing and a paper trail is great. this and person say it was alarming for x, y, and az reasons -- z reasons. isy need to have evidence
fraud, waste or abuse in the agency. host: we have some common activities associated. violation of the raw, growth mismanagement, growth waste of funds, abuse of authority, substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. how often do people come forward? guest: that's a great question. i'm not sure. i would venture a guess to say it is different across the different agencies. one, because protections differ and it depends on the culture within the agency. we saw in the last two years and uptick in people coming forward from the v.a. because they were getting a lot of press and two, the problems were compounding. the wait times and people were dying. we saw an uptick in whistleblowers from that agency, but it really depends on the
agency and what is going on. host: are there certain agencies that are worse offenders than others? becauset is hard to say the numbers about who the whistleblower is and who is not a whistleblower are difficult to prove. in some it's hard to prove retaliation. the department of defense the burden is on the whistleblowers, whereat other federal agencies it on the agency to prove they have not retaliated against whistleblowers. this patchwork of protection makes it difficult to have one number and one definition of what is -- what are whistleblower protection laws. host: jeffrey on the independent line calling from connecticut. good morning. caller: good morning, how are you. host: what's on your mind? caller: i was 20 to get it to mr. solomon before miss hempowicz, sorry if i'm not
pronouncing your name right, but what is going on is i hear everybody talking about the constitution and different presidents, this and that. people look back in history, which they can look up all of it on their computers, corruption was going on and greet before the constitution was even made. there is just a lot more people in the world today. that is why it is so more severe. that's the way i look at it. there is a way. people say the fbi starts pretty more branches, you were just inviting more corruption and grief. it has got to be away to get back to some kind of reality. thank you. elano calling for missouri. good morning. have you read the book, "nobody would listen," it on the security exchange commission.
wrotehistleblower, he five times they were running a ponzi scheme for mr. made -- madoff and nobody would pay attention. are you still there? guest: yes. caller: the security and exchange commission that without listen, the person in charge of that in congress was schumer. prison as madoff went to that whole work stopped. we never found out how much payoff these people were getting. it would be interesting to go back and look in that situation instead of impeachment and stuff like that. thank you very much for c-span. i love you. host: thanks for the call. james in mississippi on the independent line. caller: good morning.
how are you all doing. you how do wek get in touch with your office? do you assist in these whistleblowers on certain levels because i see in the administration now and switch over there are whistleblowers in previous administrations. over.re changing to those whistleblowers get information or do you assist them in these things? as you know, over. on the lower level they don't reach to the top. sometimes you get in serious trouble even when you are a whistleblower. or can you assist or give us information? officecontact you, your
or speak to someone on the level you are on about it? most people ine the situations have lawyers, protection. but the lower level person speaking out, you have to basically do it on your own. guest: yeah. giving ofmething that individual-- giving assistance is not within pogo's work. we do have a tip line. .org.tcorruption@pogo you feel like whistleblowers are protected or afforded us protections or they are not listened to. that is what we have been working to combat. having whistleblower protections and the law is important. it's also important whistleblowers feel they will be heard when they go through proper channels.
we do have whistleblowers coming to us who have gone through or are somewhere in the process and the are frustrated with how long it is taking or they are not seeing action taken on their complaints. it is something we are looking into. unfortunately we don't of the resources to help every individual who comes to us, but we do have a resources page in our website. pogo.org. we do have resources page. we have a list of attorneys and who have experience with whistleblower cases and who often offer pro bono assistance. we encourage you to check that out. that is a problem we are aware of and are working to combat. host: let's go to jennifer from oklahoma on the republican line. good morning, jennifer. ok, i think we lost jennifer.
charlie from mobile, alabama, republican. good morning, charlie. what is on your mind? ladyr: i think the young has the definition of whistleblower and leaking to the press all next up. thatstleblower is one ,eports violations of procedure but a whistleblower is one that don't like the way things are being done. so they will leak stuff to the press. there was a definite distance between those two. i will share this and get off the air. a whistleblower will tell on people in violation of procedure. leak to the press what informed the press of what they do not in hope ofon
changing stuff or destroying stuff. i thank you very much. guest: thank you. nice to have summary from mobile, alabama. i have family down there. i will respectfully disagree. i think whistleblowers and oftenrs often -- leakers have the same motivation. often when a whistleblower feels like going through proper channels either they will not be protected or they are concerns will not be heard. i think that's what you incentivize people going to the press. there are also whistleblower protections for certain disclosures to the press. going to the press doesn't automatically make you a leaker. he may be considered a whistleblower and afforded protection. i think what we have been hearing a lot about recently are leaks of classified information to the press, which is a more complex subject, and the nuances
in the law are a little harder to parse through in a quick way. again i think the motivation of whistleblowers and leakers are often the same. o have beene at pog advocating a public interest balancing test for a few years. that means if a leaker went to the press and said other proper channels or disclose classified information, it would balance the impact of having that information out in the public exposingd what it was and the public benefit in that ofsus the illegality releasing classified information in a nonclassified setting. host: we had james from cordova, tennessee. caller: good morning. my response is short.
