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Veal Pen Watch: Good government groups all but eject whistleblower from coalition for asking too many questions

(photo: chmop / flickr)

The groups that comprise the steering committee of the good government group coalition, the Make It Safe Campaign, are:

  • –ACLU
  • –Government Accountability Project
  • –Project on Government Oversight
  • –Union of Concerned Scientists
  • –American Federation of Government Employees

Here are the details:

Evelynn Brown, a federal whistleblower and CEO of her own whistleblower support group, has been lobbying the MISC SC to become more open, transparent, responsive, and accountable. She asked for basic things like sharing the email list serv, getting rid of a 24 hour comment review period, having a whistleblower on the steering committee, having minutes of meetings made available, etc.

For whatever reason, today the committee decided they’d had enough. They said her comments had become increasingly antagonistic, uncivil, inaccurate. They won’t specify what was inaccurate about it, I asked. Her comments were civil but firm.

I think the person behind this is Tom Devine, GAP’s legal director. There is an authoritarian streak about him. I’ve already asked for his resignation and started to give detailed reasons why. He’s burning up his goodwill quickly. Censoring and exiling whistleblowers is a big no-no in our small community.

Here’s the banishment and what triggered it, below. Reprinted with permission.

From: Shanna Devine <shannad>
Date: Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 10:06 AM [PST]
Subject: MISC steering committee message
To: evy brown <evybrown>
Cc: miscsteering

Evy, after making repeated efforts to work with you, the steering committee members have made a decision that we will no longer engage in communication with you. Your messages are increasingly antagonistic, inaccurate, violate the most basic norms for civility, and are disruptive to our efforts to strengthen whistleblower protections. At your requests, we previously forwarded your messages to the MISC, including when you requested member contact information and collaboration for proposed projects. To the degree that individual members were responsive to your requests you have every right to directly engage them in your efforts and communication.

MISC Steering Committee

Shanna Devine
Investigator, Legislative Campaign Coord.
Government Accountability Project
1612 K St NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 457-0034 ext. 132 (voice)
(202) 457-0059 (fax)
Email: shannad

Here was the last straw for Devine and company, apparently:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: evy brown <>
Date: Fri, Aug 10, 2012 at 12:26 PM [EST]
Subject: Re: Dare to Disagree
To: Shanna Devine <>

I did not receive a response to my requests.  Since I don’t know what is the hold-up, please send this note and all text below to the entire membership.  These messages are about whistleblowing, control, censorship and what happens when there is a lack of openness.

To the Steering Committee:

This email requires a response from each of you since you appointed yourselves to a position on the Make It Safe Campaign and Coalition (MISC) Steering Committee (SC).

I’m growing increasing alarmed that by ignoring my requests, you are censoring my communications with MISC members.  A thinking MISC requires conflicts, disagreement and openness to accomplish its missions.  Please begin to engage us all so we can do our very best thinking.

Since my excerpt from Alford appears to have had no impact, perhaps this video can inspire openness.  It was sent to me this morning by a colleague as inspiration who is neither a member of MISC or a whistleblower.  He’s just a person who cares about free speech, knows how hard I work to protect it and whistleblowers.

Margaret Heffernan: Dare to Disagree

On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM, evy brown <> wrote:

You can send the below to the membership in its entirety.

Dear MISC Members:

Ugh!  The far below is an example of a delay in sending a message to members.  It’s an important announcement about OSC and ATF whistleblower Forcelli.  It’s old news now but good news!

While I’m here, I might as well kill two stones with one bird!


After my many requests to see something in writing about the MISC organization formation and authority of the Steering Committee, the other day I received this link from a colleague.

The new guidelines were published on the MISC website on August 3, 2012.  Apparently there are no trace documents on the Internet.

In honesty, I was really quite shocked to see a March 25, 2009 date at the top.  Quite frankly, I don’t believe this document existed since 2009.  Particularly since the last paragraph was bootstrapped from the June 2012 “civility statement” and now expanded.

I am deeply concerned with the message it sends when documents magically appear on the MISC website and the image it projects for the member organization.  The appearance is one of cover-up and could be viewed as thinly veiled retaliation.  I cannot imagine any member would believe it is acceptable to create a guideline retroactively; ex post facto.  Aren’t we all fighting against this kind of behind the scenes control?

I remind the Steering Committee that MISC has a mission for all members.  “We are united in the cause of protecting those in government who honor their duties to serve and warn the public.”  Please stop trying to control free speech.  Please take down that document from the MISC website.  It sends the wrong message!

Many of the members of MISC are government whistleblowers.  There is no substitute for our knowledge or input.  I received below message from a friend this morning.  Seems apropos.

“Organizations are not just undemocratic. Organizations are the enemy of individual morality. Individuals who depend on these organizations for their livelihoods may become democrats in their communities in their off-hours, but there will always be something false and partial about it. Large organizations, private and public alike, don’t just control the political agenda. They are the political world that matters most to people’s lives, that part of politics that controls your career, your paycheck, your health insurance, your mortgage, your retirement, and your family’s economic security. Until there is room for the ethical individual in these organizations – until, that is, there is ethical commerce between the organization and civil society – the associations that make up civil society will have the quality of a hobby. Bowling with other people is better than bowling alone, but it is not real politics either.”Fred Alford, Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Pg. 35 (used by permission)


On Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 8:37 AM, Shanna Devine <> wrote:

Evy, please include some context for the link you would like shared w/ MISC. Eg Title or brief description.

SC members have not changed since the last time I shared them w/ you. They are:

Angela Canterbury (POGO) –

Celia Wexler (UCS) –

Tom Devine (GAP) –

Mike German (ACLU) –

Charity Wilson (AFGE) –



From: [mailto:evybrown@gmail.comOn Behalf Of evy brown
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 11:04 AM
To: Shanna Devine
Subject: Re: Breaking News

I doubt sincerely the below needs any waiting period or approval.  Also, please send me the list of Steering Committee individuals names and email addresses.
Thank you.

Evelynn Brown, J.D., LL.M
Chief Executive Officer
The Brown Center for Public Policy
Ethics in Business Institute
A 501(c)3 nonprofit, public benefit corporation.

The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential/privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited.  If you received this information in error, please contact the sender and delete the message and material from all computers.

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