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Eye Opener: Whistleblowing concerns at TSA

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Thursday! A leading Republican lawmaker is raising concerns that potential whistleblowers at the Transportation Security Administration aren't getting the help they need, after his office tried several times to reach agency officials that are supposed to deal with such issues.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) reached out to TSA officials on Thursday, saying he's heard from a whistleblower who tried to file a grievance and was given the run-a-round.

Grassley cited a July 2008 e-mail from an agency official that said, “any form of retaliation against an employee for raising a concern or complaint through any established process, formal or informal, is strictly prohibited.”

But when the whistleblower attempted to report retaliation, human resources officials initially told him, "because it is illegal to retaliate at the TSA there is no need to maintain an office for complaints." The agency's human capital office later, "simply ignored his requests, and/or denied him the ability to file a report," Grassley said. The senator's staffers also unsuccessfully attempted to contact that office five times over a two week period.

"As you might imagine, it concerns me greatly that an email was distributed agency wide waving the banner for whistleblower protection, but that TSA in turn lacks the ability, or interest in addressing TSA employee concerns," Grassley said.

But TSA disputes Grassley's concerns.

"All TSA security officers have whistleblower protections and TSA takes these protections very seriously," said spokeswoman Kristin Lee. "These protections ensure that the voices of TSA security officers are heard, both for their sake and the sake of security."

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel provides TSA workers with an independent review of their rights just like every other agency, officials said. They can also go to the Merit Systems Protection Board and workers receive training on their whistleblowing rights.

What's more, that 2008 e-mail was followed up by another one in Aug. 2008 that listed several other agency phone numbers that workers could call if they had concerns.

Grassley's office is well-known for working with whistleblowers of all types and he's hoping for answers from TSA by May 5.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | April 22, 2010; 6:20 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Comments

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