i think whistleblowers should be granted protection simply because we have to be able to trust what our officials are doing. ifhink whistleblowers, i thinkf them come out, it we get our elected officials a call to get in line. instead of giving us a lot of mumbo-jumbo or a political response to things we are involved in, things we are paying for, i think the whistleblowers would give people hope david get a straightforward answer and the truth with that. that is very important. host: for the you think about what we've seen so far from the trump administration for whistleblowers? guest: i think it's a little early. we are one month into the administration. there were some troubling developments right out of the back. there were the gag orders issued
actuallyencies, which ran afoul of the whistleblower protection act by saying people cannot talk to members of congress without going through the pr office of the agency. but when members of the house committee on government and oversight reform -- government reform -- [laughter] involved and sent --etter saying this is what these are the disclaimers that any communications have to have, where you can make a whistleblower disclosure, i think it rescinded those gag orders. that was a good sign. leakers on weeker -- and cracking down with them without making a distinction between a whistleblower and a leaker and the public benefit of
having information out there, i think it's troubling but a little bit too early in the beinistration to say -- to that concerned. i think it will be concerning if we don't see those kinds of comments and those kinds of gag orders. we don't see them being rolled back. an affirmative statement from the administration they value the work of whistleblowers, are front line of defense for fraud, abuse, and illegality in the agencies. that is not a partisan issue. we all went our government to run better and whistleblowers are helping that. from walker,james louisiana on the republican line. caller: good morning jeff and liz. jeff, i think you give a great job. mf i want to go to the pogo.co
website and look for the whistleblowers of the phoenix v.a. who have their medical records released and had retaliation. i don't know if you covered that because washington journal didn't have a single segment on .a. whistleblowers with 90 doing a segment. did you do anything about the v.a. whistleblowers? guest: are website is pogo.org. pogo.com is a game site. you will find anything about the phoenix whistleblowers on pogo.com. we did a ton of work and whistleblowers within the v.a. we opened up a specific channel for them to come to. we had over 1000 responses. a lot of them came anonymously as they were concerned about the culture of retaliation against whistleblowers within the v.a.
we had doctors, nurses and patients. we had veterans afraid to go to their advocates because they were afraid they're were going to be cut off from the medication. we did a lot of work on that. we have been working with members of congress to not only reversed that culture but to strengthen this whistleblower protections for those within the v.a. through legislation. host: dan from michigan on the independent line. caller: i was just wondering did your organization ever help edward snowden under the obama administration, other than labeling him as a traitor? guest: i don't think we ever labeled him a traitor. our work around his disclosure has really focused on increasing protections for intelligence community contractors. edward snowden was pretty clear and has made many statements that he release information the
way he did because he was aware he did not have whistleblower protection. and intelligence community contractor has this protections, best practice protections for four years under the stimulus package, but those were removed from the national defense authorization act in 2012. right after that he leaked information. what our work is focused on his strengthening this protections and putting protections in place for employees like edward snowden so the intelligence community contractors can go through proper channels and not only be protected, but as i keep saying because it's one of the most important parts of whistleblower protection, is to have a proper channel where they feel their concerns will be heard and addressed. that is what our work is focused around in terms of those disclosures. montreal, ourfrom neighbor to the north, canada. good morning.
caller: good morning. about the dhsnt agent who testified in the senate in june when senator cruz called a hearing on radical islam. i know a lot of americans when they heard the testimony were outraged and that's why they voted for trump. are you aware of his testimony and what you think the media, cnn, nbc, abc are covering up his testimony? guest: i am not aware of that testimony. sorry. host: john from new york on the democratic line. caller: good morning, elizabeth. about when you were talking about -- several years ago we were invited to come to a wise our dr. to attend society annual meeting.
they dealt with -- heavily with whistleblowers. repercussions they suffered from it. intot wanted to bring that your discussion. yourt to thank you for effort with this. guest: thank you. i agree. one of the reasons we work so hard to increase whistleblower protections is because of our work with individuals and we see it takes years of costly litigation. sometimes they either lose their jobs or they keep their jobs and they are devoted or put into an office in the basement where they can't interact with anybody.
the different ways agencies can retaliate against whistleblowers is something we are very concerned about and why we haven't working on this issue since pogo started 35 years ago. host: what happens if the allegations go unfounded? guest: if a whistleblower's allegations are unfounded, as long as they had a reasonable belief they are so protected under the whistleblower protection. they can't be reprised against by their supervisors or managers for raising a concern if it wasn't legitimate. as long as they had a reasonable belief it was. if their reprisal complaints go unfounded, they are out of luck. depending on what the reprisal was, they lost their jobs, were demoted, were suspended without pay, i think that stands. host: the last call it sharing
from california on the independent line. caller: hi liz. i just wanted to ask you about snowden but you already answered that so i appreciate your answer. i wanted to congratulate the host. he is very nice and i like cam. -- i like him. thank you for taking my call. thank you, and thank you liz. what -- guest: what a great call to end on. host: oren cass will talk about the trump administration's stance and views on climate change. ♪ >> which presidents for america's greatest leaders? c-span recently asked 91 presidential historians to rate our 43 presidents and 10 areas of leadership. top billing this year went to the president who preserved the union, abraham lincoln.
he has held the top spot for all three c-span historian surveys. three other top of gators continue to hold their positions. george hold their positions -- george washington, franklin roosevelt, and theater roosevelt. dwight eisenhower, who served to 1961, makes his first appearance in the c-span top five this year. top 10 -- harry truman, thomas jefferson, john f. kennedy, and ronald reagan. spotn johnson jumps up one this year to return to the top 10. dead buchanan is ranked last in all three c-span surveys. bad news for henry jackson as well. seventh president found his overall rating dropping this year from number 13 to number 18. but the good news for outgoing president barack obama, on his first year on the list,
historians placed him as number 12 overall. george bush jumped with big gains in public persuasion and relations with congress to number 33. how does this rate with your feelings? who are your favorites in each of the 10 categories? you can find all of this and more on our website at c-span.org. c-span, where history unfolds daily. 1970 nine, c-span was created as a public service by american civil service company, and was brought to you today by your cable or service provider. >> "washington journal" continues. host: welcome back. oren cass joins us now from new york. he is a senior fellow for the manhattan institute and was the policy director of mitt romney's presidential campaign. he has also contributed to the "national review."