A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

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A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby HonestChbief » Mon Jun 06, 2005 6:19 pm

A longtime member of this bulletin board has read my story and urged me to post it on Beethoven.com. If there is a more appropriate topic area, perhaps the moderator can move it.

You may be aware that, as a 28-year veteran of law enforcement, I recently served as the head of one of the top uniformed Federal law enforcement agencies in this country – that is, until I unwittingly became a whistleblower.

Sometime after being permanently silenced in retaliation for speaking with a reporter, I prepared an op-ed, which is copied and pasted beneath this message. It was not prepared as an exclusive for any one media outlet or individual organization. The circumstances of this case and the impact on media and citizens across the United States make that impractical.

I hope that you will find a meaningful use for the document and that you will consider publishing it and/or passing it on to others in whatever forum you deem appropriate. Please know that I am available for interviews, guest appearances, and speaking engagements. My contact information is included below. You can read more about my case at www.honestchief.com and hear some of the previous stories posted by its webmaster as well as many of my recent media interviews in the audio library, accessed via a button at the top left of the home page.

Please consider keeping this story alive by informing others of these outrageous actions by Federal officials who should be concerned for your safety and who should be upholding the values of freedom of speech and honesty and integrity in government. Feel free to reach out to me for any additional information I can provide.

Thank you for your consideration.

Teresa Chambers
P.O. Box 857
Huntingtown, MD 20639

**********************

Op-Ed

The plight of whistleblowers – those employees who sound the alarm about anything from dangerous conditions in the workplace to missed or ignored intelligence regarding our nation's security – is a story that seems to grow stronger and with more frequency every day. My guess is that those stories have always been there; I suspect I am just paying closer attention to them now.

You see, I joined the "ranks" of whistleblowers on December 2, 2003, when a major newspaper printed a story in which I confirmed for them what many of us already knew – we, the members of the United States Park Police, could no longer provide the level of service that citizens and visitors had grown to expect in our parks and on our parkways in Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco. The world changed for all of us on September 11, 2001, and the expectations of police agencies across the country grew exponentially overnight. As the Chief of the United States Park Police, an organization responsible for some of America's most valued and recognizable symbols of freedom – including such notable sites as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and the Golden Gate Bridge area – I knew it was my duty, as chiefs of police across the country do every day, to inform the community of the realities of the situation.

For being candid – for being "honest" – while still being supportive of my superiors, I was, without warning, stripped of my law enforcement authority, badge, and firearm, and escorted from the Department of the Interior by armed special agents of another Federal law enforcement entity in December of 2003. Seven months later, the Department of the Interior terminated me.

Frighteningly, the issues I brought to light about our citizens' and visitors' safety and security and the future of these American icons have not been addressed – other than to silence me. In fact, there are fewer United States Park Police officers today than there were in 2003 when I was sent home for daring to say that we weren't able to properly meet our commitments with existing resources. Other security concerns I raised internally have also gone un-addressed.

Imagine the outcry if I had stayed silent and if one of those symbolic monuments or memorials had been destroyed or the loss of life had occurred to someone visiting one of those locations. I did not want to be standing with my superiors among the ruins of an American icon or in front of a Congressional committee trying to explain why we hadn't asked for help.

Despite the serious First Amendment and security implications of my case for each American, there has been no Congressional intervention, no Congressional hearing, no demand of accountability by elected officials for those who took action to silence me and who have ignored all warnings about the perils to which I alerted them. Through it all, it has become clear that Federal employees have little protection for simply telling the truth. Following my termination and the publicity that accompanied it, it is unlikely that any current Federal employee will be willing to speak up with straightforward, accurate information about the realities of any danger we face now or in the future.

My story is told on a website, www.honestchief.com, established by my husband in December 2003 so that the American people could "witness" the issues in this case. Through the webmaster’s regular updates, the website has provided transparency to my situation by including an audio library and making key documents available for viewing, including the transcripts of depositions of top officials and their testimony during a key administrative hearing.

Suppression of information is spreading – gag orders, nondisclosure agreements, and the government's refusal to turnover documents. In agencies that span Federal service, conscientious public servants are struggling to communicate vital concerns to their true employers – the American public. Is anyone listening?

Teresa Chambers
tcchambers@honestchief.com
As Chief of the United States Park Police, Teresa Chambers was candid about resource shortages that endanger some of our nation’s highest profile parks. For that, she lost her job. For more information about her case, visit www.honestchief.com.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:00 am

Honestchief,

Welcome to the Bulletin Board.

