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New Trump rule accuses whistleblowers of betraying the country

The Department of Veterans Affairs declared September ‘Insider Threat Awareness Month.’

By Donna Provencher - October 26, 2020
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The Department of Veterans Affairs recently gave guidelines to its employees that would punish whistleblowers.

Last month, the VA’s “Insider Threat Program” sent an email to department employees declaring September to be “Insider Threat Awareness Month,” Mother Jones reported.

The internal email warned employees that they should be wary of potential threats posed by their colleagues.

The email claimed that the United States “has been betrayed by people holding positions of trust,” and that “insiders” have “caused more damage than trained foreign professional intelligence officers.”

“Not every suspicious circumstance or behavior represents a spy in our midst,” the email went on to say, “but every situation needs to be examined to determine whether our nation’s security is at risk.”

The email also laid out suspect behavior that VA employees should take note of, such as colleagues who “work odd hours without authorization,” are easily “overwhelmed by life crises/career disappointments,” have “suspicious contacts,” or look for “classified information on subjects not related to their work duties.”

Also suspicious: employees who express “concern” when they are being “investigated.”

The email suggested an “if you see something, say something” guideline for VA employees, and directed managers to monitor networks closely and set up methods for employees to report on one another’s suspicious behavior.

The email’s paranoid language calls to mind former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), who led the “Red Scare” crusade in the 1950s to ferret out supposed Communists working within government.

This is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to intimidate government employees who try to report corruption or other misconduct, labeling whistleblowers as “spies” or traitors.

In 2017, the Office of Special Counsel ordered the Department of Energy to remove posters instructing employees to report “insider threats.” One of the posters read, “Every leak makes us weak.”

The OSC also warned the department that it is illegal to monitor staff electronically.

Donald Trump’s crackdown on whistleblowers is hardly surprising, given his lengthy track record of retaliating against anyone who calls out government corruption.

This spring, Trump fired at least five inspectors general at different government agencies. The internal watchdogs were removed after their offices made complaints or probes into the Trump administration’s misconduct.

It is both extremely rare and troubling for a sitting president to strip an inspector general of their position.

The most notable of these inspectors general was Michael Atkinson, who blew the whistle to Congress regarding Trump’s Ukraine dealings, which paved the way for Trump’s impeachment.

Trump also fired two officials who testified against him at his impeachment, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland.

At the time, Vindland’s attorney released a statement noting that Vindman “did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day.”

“He followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril,” the statement went on to say. “And for that, the most powerful man in the world — buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit — has decided to exact revenge.”

Another government whistleblower, Dr. Richard Bright, also faced retaliation from the Trump administration.

Bright claimed he was removed from his high-ranking position at the Department of Health and Human Services for speaking out against using the largely untested drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus.

In May, Bright testified that he believed “part of the removal process for me” was because he gave pushback when asked by the Trump administration to expand “access protocol that would make chloroquine more freely available to Americans that were not under the supervision of a physician” and “may not even (have been) confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.”

Trump has expressed disdain for whistleblowers.

Last year, on Veterans Day, he retweeted a post by the White House’s account applauding him for his accomplishments, but he took no pride in one.

“To think I signed the Whistleblower Protection Act!” he tweeted, implying he had regrets about doing so.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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