The Right to Accountability

Jason M. Hanania

​Whistleblowing is an accountability process protected under the due process clause of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Pursuant to the 5th Amendment, a misuse of tax dollars represents a "deprivation of property" to American taxpayers. Government officials are supposed to be held accountable to taxpayers through whistleblower protection laws that provide for internal investigations. Instead, when government employees blow the whistle on bad behavior, they typically experience retaliation and become the target of any investigation. As a result, government employees have been disincentivized from whistleblowing. This has perpetuated a systemic lack of accountability.

In August 2004 I was hired by the Department of Justice (DOJ), as a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intelligence analyst. After two months I was promoted a pay grade. After three months I was recruited as a counterterrorism agent because (as I was told by the new agent recruiter Manny Johnson) FBI Headquarters, following 9/11, was hiring engineers to work counterterrorism. Before leaving for New Agent Training the following year, I was provided tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded training regarding intelligence collection, cyber attacks, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism. As an analyst, all of my FBI Employment Evaluations had been positive.

In October 2005 I was assigned from New Agent Training in Quantico to the FBI Honolulu drug squad. The amount of dysfunction was breathtaking. On my first day, my "Training Agent" introduced me to the FBI Honolulu Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Charles Goodwin and an Assistant SAC (ASAC) Robert J. Casey. SAC Goodwin was on his way to play golf and ASAC Casey gave me advice about Honolulu real estate investing. During my entire time in Honolulu, the mission of the FBI Honolulu field office was never discussed with me, the goals of the drug squad were never discussed with me, and my role was never discussed with me. There was no sense of direction.

My Training Agent told me to go buy several Hawaiian shirts and to:
(1) Show my face by 10:00 a.m. each morning;
(2) Go do whatever you want, but make sure your phone is always on;
(3) If anyone asks, tell them you were driving around learning the streets of Hawaii; and
(4) If you want to look like you're doing work, turn in one sheet of paper each day.

I saw my Training Agent about once a week. Due to overcrowding on the drug squad, my Training Agent had given me a desk on the cyber squad. This effectively made me invisible. SA Arnold Laanui was on the cyber squad and sat at the desk across from mine. He affectionately referred to the drug squad as "the squad that doesn't do any work." The work dynamic immediately became unnecessarily stressful. The cyber squad was polite but would awkwardly ignore me because I was not on their squad. I would walk over to the drug squad area, see that no one was there, and then walk back to the cyber squad area. This went on for weeks. Consistent with FBI New Agent training, I kept my mouth shut.

After one month in Honolulu, I tracked down my immediate supervisor, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Dan Kelly. I told him my background was engineering and national security intelligence collection, and that instinctively I'm not a cop. I would need oversight and direction in order to be effective on a drug squad. After requesting a mentor, SSA Kelly directed me to SA Tim O’Malley. SA O’Malley subsequently told me to let the senior agents come to me. In December 2005 a senior agent finally came to me. At the FBI Honolulu Christmas party, I was sexually harassed by SAC Goodwin, on behalf of ASAC Pam McCullough, who apparently wanted to give me her hotel room key. I declined.

The red flags kept on coming. FBI Headquarters, after 9/11, had been shifting resources to counterterrorism and had prohibited field offices from opening new drug investigations. When I asked SSA Kelly how the Honolulu drug squad was still opening new drug investigations, he confessed that he was piggybacking new drug cases on existing drug cases by opening them as sub-cases, which was "easy to do on an island." I later asked why the drug squad was assigned more agents than the counterterrorism squad. I was told FBI officials get cash bonuses for asset forfeiture and drug cases result in more asset forfeiture than counterterrorism cases. This was a clear conflict of interest.

The communication in Honolulu was terrible. After two months, my Training Agent realized I was not on the drug squad email lists. I was out of the loop on, among other things, my first arrest. My first arrest was at a crowded shopping mall. A couple teenagers were being arrested in a joint effort with the Honolulu PD. The planning appeared to be improvised and word-of-mouth. I was never introduced to any Honolulu police officers, nor was I introduced to the other FBI agents who showed up. I never saw a warrant. I was told to point my gun at the driver of one particular vehicle. I could not tell who was law enforcement and who was not (everyone was in street clothes). I again kept my mouth shut.

