Feb. 15, 2006 – Four years ago, Energy Department veteran Richard Levernier went public with details of what he said were serious security flaws at the nationâ€™s nuclear weapons and research facilities, losing his security clearance as an apparent direct result. Last week, a federal investigation found that Levernierâ€™s criticisms cast legitimate doubts "upon the agencyâ€™s confident expression of its readiness to defend the nuclear research facilities and nuclear assets within its custody."
But the investigation, which was headed by a controversial Bush appointee, failed to make a final conclusion on the validity of Levernierâ€™s claims or to address the propriety of his demotion.
The US Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency tasked with investigating whistleblower complaints within the federal government, quietly released the findings of its investigation into the issue early this month. OSC said that while it could not determine the accuracy of the Energy Departmentâ€™s official claims and responses addressing the security of the nationâ€™s nuclear facilities, "when viewed against the widespread criticism, [those claims] do not seem to provide a complete and accurate picture of DoEâ€™s security program."
The OSC recommended "continued oversight of and inquiry into DoEâ€™s security program" and did not reach a conclusion on whether the stripping of Levernierâ€™s security clearance and transfer to a different office were done in retaliation for publicly airing his safety concerns.
"This case underscores the significance of issues that whistleblowers raise," OSC head Scott Bloch said: "There are abiding concerns about whether we are doing enough to safeguard nuclear stockpiles and facilities."
As previously reported by The NewStandard, Bloch has been under fire from his own workers and a public-employee advocacy group over alleged whitewashing of whistleblower cases.
In a series of staged attacks and surprise security inspections conducted while he was head of Energy Department security inspections, Levernier found idle guards, unwatched posts and lax protections at facilities across the country, according to background in the case provided by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a progressive nonprofit organization that assists whistleblowers.
After going public with the information and filing formal complaints about four specific areas in which he found the Energy Departmentâ€™s security practices dangerously lax, Department superiors removed Levernier from his post, revoked his security clearance and relocated him to a basement office, according to GAP information. Levernier ran Energy Department nuclear security inspections from 1995--2001.
GAP criticized the Special Counsel for not arriving at a stronger conclusion in the case. "[Bloch] has made our country less safe by letting DoE off the hook with a report that resolves absolutely nothing about nuclear weapons vulnerability," the groupâ€™s legal director, Tom Devine, said in a statement. Devine is serving Levernierâ€™s attorney.
Along with four other whistleblowers who allege that superiors retaliated against them for their actions, Levernier offered testimony before the national security subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform yesterday. The hearing addressed strengthening protections for whistleblowers.