Whistleblower complaints of retaliation explode under Obama
Two TSA employees who blew the whistle on inadequate security at the Minneapolis airport are claiming retaliation by TSA managers for speaking out.
One employee was due to be transferred while another was suspended. But the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers stepped in and now the managers are under investigation.
This is just the latest example of retaliation against whistleblowers in the Obama administration.
As whistleblower complaints in the Obama administration soar to record levels, one of the latest actions involves a federal agency intervening on behalf of two Transportation Security Administration managers who say they were punished after exposing major security problems at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The Office of Special Counsel is investigating the complaints of assistant federal security directors Andrew Rhoades and Becky Roering, who say they faced retaliation from supervisors after blowing the whistle on airport security lapses such as improperly handled ammunition found at TSA checkpoints and inadequate background checks on certain travelers.
Mr. Rhoades even contends that TSA workers routinely manipulate wait times for passengers shuffling through airport security lines, to make it appear that agents are screening travelers faster than they really are.
After their complaints went public, Mr. Rhoades said, he was punished by the top TSA official at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, Federal Security Director Cliff VanLeuven, who ordered him to be transferred to Tampa, Florida.
“It was a total shock,” Mr. Rhoades said in an interview. “They couldn’t get me on a performance issue, so they reassigned me to try to get me to resign.”
Ms. Roering was suspended twice after raising her concerns about security.
But the Office of Special Counsel has intervened, blocking the transfer of Mr. Rhoades and halting Ms. Roering’s suspension late last month while the agency investigates their complaints.
Voicing a complaint that is common in the Department of Veterans Affairs and other large federal bureaucracies lately, Mr. Rhoades said the climate of retaliation against TSA employees in Minneapolis is so pervasive that it’s affecting the agents’ performance in a job where attention to detail is crucial.
“Overall security at MSP has precipitously declined, and most of the staff is absorbed with avoiding retaliation rather than focusing on their jobs,” he told the Office of Special Counsel.
A TSA spokesman declined to comment on the specific whistleblower complaints, but the agency said in a statement that public safety has not been affected.
How many whistleblower complaints of retaliation have their been?
Complaints of retaliation against whistleblowers in the federal government are increasing. The Office of Special Counsel said it has experienced an “unprecedented rise” in its caseload, with 5,200 complaints filed in fiscal 2014, a 17 percent increase from the previous year and a 30 percent rise from three years ago.
With the way things are today, you have to be pretty stupid to retaliate against someone in government who makes you look bad. Of course, not all of these whistleblowers are heroes. Many of them are looking to get back at the boss, or even cover up their own incompetence. The job of the Office of Special Counsel is to ferret out the complaints that are self serving or bogus and go after the managers who are looking to bury problems with their department.
The White House has not be setting the best example under President Obama. Inspector Generals in several departments have become targets of presidential ire after releasing reports critical of administration management and actions. If direction starts at the top, then the White House attitude toward those who point out their mistakes filters down to the rank and file bureaucrats who then take it out on their own whistleblowers.