Energy

EXCLUSIVE: Feds Won’t Talk About Whistleblower Fired For Talking To Congress

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Department of Energy (DOE) isn’t talking to Congress even though it is being investigated by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology for allegedly retaliating against a whistleblower who talked to Congress.

“A Department of Energy (DOE) employee appears to have been fired for giving information to the Science Committee,” Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House science committee, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It is illegal to interfere with employees’ rights to provide information to Congress,” Smith said. “The Science Committee takes very seriously allegations of whistleblower retaliation. Unfortunately, DOE has ignored legitimate requests for information surrounding the circumstances of this incident. We have no choice but to make every effort to hold this administration accountable to the American people.”

Congress requested DOE turn over documents about the alleged whisteblower retaliation no later than Feb. 15. Congress still has not received a response or any of the information requested. DOE staff declined to even estimate how long they would take to respond to Congress, according to a letter sent by Smith to the DOE Friday obtained by TheDCNF. The letter openly states the DOE’s silence suggests the agency is not taking the allegations seriously.

In October 2014, an unnamed senior DOE radiation biologist briefed congressional staffers on scientific issues with Department of Energy’s Low Dose Radiation Research Program. The program was created to study the effects of very small amounts of radiation on biological tissue. The briefing lasted for several hours, and the scientists told staffers about the status of the program, scientific uncertainty in their research, and even upcoming legislation that would impact radiation research.

After the briefing, the biologists’s supervisor, Dr. Todd Anderson, and another DOE official, Dr. Julie Carruthers, accused the scientist of “providing Congress with too much information” and “advocating for the program,” according to a letter sent by Smith to the DOE that was obtained by TheDCNF. Six days later, the scientist was fired and formally accused of “inappropriate workplace communication” for talking to Congress.

Smith argues the DOE broke the law by firing the scientist who spoke to Congress. Federal law states “[t]he right of employees, individually or collectively, to petition Congress or a Member of Congress, or to furnish information to either House of Congress, or to a committee or Member thereof, may not be interfered with or denied.”

Interestingly enough, Low Dose Radiation Research Program’s website has a data sharing policy through which scientists are “encouraged to communicate with the wider community of concerned persons, so that current thinking and public debate incorporate sound science.” Most of the program’s research is publicly available online.

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