On another occasion, I was directed by a drug squad agent to go interview an inmate at a local prison. He did not offer to go with me. I recall questioning the wisdom of sending a new agent, alone with a gun, into a prison. During the interview, the inmate appeared to be trying to size up whether I had a gun under my Hawaiian shirt. A few days later, I was told by my Training Agent that FBI guidelines had been violated (for now obvious reasons) because an interview was conducted without at least two agents present. The leadership failures were becoming physically stressful. I started experiencing health problems, including stomach cramps and sleep loss. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut.

The drug squad also became financially stressful. Under FBI new agent employment contracts, the FBI pays relocation expenses, such as airfare, temporary housing, a rental car, and shipping costs for personal property. The exceptions are relocations to Honolulu, Hawaii and San Juan, Puerto Rico. When a new agent is assigned to Honolulu or San Juan, the new agent pays their own relocation expenses and the FBI agrees to reimburse them. I paid my relocation expenses using a credit card. My reimbursement paperwork sat on my drug squad supervisor's desk and was presumably never processed. To this day, I have not been reimbursed for over $10,000 in relocation expenses.

​During my first four months as an agent, I had been tasked to do about eight hours of work per week. ​In February 2006, I became a whistleblower under 5 U.S.C. §2303 by communicating the following protected disclosures to the highest ranking FBI official in the state of Hawaii (SAC Goodwin): 

(1) "I have seen my supervisor only four times in four months" (evidencing time and attendance fraud);

(2) "The drug squad has had zero meetings" (evidencing gross mismanagement); and

(3) "I don't know what I’m supposed to be doing" (evidencing a lack of "vigilant oversight and direction," as required for probationary new agents under FBI MAOP §21-1). 

A senior agent from the White Collar Crimes squad served as the intermediary and arranged a private meeting with SAC Goodwin.

SAC Goodwin, however, never showed up. As an attorney, he may have been attempting to obstruct additional disclosures. The senior agent and I were escorted out of SAC Goodwin's office, by SAC Goodwin's secretary, into the office of ASAC Casey. I proposed to ASAC Casey that I be reassigned to another squad. He refused. I then proposed I be transferred back to my previous position as an analyst. He appeared insulted that someone would rather be an analyst in Phoenix than an agent on the Honolulu drug squad. That being said, ASAC Casey agreed, without objection, to both transfer me and to keep the meeting confidential.

Two days after whistleblowing, drug squad agents started showing up for work. Despite asking ASAC Casey for confidentiality, drug squad agents had been informed that I was trying to get off their squad. Some of them were not happy that I had drawn attention to the drug squad. A few of them began lecturing me and/or burning a hole in the back of my head. ASAC Casey then showed up in the cyber squad area and announced to everyone that Phoenix had received its "FSL's" (Funded Staffing Levels) and implied that I would be transferred into one of four analyst openings in Phoenix. SA Brandon Simpson was a witness.

Two weeks after whistleblowing, my drug squad supervisor was replaced. 

Four weeks after whistleblowing, SAC Goodwin authorized retaliation. I walked into the building at around 7:30 a.m. as if it were going to be just another day. I was then escorted to ASAC Casey's office where I was surrounded by three additional armed agents. ASAC Casey then threatened me with a criminal investigation for time and attendance fraud if I did not sign a so-called resignation letter that he had prepared in my name. No notice or due process was provided.​ My heart rate spiked and I felt overpowered. One of the senior agents began arguing with ASAC Casey. The situation de-escalated when I produced a signature and surrendered my firearm.

As I tried to process what was unfolding, the security escort let me clean out my desk and say goodbye to a few people. He did not seem to agree with what was happening and was biting his tongue. While cleaning out my desk, it felt like the entire office paraded by to see what was going on. It was humiliating. Out of concern I would be accused of stealing government property, I left all personal property in boxes under my desk. I genuinely feared further retaliation. I later learned from a coworker that, after whistleblowing, I had been placed under surveillance by my superiors.

