Thursday, July 30, 2009

Judge says Army must answer for denying security clearance to whistleblower Bunny Greenhouse

Washington, D.C.
28 Jul, 2009

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered yesterday that the Army Corps of Engineers must answer for its decision to withhold top-secret security clearance from whistleblower Bunnatine (Bunny) H. Greenhouse. "This decision sets a new precedent for the protection of national security whistleblowers," said Michael D. Kohn, President of the National Whistleblowers Center and Greenhouse's attorney.

Bunny Greenhouse was the Corps' top procurement executive when she objected to the terms and legality of a no-bid contract the Bush Administration was about to award to Halliburton subsidiary KBR a contract just before the Iraq War commenced, known as Restore Iraqi Oil ("RIO"). Greenhouse's concerns were ignored and the no-bid, cost plus contract, worth up to $7 Billion, was secretly awarded to KBR to run Iraqi oil fields after the invasion. When Greenhouse was scheduled to testify before a Congressional Committee during the Bush Administration, the Army Corps' then acting General Counsel personally advised Greenhouse it would not be in her best interest to do so and she was swiftly removed as the Army Corps' Procurement Executive when she ignored that warning. Greenhouse alleged that the Corps further retaliated against her by refusing to renew her top-secret security clearance (TSSC) on grounds that her new job did not require any clearance.

Greenhouse filed a lawsuit to get her old job back. In a ruling yesterday, Judge Sullivan overruled the government's motion to dismiss Greenhouse's claim for her TSSC.

Judge Sullivan acknowledged that existing case law establishes that "an adverse employment action based on denial or revocation of a security clearance is not actionable" if it would "require the court to assess the merits of the decision to deny the clearance - precisely the assessment prohibited by the Supreme Court's holding" in Department of the Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518 (1988)." Judge Sullivan establish new precedent, holding that "the decision to strip Greenhouse of her security clearance was based on the Corp's claim that Greenhouse didn't need it any more based on the jobs they intended her to perform" thereby making it "entirely unrelated to any security-sensitive considerations."

Kohn called Judge Sullivan's decision is "well reasoned." "Otherwise, an agency could marginalize a whistleblower by failing to renew a security clearance for reasons that had nothing to do with security and everything to do with retaliation." Kohn said. "A blanket refusal to permit a court to review the reasons for the denial of security clearances normally leaves national security whistleblowers completely vulnerable to retaliation. This decision highlights how a decision to withhold security clearance can have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with unlawful retaliation," Kohn added.

A copy of the decision is attached here.

~ National Whistleblowers Center ~

Military poised to help FEMA battle swine flu outbreak

FOXNews.com

29 Jul, 2009

The Pentagon is preparing to make troops available if necessary to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency tackle a potential outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, FOX News has confirmed.

This comes as a government panel recommends certain groups be placed at the front of the line for swine flu vaccinations this fall, including pregnant women, health care workers and children six months and older.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices panel also said those first vaccinated should include parents and other caregivers of infants; non-elderly adults who have high-risk medical conditions, and young adults ages 19 to 24. The panel, whose recommendations typically are adopted by federal health officials, voted to set vaccination priorities for those groups Wednesday during a meeting in Atlanta.

Obama administration officials told Congress that H1N1 vaccinations won't be available for several months.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is preparing to sign an order authorizing the military to set up five regional teams to deal with the potential outbreak of H1N1 influenza if FEMA requests help.

~ more... ~

Declassified docs reveal military operative spied on WA peace groups, activist friends stunned

Amy Goodman and Anjali Kamat - Democracy Now! Broadcast Exclusive

28 Jul, 2009

Newly declassified documents reveal that an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance in Washington state was actually an informant for the US military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. The military’s role in the spying raises questions about possibly illegal activity. The Posse Comitatus law bars the use of the armed forces for law enforcement inside the United States. The Fort Lewis military base denied our request for an interview. But in a statement to Democracy Now!, the base’s Public Affairs office publicly acknowledged for the first time that Towery is a military operative. “This could be one of the key revelations of this era,” said Eileen Clancy, who has closely tracked government spying on activist organizations.

~ more... ~

Pfizer unit marketed drug illegally, ex-employee says

Jef Feeley and Margaret Cronin Fisk - Bloomberg

28 Jul, 2009

Pfizer Inc.’s Warner-Lambert unit created a list of 13 ailments that its epilepsy medicine Neurontin could treat as part of its promotion of the drug for unapproved uses, a former employee testified.

“I was trained from day one” to market the drug illegally, David Franklin testified. Franklin, who worked as a medical liaison at the Parke-Davis division of Warner-Lambert, said he encouraged doctors to prescribe Neurontin for uses beyond those approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“My job was to promote Neurontin and motivate doctors to experiment” on patients, he said today in federal court in Boston. After being hired as a medical liaison, “I was selling drugs,” he said. The uses promoted were from the “snake-oil list” of 13 medical conditions, said Franklin, a microbiologist.

Franklin was the first witness in the trial over claims by the family of Susan Bulger, 39, who hanged herself after taking the drug. Bulger’s family claims Pfizer promoted Neurontin for unapproved uses and failed to warn it could increase the risk of suicide until forced to do so by the government. Bulger started taking the drug in 1999.

The trial of the suit, the first of about 1,200 over Neurontin to go to trial, is expected to last three weeks.

Pfizer fell 59 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $16.03 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Pfizer shares have fallen 9.5 percent so far this year.

Whistleblower Suit

Franklin filed a federal whistleblower complaint in 1997 alleging the company illegally marketed the drug for attention deficit disorder, pain and other unapproved uses. The suit resulted in a $430 million settlement by Warner-Lambert with the U.S. Justice Department in 2004.

Franklin, who worked at Warner Lambert for four months in 1995 before resigning over the company’s off-label marketing practices, received about $25 million as his share under the federal False Claims Act, the government said at the time.

Warner-Lambert officials used a variety of tactics to persuade doctors to prescribe Neurontin for unapproved uses, Franklin told jurors.

They provided the company’s sales force with a list of ailments that would benefit from Neurontin use, including restless leg syndrome, migraine headaches and withdrawal symptoms from drug and alcohol abuse, Franklin said. The FDA hadn’t approved the drug for any of those illnesses at the time, he added.

~ more... ~

A Rorschach cheat sheet on Wikipedia?

Noam Cohen - New York Times

28 Jul, 2009

There are tests that have right answers, which are returned with a number on top in a red circle, and there are tests with open-ended questions, which provide insight into the test taker’s mind.

The Rorschach test, a series of 10 inkblot plates created by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach for his book “Psychodiagnostik,” published in 1921, is clearly in the second category.

Yet in the last few months, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia has been engulfed in a furious debate involving psychologists who are angry that the 10 original Rorschach plates are reproduced online, along with common responses for each. For them, the Wikipedia page is the equivalent of posting an answer sheet to next year’s SAT.

They are pitted against the overwhelming majority of Wikipedia’s users, who share the site’s “free culture” ethos, which opposes the suppression of information that it is legal to publish. (Because the Rorschach plates were created nearly 90 years ago, they have lost their copyright protection in the United States.)

“The only winners seem to be those for whom this issue has become personal, and who see this as a game in which victory means having their way,” one Wikipedia poster named Faustian wrote on Monday, adding, “Just don’t pretend you are doing anything other than harming scientific research.”

What had been a simmering dispute over the reproduction of a single plate reached new heights in June when James Heilman, an emergency-room doctor from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, posted images of all 10 plates to the bottom of the article about the test, along with what research had found to be the most popular responses for each.

~ more... ~

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