The Pentagon is seen from the air over Washington, DC on August 25, 2013. The 6.5 million sq ft (600,000 sq meter) building serves as the headquarters of the US Department of Defense and was built from 1941 to 1943. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
Inspector Generals Open Probes Into Alleged Retaliation By Obama Executives
The Pentagon’s Inspector General has launched a preliminary
investigation into charges of vendettas and reprisals against
whistle-blowers. Charges include those that James H. Baker, the
director of the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA),
is retaliating against whistleblowers who warned of “rigged” contracts
to outside consultants. CIA, DOE, DOT and many other Agency Inspector
Generals are now taking up the glut of Obama Era reprisal cases.
The Adam Lovinger Case -
Acting IG, Glenn A. Fine, initiated a formal “Whistleblower
Reprisal Investigation” Sept. 28 to look into allegations that Baker
unleashed various reprisals against, Adam Lovinger, a senior ONA
official. Lovinger warned about potential sweetheart deals to
politically-connected outside contractors, including one with a woman
Chelsea Clinton has referred to as her “best friend.”
The IG is investigating Baker’s actions under Presidential Policy
Directive-19, an October 2012 directive designed to protect
members of the intelligence community who report waste, fraud and
abuse. The directive pointedly states that it “prohibits retaliation
against employees for reporting waste, fraud, and abuse.”
Baker is an Obama holdover appointed by Secretary Ashton Carter in May
2015, who remains the ONA director 11 months into the Trump
administration. Lovinger specifically protested $11.2 million in ONA
contracts awarded over a decade to the Long Term Strategic Group
(LTSG), a company owned by Jacqueline Newmyer, a childhood friend of
Chelsea Clinton. Clinton and Newmyer first
met each other while attending Sidwell Friends School, an
exclusive private Quaker school in the nation’s capital. They were in
each other’s weddings, and in 2011 Chelsea referred
to Newmyer as her “best friend.”
Lovinger’s attorney, Sean M. Bigley, accuses Baker of continuing the
LTSG contract in the hopes it could help him in a Clinton
presidency. (RELATED: Chelsea’s ‘Best Friend’ Wins $11 MIL in
Defense Contracts With No Clearance)
“We submit that Baker’s interest was his awareness of the LTSG-Clinton connection; his presumptive desire to exploit that to his advantage in the event of a Clinton election win; and the fact that contractors like LTSG served as a lucrative landing pad for ONA retirees,” Bigley charged in a Sept. 13 letter to Rear Admiral Kevin Sweeney, the chief of staff for Defense Secretary James Mattis.
The IG’s decision to launch a preliminary investigation occurred as former high-profile national security officials are beginning to publicly weigh in about Baker’s allegedly retaliatory actions.
Richard Perle, Ronald Reagan’s former Assistant Secretary of Defense,
said of Lovinger, “He’s been treated
so badly. It’s a disgrace.”
Perle called Baker, “a shallow
and manipulative character that should have gone with the change in
Across the Atlantic, Richard Kemp, the former commander of British
troops in Afghanistan, who worked for four years at 10 Downing Street
for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, also denounced Baker’s alleged
act of retaliation.
“He is a highly respected analyst across
the board,” Kemp said, referring to Lovinger. “The way
he has been treated is deeply troubling.”
Lovinger, a GS-15 attorney and strategic foreign affairs analyst,
successfully served at ONA for 12 years and each year received the
highest possible “E” rating in his performance review. The “E” means
Lovinger was also the 2006 recipient of the “Secretary of Defense Exceptional Civilian Service Award,” the highest career award for civil servants in Office of Secretary of Defense.
But Baker poorly rated Lovinger in 2017, after he raised issues about
the ONA’s reliance on outside contractors, including LTSG.
ONA is a highly-classified think tank housed within the office of the
Secretary of Defense. It conducts sensitive strategic research,
especially for the Defense Secretary, and the office is supposed to
serve as a model of performance. For 42 years, ONA was led solely by
one director, Andrew Marshall, who Lovinger alleges initially
authorized many of the sweetheart deals with outside contractors.
Marshall retired from ONA at the age of 93. Baker took the helm four
Fine’s investigation into possible wrongdoing by Baker is being
carried out by his “Investigations of Senior Officials Directorate.”
That unit investigates “allegations of misconduct against the most
senior DoD officers (three-star and above and equivalents), senior
officials in the Joint or Defense Intelligence Community, and members
of the Senior Executive Service,” according to the latest IG semi-annual report to
Congress that is current as of March 31, 2017.
IG investigations under the Presidential Policy Directive-19 appear to be extremely rare.
From 2013 to 2017, only three case were confirmed under PPD-19 among
the 239 cases the IG “substantiated” across all the military services
and civilian Defense Department employees, according to the IG’s semi-annual report.
