The Marine Corps has given a well-known whistleblower his security clearance — and his job — back.
Franz Gayl, the civilian adviser who in 2007 criticized military leaders for not fielding heavily armed vehicles known as MRAPs in Iraq, was accused about a year ago of using an unauthorized flash drive in a secure computer. His security clearance was stripped, he was put on leave and, this fall, he was threatened with indefinite suspension.
Gayl denied the accusations and, with the backing of various advocacy groups, appealed, saying he had become the subject of reprisals.
This week, the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that protects whistleblowers, said the Navy, after a review, had relented on the threat of indefinite suspension and reinstated Gayl’s clearance, allowing him to go back to work.
In a statement, Gayl said he was “committed as ever to return to my Marine Corps to work hard in support of all Marines in the capacities for which I was hired.”
A senior science adviser for the Marines, Gayl’s persistent push for MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles) at the height of the Iraq war raised hackles at the Pentagon. He spoke out publicly, and described the military’s delay in making a priority of the acquisition of the vehicles as “criminal negligence,” given their proven ability to protect troops against improvised explosive devices.
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates later cited media reports about the effectiveness of the vehicles, largely based on Gayl’s advocacy, in explaining his decision to accelerate production.
Gayl has become something of a hero in the whistleblowing community, and advocates on Wednesday described his reinstatement as a clear-cut victory.
“As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted, thousands and thousands of Marines owe their lives and safety to the brave actions of Franz Gayl,” Danielle Brian, the executive director of the the Project on Government Oversight, one of the groups that backed Gayl, said in a statement. “What Gayl has endured is a gross injustice.”
The Marines have declined to comment directly on Gayl’s case, citing privacy laws and regulations.