V/R
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:12 am

Well,

My first thought as I read through your site was: "Why are the park police doing traffic duties and drug investigations? Aren't those the responsibility of the D.C. Police?"

I see Congress was asking the same questions.

I agree whistleblowers need protection, but did you exhaust all normal channels before going public? Having been in the military, I am aware of the consequences for "circumventing the chain of command".

V/R
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby HonestChbief » Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:25 am

Originally posted by Shapley:
Well,

My first thought as I read through your site was: "Why are the park police doing traffic duties and drug investigations? Aren't those the responsibility of the D.C. Police?"

I see Congress was asking the same questions.

I agree whistleblowers need protection, but did you exhaust all normal channels before going public? Having been in the military, I am aware of the consequences for "circumventing the chain of command".

V/R
Shapley
Thanks for asking. No, neithr D.C. Police nor any other police agency patrols nor enforces laws on the Federal property (including major parkways) that are patrolled by the United States Park Police in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, New York, or San Francisco. Also, in some cases, some of those areas are exclusive Federal jursidiction.

Like most whistleblowers, I had been keeping my chain of command informed and believed during my interview with the Washington Post and in response to inquiries from a Congressional staffer that I was doing EXACTLY what would support my superiors the most. In fact, on the topic about which I was interviewed, I was asked by the top spokesperson in the Department of the Interior to be the SOLE contact for the Department of the Interior on this matter. I was confident they would be pleased with my responses and message. Who would have thought they expected me to not tell the truth?

Teresa Chambers
tcchambers@honsetchief.com
As Chief of the United States Park Police, Teresa Chambers was candid about resource shortages that endanger some of our nation’s highest profile parks. For that, she lost her job. For more information about her case, visit www.honestchief.com.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby RC » Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:04 am

Welcome.
Interesting story.
Before stating any opinions about the validity of this ladies claim, I suggest you visit the website in the post.
It is facsinating and will answer many questions up front.

Forewarned, there is a lot of information on this site including charges and rebuttles.

Shap - your question too is answered.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby RC » Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:05 am

Good luck to you ma'am.
A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, Nothing else.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:20 am

RE:Thanks for asking. No, neithr D.C. Police nor any other police agency patrols nor enforces laws on the Federal property (including major parkways) that are patrolled by the United States Park Police in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, New York, or San Francisco. Also, in some cases, some of those areas are exclusive Federal jursidiction.

Has this always been the case? Or has the DOI assumed jurisdictional duties over time in areas that were formerly within DC police jurisdiction? I recall this jurisdictional topic coming up during the Vince Foster suicide investigation. I am aware that the DOI has aquired considerable lands, many formerly military installations, etc, that have become park lands over the past century, thus increasing DOI's jurisdiction within the city.

I would think that, at the very least, I would expect the drug investigations to be the jurisdiction of the D.C. Police, or the DEA. It would seem redundant to have DOI performing those duties.

Since September 11, we have had to re-think our priorities. Unfortunately, budgetary restraints have not changed much as a result of it. It may be simply time to rethink jurisdictional limitations in order to allow more efficient performance of duties.

I realize that is not why you've come here. I do not doubt your sincerity, nor your dedication to the service of our Nation. It is always shameful when we lose dedicated people due to petty politics, but that seems to be the nature of the game there in D.C.

Good luck.

V/R
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby DavidS » Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:50 am

Originally posted by Shapley:
It is always shameful when we lose dedicated people due to petty politics, but that seems to be the nature of the game there in D.C.
Unfortunately, giving a whistleblower the Order of the Boot has been a worldwide practice since ancient times, when it was customary to kill a messenger bearing bad tidings.
Not that anyone should draw comfort from that, but as I said elsewhere, "power tends to corrupt", and one of the techniques of those upstairs is to throw overboard anyone whom they perceive as "rocking the boat".
We must hope that the checks and balances (and watchdogs) whose function it is to strengthen a just and democratic society will uproot these phenomena. All right-minded people must assist with this, in their own interest.
Tel grain, tel pain.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby FlyingSorcery » Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:01 am

Originally posted by HonestChief:
In fact, on the topic about which I was interviewed, I was asked by the top spokesperson in the Department of the Interior to be the SOLE contact for the Department of the Interior on this matter. I was confident they would be pleased with my responses and message. Who would have thought they expected me to not tell the truth?
[/QB]
Sounds like they might have been setting you up to take the fall for whatever happened. I've found it to be a rare administrator who will back up their employee 100%.
Reminds me of a quote:
"Power corrupts. Absolute power is kind of neat." John Lehman (1942 - ), Secretary of the Navy, 1981-1987
Good luck in this on-going battle.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:34 am

Hey RC! I was thinking it was time to put out an APB on you! Glad to see you're at least lurking, but I sure hope you can find time to post more. I learn a lot from you.

