Later this week members of Congress and federal workers will watch a Capitol Hill presentation of the boon and bane of the bureaucracy: the whistle-blower.
"There's no free speech in government," argues Ralph Stavins, a lawyer who has spent over a year studying and counseling some 200 government workers who have publicly questioned decisions of their bosses. Stavins, 44, heads the government accountability project at the Institute of Policy Studies and he thinks government stifles its own workers. "You can't raise moral and legal objections; you learn very quickly you have to choose between career and integrity."
With emotional counseling and legal assistance, Stavins tries to assist people such as Anthony Morris, a thirty-year government employee who, as an FDA virologist, warned against the swine flu program.
"They fired him, and the program resulted in ninety-seven deaths, $2 billion in claims against the government, hundreds of cases of paralysis," says Stavins. "And there was no disease. Morris lives in Greenbelt, he's appealing his firing and he's broke."
A year ago a twelve-year veteran of the CIA wrote The Post objecting to his employer's use of mercenaries in collaboration with the South African government. John Stockwell lost his pension and is still unemployed, says Stavins, who generally recommends a whistle-blower exhaust the available administrative remedies before taking his or her cause to the press, Congress or the courts.
"Whistle-blowers redeem the idea of the conscience at the workplace," he says. "But in twenty-four hours their whole life is changed, they're projected into space with no support." Which is where Stavins' group enters the picture.
This year for the first time, numerous bills are awaiting consideration by Congress that would protect whistle-blowers from retribution. Until then, Stavins, who was associated with Daniel Ellsberg during the latter's Pentagon Papers days, may be the outspoken bureaucrat's best friend.