February 6, 2019

Passings: Ernie Fitzgerald

Sam Smith – Ernie Fitzgerald, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known, has passed away at 92. Wikipedia describes his first big imprint while working for the Pentagon:
In 1968, Fitzgerald reported a $2.3 billion cost overrun in the Lockheed C-5 aircraft program. As a congressional witness before the Joint Economic Committee, he rejected the advice of Air Force officials and testified with candor and transparency about billions of dollars in avionics program cost overruns and other technical problems.

In response to Fitzgerald's testimony, President Richard M. Nixon directed that he be fired. "It was reported that Nixon told aides to 'get rid of that son of a bitch.'" In executing the president's order, Fitzgerald was ultimately terminated by Defense Secretary Melvin Laird.

Because of his candor and commitment to the truth, Fitzgerald was a driving force for whistleblower protections. Fitzgerald continued to fight a four decade long campaign against fraud, waste, and abuse within the Department. Consequently, he was instrumental in the enactment of the Civil Reform Act of 1978, a precursor to the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989.
I got to know Ernie because we were both for many years on the board of the Fund for Constitutional Government, one of whose major roles was protecting government whistleblowers.

We even worked together on project in the late 1990s that I described in the Progressive Review::
Pentagon whistleblower Ernie Fitzgerald keeps bugging me over my lassitude on the matter of our Sam & Ernie Amendment -- a proposed constitutional amendment that would provide for an elected attorney general -- selected in an off-year. Ernie says he's been getting a great reaction -- 80% pro in one web poll -- but hints that I'm not pulling my weight. Help me out: if you like this idea let us know (if you already have, thanks). And if you are an organization or foundation -- left, right or middling -- that would like to co-sponsor a forum on this important topic, please let us know about that, too. We have one sponsor already but need a group that can help stage the event. Ernie and I barely have time to organize our desk drawers.
Progressive Review 1998 - Progressive Review editor Sam Smith and Pentagon whistleblower Ernie Fitzgerald have proposed a constitutional amendment to provide for an independent attorney general selected in an off-year election. The idea is to replace independent prosecutors with a permanent watchdog on the federal government -- someone who is not politically beholden to the president and cannot be removed by the president.

Ernie's proposal:

1. The Attorney General of the United States shall be elected to office in the same manner as the President and Vice President, and shall be subject to impeachment and removal in the same manner.

2. The first election of the Attorney General shall take place in the first odd-numbered year after ratification of this Amendment.

3. The Attorney General shall be elected for a term of six years and may not succeed himself in office.

4. The Attorney General shall be paid the same annual salary as the Vice President at the time of the Attorney General's election.

5. On the completion of each full six-year term the Attorney General shall receive a annual stipend for life of 20% of his or her annual pay while in office.

6. Upon entering office, the Attomey General shall take an oath to uphold the statutory laws and the Constitution of the United States as originally written and amended and to apply them equally to all parties without regard to special status or privilege.

7. Neither the Attorney General nor his subordinates nor any other government prosecutor shall intrude upon inquiries or deliberations of a grand jury without an invitation or subpoena from the grand jury.

8. All statements or declarations by government prosecutors regarding a case at law shall be considered under oath and subject to penalties for perjury and false statements generally, and all prosecutors shall be subject to cross-examination by defendants and jurors.

9. The guarantees of human rights for all natural persons and the limitations of government powers delegated by the people through the Constitution shall apply to the facts of each case within the jurisdiction of the United States or any of them without the prejudice of prior interpretations.

10. These same guarantees and limitations on government powers shall be honored by all triers of fact and law in all legal issues arising within the jurisdiction of the United States or any of them.

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