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Veteran investigators launch new watchdog group to assist 'patriotic whistleblowers'

Group is led by former chief investigator for Sen. Chuck Grassley, supported by successful whistleblowers and law enforcement officials.

Updated: July 2, 2021 - 7:30am

A group of veteran investigators, attorneys, and law enforcement leaders on Friday launched a new nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog dedicated to strengthening public integrity and aiding "patriotic whistleblowers" across the county. 

The Empower Oversight Whistleblowers & Research (EMPOWR) group will be led by Jason Foster, the former chief investigative counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, long regarded as one of Congress' most dedicated champions and protectors of whistleblowers.

Foster led some of the Senate's most high-profile whistleblower probes, including the Fast and Furious scandal that exposed how the Obama administration's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had allowed assault weapons and other guns to "walk" across the border to Mexico to drug gangs as part of a flawed sting operation. 

Foster told Just the News that his aim was to "help people not only shine sunlight on wrongdoing, but demand that authorities take action to fix the problems."

"After all, that’s the reason whistleblower protections exist. The point is to make sure that people are free to tell the truth without fear of retaliation so that that the American people are armed with the information necessary to govern themselves and hold the powerful to account," he said.

Foster has assembled a team of veteran lawyers, investigators and former whistleblowers inside EMPOWR, including:

  • John Dodson and Peter Forcelli, two former ATF officials who blew the whistle on the Fast and Furious scandal and suffered retaliation. Dodson will serve on the group's advisory board while Forcelli, a former New York Police Department detective, will serve as the director of investigations and research.
  • Dan Meyer, managing partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Washington office and a longtime legal expert on intelligence community whistleblowing. Meyer, who  served as the U.S. Intelligence Community Inspector General's Executive Director for Whistleblowing & Source Protection, will serve on the group's advisory panel.
  • Gary Aguirre will serve as the group's general counsel after previously leading the Security and Exchange Commission's insider trading investigation of Pequot Capital Management, formerly the world’s largest hedge fund. Aguirre is best known for overcoming retaliation for resisting his SEC supervisors’ demands to give a politically connected Wall Street banker preferential treatment.
  • Dean Zerbe, the former chief investigative counsel and tax counsel on the Senate Finance Committee. will serve as a senior advisor after decades of assisting and representing whistleblowers.
  • Robert Heyer, a longtime Secret Service agent and former Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the elite Presidential Protection Division at the White House, will serve as senior advisor.
  • Beth Levine, a former spokeswoman and adviser to Grassley and current partner at KO Public Affairs, will serve as senior communications adviser.

The group says it plans to:

  • Solicit disclosures of waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, and mismanagement.
  • Work to corroborate claims through deep, independent research. 
  • Help insiders safely and legally inform authorities, the media, and the public.
  • Educate whistleblowers, journalists, Members of Congress, inspectors general, and other official institutions charged with strengthening public integrity.
  • Advocate for more effective oversight and whistleblower-driven investigations.