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Convertino Privacy Act Case Reinstated: A Major Blow to the War on Whistleblowers

In Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2012, the Privacy Act case of former U.S. prosecutor Richard Convertino was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This Privacy Act case accused the Bush Administration of deliberately leaking illegal information that was used to attack and tarnish the reputation of Mr. Convertino. The Court of Appeals’ decision now allows Richard Convertino to continue his research in order to figure out which current and/or former Justice Department employees went against the Privacy Act and attacked Mr. Convertino.

Richard Convertino blew the whistle on former Attorney General Ashcroft due to his poor handling of terrorist prosecutions in 2003. Despite being a former award-winning prosecutor who led many terrorism cases at the Department of Justice, Department of Justice officials sought revenge and leaked untrue and damaging information about Mr. Convertino to The Detroit Free Press. Mr. Convertino subsequently made a Privacy Act complaint in an attempt to oust the individual(s) who leaked the false information about him.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, spoke about Richard Convertino’s case:

“The Justice Department’s policy of criminally investigating whistleblowers who ‘leak’ information, while at the same time aggressively defending its own ‘leakers,’ is hypocritical. In Mr. Convertino’s case, the Justice Department intentionally leaked information to destroy the reputation of the distinguished prosecutor who had the courage to challenge the Attorney General’s conduct in the ‘War on Terror.’ Moreover, the Justice Department has, for years, aggressively stood in the way of Mr. Convertino’s attempts to discover which official(s) retaliated against him.”

This case reversal is seen as a significant blow to the U.S. Department of Justice’s “War on Whistleblowers” and will hopefully result in reform regarding the double standard in the treatment of government “leakers.”

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