- October 6 - Two whistleblowers who have worked with the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) to improve national security at nuclear weapons facilities are the focus of a Vanity Fair article to be released this week. The spotlight on their cases comes as protections for nuclear whistleblowers have been stripped from pending Energy legislation by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), the ardent protector of the nuclear weapons complex. The legislation is currently being deliberated in conference.
Without whistleblowers to sound the alarms, weaknesses in our nations national security will go unfixed and put the U.S. public at serious risk, said POGOs Peter Stockton, former assistant on nuclear security issues to Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. As Senate Energy Committee Chair, Senator Domenici has watered down whistleblower protections in order to hide security scandals such as those that happened on his watch this past year at Los Alamos, Livermore, and Sandia nuclear weapons laboratories.
Senator Domenici attacked POGO in a July 17, 2003 Senate hearing in response to the organizations work with whistleblowers such as those featured in Vanity Fair, saying:
DOMENICI: Now what I believe we're suffering from that we better address in any new model is that these laboratories are going to live in an era of intense scrutiny that did not exist back in the days when Ma Bell managed Sandia or the original people that we're so proud of that managed Los Alamos.
In fact, the scrutinizing institutions didn't exist. I'll just be honest. There was no POGO then. Have you all heard of POGO? There is a POGO now.
(UNKNOWN): You have met the enemy, right? And it's POGO?
DOMENICI: Yes. Well, that POGO really fits that one. We met the enemy, and it's us. As a matter of fact, it's rather interesting. Some people are trying to find out where POGO comes from. Who pays for POGO? Where do they get their money? And some say it's nobody's business. But I think pretty soon it's going to be somebody's business, because they are great scrutinizers of the laboratories.
The two whistleblowers at the focus of Vanity Fair this week have made important disclosures that helped to improve security at nuclear weapons facilities. Rich Levernier was an anonymous contributor to POGOs 2001 report, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk (see http://www.pogo.org/p/environment/eo-011003-nuclear.html), which confirmed for the first time that nuclear weapons facilities fail mock terrorist attacks more than 50% of the time. Christopher Steele, the governments top safety engineer at Los Alamos, has helped to expose safety and environmental violations that endangered employees at the Lab.
POGO investigates, exposes, and seeks to remedy systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests. Founded in 1981, POGO is a politically-independent, nonprofit watchdog that strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry.