ACCOUNTABILITY: Senators demand answers on behalf of military whistleblowers

McCain, Levin want more information from defense secretary Panetta

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Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) want more information from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about an inspector general's report criticizing the Pentagon's treatment of whistleblowers — a report first disclosed by the Center and the Project on Government Oversight.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and McCain, the panel's ranking member, made their feelings known Tuesday in a letter to Panetta.

"Last Sunday, the Washington Post reported on an 'internal Pentagon report' finding that the Department of Defense Inspector General unit responsible for protecting military whistleblowers had failed to do its job," wrote the Senators, referring to the Center story that was reprinted in the Post. "According to the article, the May 2011 report found 'persistent sloppiness and a systematic disregard for Pentagon rules meant to protect those who report fraud, abuses, and the waste of taxpayer funds.'

"We understand that this report was initiated and conducted by the Inspector General, and that the Inspector General has made a number of changes in an effort to address the problems identified in the report," the letter concludes. "Nonetheless, the systematic failure of the Department to protect military whistleblowers from reprisal is a matter of grave concern. Accordingly, we ask that you provide us with a copy of the report and advise us of the actions that have been taken and will be taken to address the problems identified in the report - including steps to re-open any reprisal cases that were inadequately investigated or erroneously dismissed."

The Center's report also elicited a response from Lynne M. Halbrooks, the acting inspector general for the Department of Defense. Halbrooks submitted a letter to the editor for Tuesday's Post defending her office, a letter noting that the review was conducted at her request and was conducted by staff from the inspector general's office.

"The increase in hiring of staff in support of military reprisal investigations and the changes to practice subsequently initiated were based on my review of the internal report," Halbroks concludes. "I am committed to continuing on a path to establish a model whistleblower program for the Department of Defense. "