Whistleblowers Press Congress: Protect Us

Bush-era figures push for changes under Obama.

ByABC News
March 12, 2009, 2:40 PM

March 13, 2009— -- Some exposed lapses in national security superiors would not correct. Others reported corruption and fraud. Others said they had simply done their job, refusing to go along with political pressure from their bosses to do the expedient thing, instead of the right thing.

About two dozen federal whistleblowers gathered on Capitol Hill this week to ask lawmakers to boost protections for federal workers who report wrongdoing. Many had lost their jobs or allege they suffered other reprisals during the Bush era, and said they hoped the new Obama administration – and a Democratic Congress – would treat them, and future whistleblowers, better.

Spencer Pickard, a federal air marshal who in 2006 helped warn the public of dangerous flaws in aviation security procedures, told lawmakers' aides he had no choice but to resign after going public with his concerns. His marriage broke up, and he has not been able to find work. Pickard and his two children now live with his parents in Texas.

Click here to watch Pickard's exclusive interview with ABC News' Brian Ross on 20/20.

Meanwhile, reviews by the House Judiciary Committee, the Government Accountability Office and others have confirmed Pickard's worries were real. His former boss left office under a cloud, and the procedures Pickard criticized have reportedly been fixed.

"Everyone got re-elected, no planes have been hijacked, but Spencer and I are still twisting in the wind," said Robert MacLean, another ex-air marshal and whistleblower, to congressional staffers.

The Department of Homeland Security fired MacLean after he reported security problems caused by budget shortfalls; the agency said he had improperly disclosed sensitive information. MacLean has been fighting for three years to win his job back, to no avail.

Over three days, the whistleblowers met with some of the most powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); the chairmen and ranking members of the Judiciary Committees, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee and others.