Good news for Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl

Supporters of Marine Corps whistleblower Franz Gayl are cheering the decision by a Navy review board to reinstate his top-secret security clearance and return him to work.  Gayl has been on paid administrative leave since October 2010.

Suspending a whistleblower’s access to classified information is a common form of retaliation against whistleblowers, and it is rare for the clearance to be reinstated.  The Navy’s motivation for reversing its decision is not clear, but public support for Mr. Gayl may have been involved.

Maj. Stewart Upton, a Marine Corps spokesman, declined to address the specifics of Gayl’s case. He said personnel matters are subject to privacy laws and regulations, but added that the “Marine Corps takes very seriously the proper handling and resolution of any employee issues, and as in any other case we are taking the appropriate actions.” (NPR)

Gayl, a senior science and technology advisor for the Marine Corps, went public in 2007 with a disclosure that the Marine Corps was impeding delivery of heavily armored vehicles, or “MRAPS,” needed by troops in Iraq.

Then-Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Miss.) and then-Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) wrote a joint letter warning the Corps not to punish Gayl; nonprofit groups such as the Project On Government Oversight organized a petition offering support. But after the Corps suspended Gayl for allegedly disregarding regulations and what it said was “a pattern of poor judgment and intentional misconduct,” Biden decided he could not intervene from the Vice President’s office, according to one of his aides. (Center for Public Integrity)

It’s not clear why the Vice President felt he could not intervene.  However, the Obama White House has been prone to defer to defense officials in whistleblower cases, such as the case of alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning.

As a result of Franz Gayl’s disclosure, more MRAPs were sent to Iraq, reportedly saving thousands of American lives. The Navy’s decision to return this conscientious employee to his duties a victory for the public and the Navy as well as Mr. Gayl.  To all who volunteered and worked on behalf of justice for Mr. Gayl, congratulations!

“Crazyhorse Caimans MRAPS line up and conduct a final radio check at Camp Buehring, Kuwait before they begin their long haul mission into Iraq.” Photo by  Minnesota National Guard @ Flicker