Above photo: U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington. CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.
There is one big reason I’m not attending the National Whistleblower Center’s annual gathering this year.
Last week I received an invitation to attend the annual whistleblowers luncheon hosted by the National Whistleblower Center (NWC). The luncheon is always a big deal. It’s held in Washington, D.C., in the Russell Senate Office Building’s Kennedy Caucus Room, the same room that hosted the Watergate hearings, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the Iran-Contra hearings and other momentous events in American political history.
It’s attended by hundreds of whistleblowers from all over government and the private sector, as well as more than a few politicians. The NWC usually has one of those politicians as a guest speaker. There is lots of applause, a lot of self-congratulations, and everybody goes away with a full belly, even if nothing of substance gets done.
This year, however, I’m boycotting the event. So is Darin Jones.
You may recall me writing about my friend Darin Jones. Darin is an FBI whistleblower and former supervisory contract specialist who in 2012 reported evidence of serious procurement improprieties. Darin said that Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) had been awarded a $40 million contract improperly because a former FBI official with responsibility for granting the contract then was hired as a consultant at CSC.
Jones maintained that this was a violation of the Procurement Integrity Act. He made seven other disclosures alleging financial improprieties at the FBI, and he was promptly fired for his whistleblowing.
What was done to Darin Jones was patently illegal. I wrote at the time:
“Immediately upon his firing, Jones appealed. He was not reinstated, however, because he had made his revelation to his supervisor and not to one of the nine people on the FBI leadership-approved list of who could hear a whistleblower complaint. Jones appealed again, beginning a more than four-year odyssey.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is the champion of whistleblowers on Capitol Hill, whether you like his politics or not. Jones contacted Grassley and asked for help. His dismissal was clearly retaliation for his revelations and was illegal, according to the whistleblower protection law. Grassley agreed and wrote three separate letters to then-FBI Director James Comey and then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. None were answered.
Grassley urged the Justice Department to reinstate Jones, saying that his dismissal was a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2016, which strengthened the original whistleblower protection law. He added that when Yates appeared before his Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearings earlier in the year, she promised ‘to improve the process for adjudicating claims of retaliation, including expanding the list of persons to whom a protected disclosure may be made.’
She never did that. In fact, Yates ordered the director of the Justice Department’s Professional Misconduct Review Unit to write to Jones and to tell him, ‘The Deputy Attorney General’s review is complete and her decision is final. Your case is no longer pending. You should not expect to receive any future communications that you or any other organization or individuals may submit with regard to your whistleblower reprisal case.’ In other words, the official policy of the Justice Department was to ignore the law and to give the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and the whistleblower himself the middle finger.
The FBI’s response was equally bad, albeit predictable. The FBI’s Office of the General Counsel wrote to Jones, ‘The FBI has advised you that it will not conduct further investigation into your allegations that the FBI removed you from employment because you reported a compliance concern and retaliated against you in violation of applicable whistleblower retaliation protection regulations. The FBI has met its legal obligations and considers this matter closed without any basis for further review or reopening. Please be advised that the FBI will not respond to any additional correspondence or emails related to or arising from the termination of your employment.’
That’s another middle finger.
Note also that the FBI refers to ‘whistleblower regulations.’ It’s not a regulation. It’s a law. And the FBI, too, has to respect and follow the law even when they don’t want to.”
The Man Behind It
To make matters worse, it was the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz who was behind all of this. It was Horowitz who said that Darin Jones’s information was not whistleblowing and was not worthy of investigation. It was Horowitz who refused to respond to Grassley or to Jones’ attorneys to reinstate him.
This is the same Horowitz who has garnered wide press attention and acclaim for investigating the FBI’s handling of the Michael Flynn case, the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar sexual assault case and the federal response to the demonstrations in Portland all the while ignoring legitimate whistleblowers.
And who do you think the National Whistleblower Center has as its keynote speaker at its annual luncheon? Michael Horowitz. The press would have you believe that he’s a hero. Even the National Whistleblower Center would have you believe that he’s a hero. He’s not. Many of us think he’s a fraud. Just ask Darin Jones.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act — a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.