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LETTERS for April 2 issue

By Staff | Apr 2, 2015

In defense of Jo Anne Johnson-Winer

I strongly suspect that I won’t be the only one to write in defense of Jo Anne. Mr. Sowers, it sounds like you are “sour” over the little tiny bone you had to pick over a road – and that issue has zero to do with the West Maui Hospital.

The fact is our county hospital is in dire straights – some $43 million in the hole last year and looking to privatize. There seems to be some speculation about where specialists and staff will come from. As anyone will tell you, no one would want to move to paradise to work instead of let’s say, Seattle, where it rains for nine months out of the year; or the Midwest, where they are buried in snow up to their okoles. Who wants to live in paradise anyway? Nasty ol sunshine.

I served on the board of the West Maui Health Alliance with Jo Anne and was honored to do so. She was instrumental in getting the C.O.N. (certificate of need) for the West Maui Hospital and funding for “after hour” clinics which used to slam their doors at five – and if you got hurt or sick… too bad. Suck it up and drive to the other side.

Jo has been a friend to the people of West Maui for as long as I can remember. If you have a bone to pick, choose ONE – don’t throw the whole carcass into the pot.



Preschool program funding in jeopardy

Aloha parents. If you have a child born Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011, he/she may be eligible for the Preschool Open Doors Program, which is accepting applications now until April 30.

If you meet the program’s income guideline, you can qualify for at least 70 percent (and maybe more) of the maximum allowed tuition of $675 for non-accredited preschools and $710 for accredited preschools. There are income guidelines for the POD program. This program’s funding is forgotten in the budget this year, and many ohana will be impacted. Yes, “forgotten.” Parents need to go to work, and children need to continue to go to preschool. Without funding, this will not be available. Please help.

Your urgent help is needed to make sure Preschool Open Doors is funded. Call your legislators today and tell them you need POD to continue.

The state legislature is deciding now whether Preschool Open Doors will have funds available to help you if you do qualify for assistance. You need to call your legislators today to tell them you absolutely need this program to help you afford preschool tuition.

Tell them to restore the $6 million for Preschool Open Doors. That’s all you need to say, but it’s more powerful if you tell them why it’s important for your family to receive this financial aid.

Call the senator and representative from your district – or all of them if you have time – today or as soon as possible. For West Maui, call Sen. Rosalyn Baker at (808) 586-6070 and Rep. Angus McKelvey at (808) 586-6160.

Mahalo for making the phone calls to your representatives to make sure the program is funded. Spread the word to friends and family about calling their legislators, too.



Whistleblowers and the prosecution loophole

When facing the prospect of criminal prosecution for leaking highly classified material to his mistress and later lying about it to the FBI, General David Petraeus found unlikely allies on Capitol Hill. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have all spoken out against criminally prosecuting the four-star general, in part because they feel he has “suffered enough.”

This is not the first time that a high-ranking individual may skirt punishment for infractions that would land a subordinate in jail for years. Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers were also recently allegedly involved in highly classified leaks to the film producers of “Zero Dark Thirty” and treated with near impunity.

According to media reports, Petraeus plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material, for which he may face up to a year in prison. His paltry sentence is a far cry from the many years of prison time that many whistleblowers face when they disclose protected information in an attempt to further the public interest. Petraeus claimed no such motive. He seems only to have wanted to help his mistress and biographer, and Panetta and Vickers shared it with a producer from Hollywood.

The common thread between the three stories is that these men both leaked information for purely personal gain, and each received little more than a slap on the wrist.

The hypocritical dichotomy between the treatments of high-level politically connected officials versus lower level whistleblowers has never been more pronounced. Petraeus, Panetta and Vickers (who continues to serve in a top job at the Pentagon) could count on the support of their former colleagues, despite leaking highly classified material for reasons unrelated to the exposure of wrongdoing or other high-minded motives.

This kid-gloves treatment is not something afforded whistleblowers, even when sharing information to further the public interest through official channels. Former NSA contractor Edward Loomis reported government waste on an ineffective and illegal domestic surveillance program up the proper chain of command, yet he was the target of a retaliatory criminal investigation that cost him his career.

His colleague, Thomas Drake, faced 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act, after he legally provided an unclassified briefing on the surveillance program to a reporter. Former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling disclosed concerns to Congress about an allegedly mismanaged operation to obstruct Iran’s nuclear program, and he was accused of sharing this same information with journalists.

Intelligence Community (IC) contractor whistleblowers such as Loomis are at a double disadvantage. In addition to the threat of being criminalized, they have no statutory protection against workplace reprisal actions – such as demotions or blacklisting – when they disclose government misconduct.

That was not always the case, however.?From 2008 through 2012, all Pentagon and then stimulus-funded IC contractors enjoyed best-practice whistleblower protections. This included Intelligence Community agencies like NSA. The law maintained a steady track record, and there were not even allegations that it harmed national security. The whistleblower shield was so effective in deterring taxpayer waste that the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency proposed its permanent expansion, and the Senate approved it with bipartisan support.

Notwithstanding its widespread support, in an Orwellian maneuver during the 11th hour of negotiations, the closing conference committee stripped all whistleblower rights for IC contractors from the bill. Six months later, NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs. He later explained the circumstances that led to his course of action: “There are no proper channels for making this information available when the system fails comprehensively.”

Currently, IC contractors have two alternatives to almost certain retaliation: 1) remain silent observers of wrongdoing; or 2) make anonymous revelations to the media. ??

Whistleblowers must have safe channels to report abuses of power that betray the public trust, and Congress has a responsibility to fill these accountability loopholes.

Fortunately, as demonstrated by Senators Grassley and Wyden’s newly launched Senate Whistleblower Caucus, protecting the nation’s truth-tellers transcends congressional partisanship.

Instead of offering support to disgraced former officials, Congress should follow the caucus’ lead and focus on the heroic whistleblowers who risk their jobs and their freedom to expose government fraud, waste and abuse.