Several IG investigators personally met with Lovinger for four and a half hours Oct. 5, examining the charges of how Baker retaliated against the analyst, according to Bigley. The original meeting was expected to last no more than three hours. The IG office is formally attempting to determine if they need to intervene in the Baker case, according to a source with direct knowledge of the investigation. Fine’s office customarily does not provide any public information about the pace of IG investigations.
The first inkling of retaliation against Lovinger came Jan. 12, 2017,
when Baker suddenly issued a series of charges against him. This was
the same day that the National Security Council officially invited
Lovinger to leave ONA and join the NSC as a senior director.
Lovinger entered the Trump White House on Inauguration Day, but was dogged by Baker.
After Baker issued his latest set of allegations against Lovinger, the
Washington Headquarters Services, a bureaucratic arm of the Pentagon,
temporarily suspended Lovinger’s security clearance May 1 and removed
him from his NSC post. Lovinger now works at a Defense Department
annex where he currently is doing clerical work.
Baker dropped charges in two of the three of his initial
investigations after they were challenged by Thomas Spencer,
Lovinger’s first attorney. Bigley said the allegations against his
client are “demonstrably false” and called Baker “partisan and highly
vindictive” in an interview.
Baker has leveled four separate charges against Lovinger. The counts
include an “unauthorized” trip to Israel, taking home unclassified
academic papers to read, reading a classified document in an airplane,
and having “unauthorized” contacts with the Indian government.
Baker’s accusation that the trip to Israel was “unauthorized” particularly rankles Lovinger.
Prior to the trip, Lovinger said that he notified ONA of an expected
personal trip to Israel to commemorate his oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah.
The Lovinger family traveled with their close family friends,
the Wiesel’s, whose patriarch, Elisha, is the son of legendary
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel.
Lovinger said that they only did “tourist stuff” and did not meet with a single Israeli official.
Another charge is that Lovinger conducted “unauthorized” contacts with the Indian government.
Lovinger’s 2017 performance review includes a statement from
Secretary Carter, commending him for his work with the Indian
government. “Two days prior to departing for the NSC, on January 18,
2017, the Secretary of Defense highlighted in an official letter
Lovinger’s exceptional performance on collaborative net assessment
with the Government of India,” the performance review states.
Nevertheless, in the same review Baker rated Lovinger poorly. “I do not endorse the characterization set forth in the employee input (that) Adam performed successfully,” Baker said.
for taking home papers, Baker sent an email to all ONA staff Nov. 1, 2016, in which
he said, “Team-…acknowledging our cluttered workspace: we all read
widely and have to as part of the job — all source, often all mixed
together. Given the volume of reading, you may sometimes take reports
and so forth home. (I certainly do).”
Lovinger did carry a document aboard an airplane during a Sept. 14, 2016 official trip. Anthony Russell, the ONA investigator of the incident, noted in an Oct. 18 memo for the record that the document “is marked without security markings in the header, but with ‘Classification Pending.'”
Russell concluded: “It is reasonable to conclude that there was no
compromise given the content of the document in question and its close
control either on Mr. Lovinger’s person or in his assigned lodging on
a military base for a relatively short period of time. For these
reasons, no violation is believed to have occurred.”
“He clearly was the target, for political reasons, of an effort to
push him out of government,” Perle said of Lovinger. “And this was
done consciously and deliberately. He’s a Trump loyalist, and it was
launched and sustained by an Obama holdover.”
“This cries out for an investigation of
Baker,” Perle added. Kemp called the sidelining of Lovinger
“a great loss.” “He is very much a creative thinker and he’s not
constrained by sort of narrow lines that affect so many people in
government,” Kemp said.
“As I understand it, he questioned the actions of various
organizations within the U.S. Government, particularly the Office of
Net Assessment. And of course, these may not be always welcomed by
one’s superiors,” Kemp said. As for
the use of outside contractors, Kemp said, “I’m aware they [ONA] did
depend a lot on in the past on external contractors. It’s not
necessarily a good thing.” “To
get rid of someone like that on what appeared to be questionable
grounds is potentially problematic for the effectiveness of the U.S.
intelligence organization,” Kemp added.
Robert Reilly, who served for 25 years in the national security field,
including as a senior advisor to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and as a
White House special assistant to Reagan said, “I’m very familiar with
the use of investigations to politically destroy people.” “That they
would yank a top security clearance on what seemed to be unsubstantial
grounds is shocking,” Reilly said.
Reilly also said he didn’t think the punishment fit the crime for
Lovinger, and that it appeared Lovinger committed insignificant
security infractions. “There’s a disproportion here that immediately
raises suspicions,” he said. “What was the crime and how does the
punishment fit the crime?” Heather Babb, a public affairs officer who
spoke on behalf of ONA stated in an email, “As a matter of policy, we
do not comment on current investigations.”
The David and the DOE Case -
The United States Department of Energy Inspector General, The FBI and
the Pentagon’s Inspector General have now been informed of over one
thousand retaliation, reprisal and vendetta attacks against those who
reported corruption during the Obama Administration. Another case
involves a California man and his technology team.