Being fired was a direct result of whistleblowing. It put me on the radar as being someone willing to speak up. During my entire time as an agent, I was given zero FBI Employment Evaluations. I was never provided notice that I was doing anything wrong or at risk of being fired. My Training Agent had told me to put 8:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, on all of my time and attendance cards, regardless of hours worked. The drug squad secretary was a witness. In hindsight, the signature I gave ASAC Casey was involuntary (obtained under duress). In addition, the "resignation letter" was fraudulently sent to FBI Headquarters, by my superiors, instead of being sent by me.

In 2008, I learned from a former FBI coworker that I was rumored to have been fired for sleeping with Honolulu ASAC Pam McCullough. I did not sleep with ASAC McCullough. In my lifetime, I have never slept with a coworker. In addition, I have never had a single conversation with ASAC McCullough. At the 2005 FBI Honolulu Christmas party, held at the Hilton Waikiki, SAC Goodwin offered me her hotel room key while ASAC McCullough simply stood behind him and blushed. By no act of my own, I had become a threat to the highest-ranking FBI official in the state of Hawaii. I suddenly had the power to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against SAC Goodwin (a former attorney).

Filing such a lawsuit may have subsequently created the public perception that SAC Goodwin was gay (a male new agent would be filing a lawsuit against a male FBI official). This too may have concerned SAC Goodwin and may help explain the motives for sudden termination without due process. Firing me without an "OPR" (an internal investigation conducted by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility) allowed my superiors to avoid having their own actions scrutinized by FBI Headquarters. In addition, my only source of income was instantly cut off (I could no longer afford an attorney). Regardless of whistleblower laws, the due process violations alone merited investigation.

In 2009, after overcoming sudden loss of income, unemployment, emotional distress, student loan default, foreclosure, bankruptcy, and the inability to afford proper legal representation (attorneys typically wanted $300/hour with a $10,000 retainer), I filed a 16-page whistleblower retaliation complaint with the DOJ Inspector General. I was then contacted by FBI attorney Valerie Caproni (not the Inspector General's office), told I would be rehired, and called in for an “employment polygraph.” In reality, it was an interrogation. The FBI polygrapher became hostile when I refused to disclose the names of FBI employees still in contact with me (leaking information to me supporting my lawsuit).

The FBI polygrapher also admitted he had read my whistleblower retaliation complaint (the one confidentially filed with the DOJ Inspector General) and informed me that I would not be rehired because I had not answered the question. He acted like statutory whistleblowing was treason. I received a letter from the FBI shortly thereafter informing me that I would not be rehired. I also received a cookie-cutter letter from the DOJ Inspector General's office informing me that there would be no whistleblower retaliation investigation. The DOJ Inspector General's letter cited "limited resources" as a justification for not putting forth the effort to inspect the FBI and hold FBI officials accountable.

In 2010 I filed Hanania vs. Office of the President of the United States. The President of the United States is responsible for enforcement of the FBI whistleblower statutes under 5 U.S.C. §2303(c). Within that Petition, I requested the judicial branch order the executive branch to open a whistleblower retaliation investigation. The FBI then called me and accused me of criminally publishing classified information. In violation of separation of powers principles, the FBI then entered the federal courthouse and physically destroyed the Petition. The FBI backed off after I pointed out that the information in question had been cut-and-pasted from the FBI's own website. After I re-filed, the Petition was dismissed.

Accountability is an evidence collection process. In my case, the DOJ Inspector General was negligent in failing to simply telephone witnesses, request FBI documents, collect other evidence, or otherwise "inspect" the FBI. If you are a federal employee contemplating whistleblowing, do not tip off your superiors. They control all the evidence and all the witnesses. They also have the power to end your career instantly. Consider reading the POGO Whistleblower Handbook and maintaining your anonymity in combination with examining the Edward Snowden approach. The following law firms now offer free legal consultations to would-be whistleblowers:

Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto

Zuckerman Law

Allred, Maroko & Goldberg

Phillips & Cohen

Do not communicate classified or sensitive information. Use generic wording and assume everything you communicate will one day be published or produced in court.