:)

Hi Chief,

Welcome to the Pit! :)

Thank you for sharing your story, and thanks to whomever turned you onto this board. RC's right, there is a ton of info on your site.

Taking a page from Shos's book, isn't the DOI Secretary a GWB appointee? Sounds like the DOI is getting the same kind of treatment as All Children Left Behind - all blow and no substance.

<small>[ 06-07-2005, 12:51 PM: Message edited by: OperaTenor ]</small>
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby barfle » Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:42 am

The story of Theresa Chambers made the news around DC, as you can will imagine, although I was somewhat perturbed that it wasn't front page headline stuff for several weeks.

Just to give you an idea of what the Park Police do, you may remember in 1982, an Air Florida plane crashed into the Potomac river after taking off from Washington National Airport (now known Reagan Washington National Airport). There was at least one TV Movie about the incident. The helicopter that rescued the few survivors from that crash was a Park Police helicopter. They've been around, doing the job for quite a while.

Admittedly, the police situation in DC is unusual. I honestly don't know how many different police forces there are there, and who has what jurisdiction. But DC is a special area - it's not Maryland, it's not Virginia, but it has major influences over areas in both states. The National Park Service operates at least two major roadways in the greater DC area (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the George Washington Parkway) and they have traffic cops just like any other road, although the responsibilities for those roads (which ARE National Parks) are again unusual, and I don't claim to fully understand them.

I fully believe Ms. Chambers got shafted. If her bosses wanted to be kept in the dark, they should have hired an incompetent. Saying that resources that are committed to one task can't be used for another task simultaneously is just honest. I support her fight, and wish her great success.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:03 pm

RC,

Thanks. I had already visited the site, although I didn't have time to read it in its' entirety, nor visit all the links. It was from one of the links that I saw that Conress was asking the same question as I was regarding jurisdiction. I think it is a valid question.

I know that the Federal government has, in the past decade or so, assumed a lot of responsibility that formerly belonged to the States, Counties, and Municipalities. This has been a bone of contention in the Liberal/Conservative (i.e. Centralist/States' Rights) argument. The States' rights advocates lost a lot of ground there during the Clinton administration, and looked to President Bush to put things back in order. That is one reason I asked. Washington D.C. has a peculiar status due to its lack of statehood, and in essence its local law enforcement is a Federal organization, but it is not treated that way by others. Meanwhile, the DOI has elevated its own officers from "Park Rangers" to "Park Police", assuming many duties not previously within their jurisdiction.

It would seem that, if the current situation requires them to increase their participation in traditional duties, then it may be necessary to relinquish some of those assumed duties to their original ownership. As I said, if you read the link, some in Congress are of the same mind as I am here. There seems little reason for the Park Service to maintain an investigative arm when there are local and Federal police agencies with the capabilities to conduct them. Similarly, it seems unreasonable to require the Park Service to patrol traffic within the limits of a metropolitan area with a regular police force. The City may have been happy to turn over such duties a few years ago, when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the Federal government was flush with money, but times, and finances, have changed.

V/R
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby RC » Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:24 pm

Shap,
I see your point and agree it is valid.

Is this relevant to Ms. Chambers plight or just an observation?

Military, government, or civilian, the chain of command can be critical. For a whistle blower, the chain of command can be (dare I say usually is), the cause for concern in the first place. Crossing that line is taking your career, your safety, even your life in your hands.

Ms. Chambers, please forgive the presentation of a scary consideration here.

This story was front page news today: CNN International
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby Shapley » Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:46 pm

RC,

I believe it to be relevant. Not that that necessarily makes it so. ;)

I asked the question to verify that this is a case of actual "whistleblowing", and not an attempt to circumvent the chain of command. The issue at hand was a policy dispute, not a case of corruption, fraud, or legal violation, as is the case with most "whistleblower" cases. In such cases, it is important that the chain of command be used, all the way to the top, before "airing one's dirty laundry" in public.

She disagreed with the policy decisions, and voiced her concerns, which is her right, and duty. If the response was not satisfactory, then she could take it higher up the chain. However, since she was appointed spokesman, as she told me in her response, then "taking it public" was her job. If the matter was not to be discussed, she should have been told so.

That being said, I don't see this as "whistleblower" case, but rather one of "termination without proper cause". She didn't actually "blow the whistle" on wrongdoing, but rather discussed her opinion on the current situation, as her job entailed. I disagree with the firing, given the information presented, but I also disagree with the use of the term "whistleblower" in this usage.

