Protecting Whistle-Blowers and the Public

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Recently, The Post spotlighted my agency regarding an employee newsletter [news story, Sept. 7] and a canceled awards reception [news story, Sept. 11]. The articles might have been amusing to some, but the real story is how The Post allowed bias to set its priorities and ignore newsworthy achievements by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

While The Post was occupied with trivial dress tips, the OSC was occupied with life-or-death implications of Federal Air Marshal Service dress guidelines that might have compromised anonymity and thus national security, though we sought no coverage. The Post's Aug. 25 article made no mention of the OSC's advocacy for whistle-blowers regarding this issue.

The Post has repeatedly failed to cover the OSC's achievements on behalf of whistle-blowers and others. Recently, a political appointee was forced out as the Agriculture Department's rural state director for Alaska, thanks to the OSC and a brave whistle-blower for whom we obtained a new job and back pay. In another case, we protected a decorated Drug Enforcement Administration field agent from being transferred across the country, possibly as retaliation for his courageous whistle-blowing.

The Post's coverage of the 2006 Public Servant Award ceremony for Leroy Smith focused only on the cancellation of the public event and failed to mention how he changed federal prison safety practices, as if the substance were beside the point. The Post showed no interest in April when we announced our conclusions regarding his case, although National Public Radio and other media outlets gave it national coverage.

We received no coverage for our 2005 recipient, Anne Whiteman, and her whistle-blowing about coverups of airplane near-misses at one of the most heavily trafficked international airports in the world -- a case we recently reopened.

The Post refused to mention a 2005 bipartisan congressional review of our whistle-blower efforts and our oversight committee's conclusion that praised our "great job for whistleblowers."

The OSC has aggressively protected military service members' reemployment rights. Recently, we won the civilian job back of a soldier wounded in Iraq.

This year, our agency won landmark decisions regarding abuse of government e-mail under the Hatch Act.

Has The Post ignored these stories because we are tagged as "Republican" or "conservative" (despite our statutory independence) or because we have been targeted by activists whom some would characterize as "liberal"? These accomplishments would ordinarily merit significant coverage in The Post but apparently not when certain activists are obsessed with preventing positive coverage of our agency.

Those who wish to know the truth about our work can visit http://www.OSC.gov to read the details. Those in need of a watchdog agency should have access to the facts so that they can have access to justice. Skewed coverage of our agency only hurts federal workers, as well as the public interest in a free press.

-- Scott J. Bloch

Washington

The writer is special counsel for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company