By David Swanson
Half the story has been told. On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that Bush is creating civil service positions for loyal appointees, in order to make it hard for Obama to get rid of them.
Bush has also, for some time now, been terminating large numbers of employees in the federal government, people known as whistleblowers, people suspected of disloyalty. Some of the higher profile cases are well known.
But there is more to the story. And it follows the strategy described in Thomas Frank’s recent book, “The Wrecking Crew.” I’ve been given what is believed to be a very incomplete list of 33 names of people terminated or forced to resign. These people are being forced into the ranks of the unemployed. They include, by salary ranking, 13 people classified as GS-15 or GS 14, and another 20 GS-13s and GS-12s. Some of these people do not want their names made public. Others are perfectly happy to talk. They include:
At the EPA:
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
At the Department of Commerce:
At the Department of Labor:
At the Department of Education:
At the Department of Transportation:
At the Department of Commerce – Trademark and Patent:
I’ve spoken with Marsha Coleman-Adebayo and Renee Berry. Coleman-Adebayo called what’s happening a “silent coup d’etat.” The Bush administration, she said, is “embedding their foot soldiers inside the government in order to sabotage any Obama initiatives while at the same time terminating federal employees who they assume would be supportive of the new administration.” She compared this process to a soviet purge.
Berry said that people being forced out of work are looking at a future in poverty. “The government refuses, in many cases, to provide good recommendations for these employees, and that leaves them with a 20- to 30-year gap in their employee history.”
Coleman-Adebayo has long been known as a whistleblower at the EPA. She worked with me to set up a website advocating the removal of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, and her story is summarized at
In fact, Coleman-Adebayo’s advocacy on behalf of employees dates back to before the Bush Administration, to the days when Bill Clinton ran the White House and Carol Browner ran the EPA. Browner is now being considered for a new position of Environmental Czar in the Obama Administration.
Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, authors of “The Spy Who Tried to Stop A War: Katherine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion,” and “The Spy Who Seduced America: Lies and Betrayal in the Heart of the Cold War” (2002), have written the following about Coleman-Adebayo’s firing:
Coleman-Adebayo v. Browner
The senior EPA analyst whose historic anti-discrimination case led to legislation protecting whistleblowers is being fired from her job at the Environmental Protection Agency. She sees this as the ultimate act of retaliation against her; a payback for continuing her fight to protect federal employees who speak out against wrongdoing in government agencies.
The election of Barack Obama has given Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo both hope and concern. “I see triumph, but I also see vulnerability in what lies ahead,” she says.
Writing in the New York Times six years ago, Coleman-Adebayo optimistically envisioned the possibilities of passage of what would become the first civil rights law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR). At the time, her optimism was justified. No Fear passed by a unanimous act of Congress –- the first time a major piece of civil rights legislation was so honored. Coleman-Adebayo stood directly behind the President when the act was signed into law.
Change was in the air, but not for long and not for everyone. “I have been the continued target of reprisal and harassment, a common fate of whistleblowers,” she says.
Every two years, or 90 days after acceptance into federal service, all employees must take No FEAR training based on her successful legal case, Coleman-Adebayo v. Browner. However, the Agency has not allowed Dr. Coleman-Adebayo to take the No FEAR training course — a “cruel irony” in her book. Carol Browner, defendant and former EPA administrator, is now serving on the president-elect’s transition team and was reported by the Washington Post to be the “obvious choice” if the new administration names an “environmental czar.”
This possibility worries Coleman-Adebayo and, she says, “many of us who lived through the Browner administration are worried about the message this sends.”
She adds that, “Despite the jury’s verdict, despite the legislation that flowed directly from that verdict, and despite the fact that the Agency decided not to appeal and to accept the jury’s findings, Ms. Browner never reprimanded any of the managers under her authority who were found guilty of discrimination and retaliatory tactics.”
Coleman-Adebayo says Browner made no attempt to comply with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “She delivered a chilling message to her subordinates within the agency, saying that it would require more than a civil rights law to change business as usual at the EPA.”
There is no question that Coleman-Adebayo’s unexpected departure from the agency where she has worked for nearly 20 years will have ramifications for the new administration. The senior analyst is highly respected and has a substantial following; in fact, Washington insiders have speculated that the new administration might well select her as the next EPA administrator. She certainly is well qualified.
Regardless, Dr. Coleman-Adebayo, whose personal struggle from a working class background to a prestigious MIT doctorate parallels that of the president-elect, will be out of a job by the end of the year. It is rumored that her dismissal — and that of a handful of others — is a move to “clean out” the agency, to get rid of “troublemakers” before the present administrator, Steve Johnson, leaves office.
The plaintiff’s problems at EPA began in 2001, when she blew the whistle on a U.S. multinational corporation whose operation in South Africa was causing vanadium poisoning throughout an entire community. Her insistence that the problem be corrected led to a pattern of discrimination and harassment against her, and no quick fix for the people suffering and dying from vanadium exposure. She reports having been called a “whiner” and other, more profane names for taking a stand unpopular at the agency.
Ultimately, Coleman-Adebayo and the EPA met in a courtroom, where the jury found in the plaintiff’s favor and against the federal agency. What happened that day led directly to NoFear.
It was only the critical first step in an incomplete journey, according to Coleman-Adebayo.
“I urge the Obama Administration, within the first 100 days, to endorse the NoFear II and Congressional Disclosures Acts — two bills currently before Congress that continue the spirit of the original legislation.” They do so she says, while providing the means to enforce compliance by managers who flout the rules.
When Coleman-Adebayo shared optimism for passage of new protective legislation at a recent American University symposium based on the newly released, “The Spy Who Tried to Stop A War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion,” she had no idea her days as a federal employee were numbered. Present at the symposium and offering support, along with fired British secret service officer Gun, was whistleblower icon Daniel Ellsberg. It was an impressive gathering made more so by the dedication and determination of those present.
There is no question that hope for the future was in the air. And hope is what it’s all about at the moment.