V/R
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby RC » Tue Jun 07, 2005 1:24 pm

Shap,
Yes. I understand. Actually, I had the same immediate questions.

There is an awful lot of information to consider. I believe I did find a response to this in the rebuttal section.

A grey, murky area always forms when you begin to cross your superiors. The second the powers that be feel the power is usurped, the employee will be made to look like a typical case of disgruntled employee bashing the boss, valid or not.

I just don't get the sense that this is simply wrongful termination. This is a big risk.

barfle, what's your take? Do you believe this to be a case of Whistle Blower or just wrongful termination? Please give us more local detail if you will.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby kbarcus@bart.gov » Tue Jun 07, 2005 2:47 pm

People within civilian law enforcement as well as members of the military services often have access to information whether "interesting" or otherwise. Mostly we'd like to hope that all information is public information. But it isn't. A portion of what happens within and about agencies and the Services comes under the "Intelligence" label and policies of non-disclosure and non-dissemination apply, even where our own observations from inside indicate that there may be risks affecting the public. We may not realize that in the distribution of limited resources and assets some staffing levels will be moved from a given sector to another in a strategic effort to meet a greater challenge than some may realize (Why is my department being cut back in the midst of a crisis?). And, in the case of the former Chief, "opening up" with the press/media proved more of a personal disaster than a method of increasing public safety and security. :(
.. interesting indeed, the present days..
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby kbarcus@bart.gov » Tue Jun 07, 2005 2:51 pm

This was an accidental double-post that I tried to erase.
FORUM LEADER PLEASE DELETE. Thanks

<small>[ 06-07-2005, 04:02 PM: Message edited by: BARTist ]</small>
.. interesting indeed, the present days..
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Jun 07, 2005 2:56 pm

Ah, I see BARTist is using the tried and true method of upping his post count......

:D

Oops, wrong thread.....
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby HonestChbief » Tue Jun 07, 2005 3:02 pm

Just a few comments before I get ready for a radio interview. First of all, thanks to all for your interest and for the tone of the conversation. I appreciate your thought-filled questions. Let me see if I can touch on a few answers before I have to get off line for a while.

As described in the op-ed, the United States Park Police is the organization responsible for policing and protecting some of America’s most valued and recognizable symbols of freedom – including such notable sites as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, and the Golden Gate Bridge area. In fact, it includes the White House area itself as well as five major parkways in and out of Washington, DC. It's a nationwide organization with critical homeland security responsibilities.

The United States Park Police is a subunit of the National Park Service. We are not the law enforcment park rangers you see in the majority of the national parks. They work for and report to each individual superintendent in those parks in which United States Park Police officers are not deployed. We are, in many respects, the urban arm of law enforcment in the National Park Service, handling everything that your local police department would handle in your community. We are solely responsible for every type of crime and incident in the national parks and on the parkways where we are assigned.

A few anecdotal pieces of information: It was the United States Park Police helicopter team whose members were the first on the ground at the Pentagon on 9-11 and who, as another member has posted, 20 years earlier plucked survivors from the icy Potomac River following the Air Florida crash. It was also the United States Park Police helicopter team (a second one) whose members were given control of the airspace over Washington on 9-11 when the smoke was too thick for air traffic controllers at Reagan National Airport to continue their job.

With regard to the legal definition of "whistleblower," the same law that defines a whistleblower as being someone who reports criminal wrongdoing or mismangement (I'm paraphrasing) also says that it protects a person who reports "substantial and specific danger" to public safety. As you read some of the documents on line -- documents that we have filed -- I believe you will see the very clear connection to the law.

As many of you have already done, please be sure, on your next visit to www.honestchief.com, to click on the First Time Visitor button. I believe it will answer many questions you might have. Take some time, too, to listen to some of the selections in the audio library. In fact, in about an hour, the interview in which I am about to engage will be available in the audio library as well.

Many thanks for your interest and support.

Teresa Chambers
tcchambers@honestchief.com
www.honestchief.com
As Chief of the United States Park Police, Teresa Chambers was candid about resource shortages that endanger some of our nation’s highest profile parks. For that, she lost her job. For more information about her case, visit www.honestchief.com.
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Re: A Federal Whistleblower's Story - The Alarm Has Been So

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Jun 07, 2005 3:10 pm

In retrospect, I would imagine a law enforcement official, especially in a supervisory capacity, would know the correct usage of the term "Whistleblower".

:D

<small>[ 06-07-2005, 04:12 PM: Message edited by: OperaTenor ]</small>
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