by James Murtagh and Rob Kall
Ever wonder why more patriotic whistleblowers weren't blowing the roof off the Bush White House with truths that needed to be told? Now we know that the DOJ rejected or bottled up thousands of whistleblower complaints and reports, and even the ones they accepted, they kept unprocessed for years.
Former Attorney General Gonzales, already proven to be corrupted by partisan operators, inverted the purpose of the DOJ. Instead of rooting out corruption, the Gonzales DOJ intentionally intercepted and silenced thousands more whistleblowers. Unfortunately, this policy apparently continues even today.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that federal officials refuse to investigate corporate corruption cases. More than 900 cases regarding billions of dollars of government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars have been shelved. It appears that the Bush administration has put a kind of moratorium on fraud investigations.
"Yet another example of how the Bush administration takes care of its corporate friends at the expense of American taxpayers," stated Dr. Patrick Campbell, member of the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW). Campbell was a winner of one of the most important False Claim Actions (FCA) in US history, and revealed that Tenet hospitals in Redding, California had done huge numbers of unnecessary heart surgeries, putting profit before patients.
IAW co-chair Michael McCray expanded: "This is just another example of how the Bush Administration political prioritization of the government has continued to negatively impact the DOJ. Beginning with the Ashcroft Justice Department and its anti-civil rights and anti-civil liberties enforcement policies, through the Gonzales Justice Department's politically motivated prosecutions and retaliation against honest U.S. Attorney's and finally the Mukasey Justice Department's elimination of liberal attorney candidates from the Justice Department's summer internship program. Where does the injustice stop ... at the U.S. Justice Department? "
Speculation has surfaced that Bush justice department officials have decided not to enforce Qui Tam laws, and fail to investigate charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.
Betsy Combier, secretary of the IAW vowed, "We won't be silent while corruption continues."
The corporate rip-off cases focus on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions -- and friends of the current administration appear to profit.
Since 2001, 300 to 400 civil cases have been filed each year by employees charging that their companies defrauded the government. Usually, whistle-blowers wait 14 months or longer just to get initial feedback from the DOJ. The government rejects about three-quarters of the cases it receives, claiming that it does not have the manpower to enforce the law.
The Post article quotes noted good government advocate Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, "Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table."
"This is Christmas for fraud," said Dr. James Murtagh, co-chair of IAW. "The taxpayers and soldiers are being plucked bare, while the government tells Tiny Tim that there is no money for health care."
"The False Claim Act (FCA) is one of the most successful weapons against fraud in US history, and it is a crime that the DOJ is not enforcing the law to the maximum," added IAW advocate Dr. Blake Moore. "It is like the DOJ tells patients who desperately need care to die and decrease the surplus population!"
Companies who knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies for items sold at home or offered to U.S. troops overseas violate the law under theFCA, and are subject to triple penalties. Several members of the IAW have used the FCA to stop corruption in healthcare and defense.
The DOJ claims the 75-lawyer unit in Washington that reviews the sensitive lawsuits is overloaded and understaffed. Less than 100 cases a year are investigated by the Justice's civil division.
"It's just flatly absurd for us to be five years into this war" with so few public cases, said Alan Grayson, a whistle-blower lawyer in Florida who has criticized the Justice effort and who is running for Congress as a Democrat.
Justice spokesman Charles Miller claimed DOJ does the best they can, and are never influenced by friends of the administration. "Our decisions to intervene or decline in cases involving Iraq and the Middle East are entirely consistent with our record in [whistle-blower] cases generally," he said.
Key lawmakers don't agree with Miller. Congress is calling on an end to kid-glove handling of war profiteers and health care fraudsters.
"Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "These patriotic Americans stick their necks out, against all odds, to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost."
The Washington Whistleblowers have awarded Grassley their highest award for lifetime achievement.
The war against fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan disputes has erupted publicly. Two former employees of Defense contractor Custer Battles accused the company of inflating expenses while replacing the Iraqi currency. After a three-week trial in 2006, a jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them $10 million. But U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III later tossed out the case, claiming that the money was owed to the Iraqis, not to the US , even though it was the US government underwriting the very contracts at issue.
Interference and poor cooperation by the DOJ has had a toll. The numbers of lawyers willing to take on cases involving defense contractors has dwindled, in part because of Justice's slow decisions.
For example, a FCA action against the manufacture of the F-22 fighter, was filed in early 1999. It was late 2006 before Justice decided not to intervene.
"The impact of a 7 1/2 -year delay in the litigation of a case is difficult to quantify but impossible to discount," Experts agree.
The Bush DOJ has used compounded its fraud in Iraq through its refusal to prosecute blatant rip-offs. The laws are on the books to be enforced. We live in a nation dedicated to the proposition that the rich and powerful must follow the law and be held accountable to the same standards as anyone else.
In the Iraq war, carnage of justice and truth have been exponentially worsened by failures of prosecutors and courts. "A more formal alliance between executive branch whistleblowers and judicial reformers is becoming more and more imperative in the grassroots battle for good government" says Zena Crenshaw, IAW treasurer and host of the internet radio show Change of Venue.
James Murtagh is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine.- Murtagh's career combines both writing and science.- Dr. James Murtagh is a co-founder of the International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW), and of Washington Whistleblower Week.
Follow Rob Kall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robkall