Statistics released at the end of 2005 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility led to claims that special counsel Scott Bloch, who was appointed by Bush in 2004, is overseeing the systematic elimination of whistleblower rights.
What makes this development particularly troubling is that, thanks to a decline in congressional oversight and hard-hitting investigative journalism, the role of the Office of Special Counsel in advancing governmental transparency is more vital than ever. As a result, employees within the OSC have filed a whistleblower complaint against Bloch himself.
Ironically, Bloch has now decided not to disclose the number of whistleblower complaints in which an employee obtained a favorable outcome, such as reinstatement or reversal of a disciplinary action, making it hard to tell who, if anyone, is being helped by the agency.
Sources: "Whistleblowers Get Help from Bush Administration," Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Web site, Dec. 5, 2005; "Long-Delayed Investigation of Special Counsel Finally Begins," PEER Web site, Oct. 18, 2005; "Back Door Rollback of Federal Whistleblower Protections," PEER Web site, Sept. 22, 2005
7. US OPERATIVES TORTURE DETAINEES TO DEATH IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ
Hooded. Gagged. Strangled. Asphyxiated. Beaten with blunt objects. Subjected to sleep deprivation and hot and cold environmental conditions. These are just some of the forms of torture that the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan inflicted on detainees, according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of autopsy and death reports that were made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
While reports of torture aren't new, the documents are evidence of using torture as a policy, raising a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions, such as: Who authorized such techniques? And why have the resulting deaths been covered up?
Of the 44 death reports released under ACLU's FOIA request, 21 were homicides and eight appear to have been the result of these abusive torture techniques.
Sources: "US Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq," American Civil Liberties Union Web site, Oct. 24, 2005; "Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding Torture as Policy from Guantánamo to Iraq," Dahr Jamail, TomDispatch.com, March 5, 2006
8. PENTAGON EXEMPT FROM FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
In 2005, the Department of Defense pushed for and was granted exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests, a crucial law that allows journalists and watchdogs access to federal documents. The stated reason for this dramatic and dangerous move? FOIA is a hindrance to protecting national security. The ruling could hamper the efforts of groups like the ACLU, which relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the US military's torture of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, including the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
With ACLU lawyers predicting that this ruling will likely result in more abuse and with Americans becoming increasingly concerned about the federal government's illegal intelligence-gathering activities, Congress has imposed a two-year sunset on this FOIA exemption, ending December 2007 — which is cold comfort right now to anyone rotting in a US overseas military facility or a secret CIA prison.
Sources: "Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information," Michelle Chen, New Standard, May 6, 2005; "FOIA Exemption Granted to Federal Agency," Newspaper Association of America Web site, posted December 2005
9. WORLD BANK FUNDS ISRAEL-PALESTINE WALL
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall Israel is building deep into Palestinian territory should be torn down. Instead, construction of this cement barrier, which annexes Israeli settlements and breaks the continuity of Palestinian territory, has accelerated.