ACLU challenges limits in whistleblower law

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union will present oral arguments in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals tomorrow in a lawsuit challenging the overreaching secrecy provisions of a federal whistleblower law that prevents the public from learning about serious allegations of fraud against the United States government.

Complaints filed under the False Claims Act are automatically placed under seal and those who file them are gagged from speaking, keeping the complaints secret from the public for months and, in some cases, years.

Such complaints include allegations of military contractor fraud during the Iraq War and warnings of ongoing threats to public health and safety.

The ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia filed suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in January 2009 on behalf of themselves, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and OMB Watch. The government filed a motion to dismiss, which was heard in June 2009. In August 2009, the district court granted the government’s motion. The ACLU then appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

The case is ACLU v. Mukasey. Attorneys on the case are Chris Hansen and Ben Wizner of the ACLU and Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia.

The ACLU’s appellate briefs are available at and

The district court complaint is available at

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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