A federal employee who blew the whistle on lax security at federal buildings says he's paying the price for speaking out to FOX Undercover, claiming he's been targeted for retaliation ever since.
Eric Johnson was a police officer for the Federal Protective Service, which provides security at federal buildings around the country. He was a union steward when he contacted FOX Undercover in 2007 and arranged for his national union president to speak on camera about the effect of budget cuts on security.
Asked in the subsequent story whether federal buildings are being watched 24-hours-a-day, union president David Wright replied, "As a rule across the nation they are not being watched."
The story caught the attention of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who helped restore funding for FPS after our story.
"It doesn't make any sense," Kennedy told FOX Undercover in a later story. "Homeland Security should be a seamless web in terms of protecting American citizens, and they're having their challenges in terms of getting their job and getting their priorities right."
Four years later, the controversy has died down for FPS. But not for Johnson.
"The federal government wasn't happy you were talking to me?" asked FOX Undercover reporter Mike Beaudet.
"That's correct. And I believe that was the start of it," Johnson said. "I personally was subjected to investigations, a demotion in my job services, my duties. You can correlate it directly to that media story. Everything started happening soon afterwards."
Johnson says he saw the writing on the wall, and a few months after the story aired, decided to leave for private sector work.
After he gave his notice, he was placed on administrative leave with no explanation.
"I believe it was a last-ditch attempt to retaliate against me since I was leaving, and I think it was to embarrass me in front of my fellow colleagues," he told FOX Undercover.
Johnson eventually went back to the work for the federal government, taking a job in 2010 with the Department of Homeland Security as a chemical security inspector.
But problems began soon after, when he sought a new federal job. He applied earlier this year to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a job that requires a top secret clearance.
"I received a tentative offer. During my background check for a top secret clearance, derogatory information was found in my personnel file," he said.
He then learned that his old bosses put allegations in his personnel file six months after he left his job at FPS, allegations that included "misconduct and negligence."
The job offer from ICE was off the table and, with his security clearance in question, his job as a chemical security inspector was also put on hold. He was placed on unpaid leave in July.
He says the charges against him are false, and that he never knew about them and so never had a chance to respond.
"I was never given any due process back in 2007. I was never aware that these allegations were pending against me, and I'm asking for a full investigation," Johnson said.
Johnson isn't the only one now asking for an investigation.
US Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security requesting an inquiry into Johnson's case.
"The totality of the circumstances surrounding this case raise a genuine possibility that Mr. Johnson was not only treated unfairly in 2007 but this unfair treatment continues today," Thompson wrote.
Johnson is seeking whistleblower protections and is appealing.
"I think it sends a bad message to any federal employee that sees something wrong or sees a violation of law in the workplace. I don't see how anybody can go forward and report those issues. Just look what happened to me," he said.
Meanwhile, the FPS continues to be plagued with problems. The Government
Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, released in July the latest in a series of critical evaluations on the agency, telling Congress that, among other problems, security at a federal building in Detroit was so bad that bomb parts were brought in as part of a test and allowed to remain in the building for three weeks.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.