January 12, 2013

Obama claims right to ignore law he signed

Dana Liebelson, Mother Jones - Obama signed a new law expanding whistleblower protections for some government employees in November, and on January 2, he signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which extends similar protections to defense contractors who expose waste and corruption. But the NDAA signing came with a caveat that blindsided the bill's backers and has some in the whistleblower community up in arms: In a signing statement, Obama wrote that the bill's whistleblowing protections "could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials," and he promised to ignore them if they conflicted with his power to "supervise, control, and correct employees' communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential."

"12 million contractors are going to be out in the cold because of this," warns Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project and a former whistleblower. "Asking employees to go to their boss before going to Congress defeats the purpose of blowing the whistle."

Obama didn't alert either Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who backed the protections, nor Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of the bill's sponsors, that the signing statement was coming, according to reports in the Huffington Post and the Washington Post. In a press release, Speier called Obama's signing statement "deeply disturbing," and warned it could potentially undo the language meant to protect contractor whistleblowers.

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