Thursday, January 15, 2009

ACLU Rips Whistleblower Law

The ACLU filed a complaint today along with ACLU of Virginia on behalf of themselves, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and OMB Watch. Here's the skinny:

Complaints filed under the False Claims Act (FCA) are automatically filed under seal and those who file them are gagged from speaking about them, keeping the complaints secret from the public for months or even years. "Secret courts and secret proceedings have no place in this country," said Chris Hansen, senior staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group. "There are plenty of procedures Congress or the courts could adopt to preserve the interest of privacy when it is warranted without enlisting the courts in a blanket scheme that automatically gags people who have information about possible abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Apparently our whistleblower law gets almost everything bass ackwards by protecting the contractors, the military, our government -- everybody but the taxpayer. Ronald Reagan kicked it up a notch by pushing through an amendment to screw this law up further:

Under the FCA, originally enacted by President Lincoln to combat war profiteering and other contractor fraud against the federal government, private citizens are entitled to bring complaints of fraud on behalf of the government. A 1986 amendment to the law requires that FCA complaints are automatically filed under seal and whistleblowers who file the complaints are gagged from speaking to anybody about them. The seal and gag are not lifted until the Justice Department decides whether it will pursue a complaint, which can be anywhere from 60 days to several years later. According to the Justice Department there were approximately 1,000 FCA cases under seal as of July 2007.
Whoa! Enacted by Lincoln?!? 1,000 sealed cases?!? That's seriously fucked up. Nothing personal Abe. I don't ever want to hear the words "Lincoln" or "sealed cases" in any paragraph related to the Iraq War.

The bottom line:

According to today's complaint, the FCA secrecy provisions have hidden an unknown number of allegations of military contractor fraud during the Iraq War from the public, raising concerns that the government may neglect to take action against certain contractors.
If we're to be serious about this business of war, which despite Obama's election we give every indication we are (Hello? Afghanistan?), we better damn well retool a 140+ year old anti-war profiteering law more that once every 20 years.


Note: Two foundations that provided major funding for the ACLU were cleaned out by Bernie Madoff. Help the ACLU keep fighting the good fight by donating here.


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