Teresa Chambers' Troubling Tale
In this issue of Bay Weekly, we present the saga of Chesapeake Country's Teresa Chambers, who took on the federal government - and lost.
Hers is a cautionary tale about bucking your bosses and a troubling reminder about the price of truth-telling in the current administration.
As U.S. Park Police Chief, Chambers was in charge of law enforcement at designated National Park Service lands primarily in Washington, New York and San Francisco. Her territory included the Washington Monument, Ellis Island, Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty stands and Golden Gate National Park - all places of great symbolism and allure for Americans.
Not long after 9/11, a wise friend predicted that certainly our relationship with other nations would change, but perhaps an even bigger change would come between the federal government and the American people.
At that moment of national unity, it was hard to see how our friend's assertion might come true.
But in the past few years, we've watched government use 9/1l as a pretext for war and a justification for unconstitutional detentions. We've watched spending for health and the environment diverted to national security. And we've seen a tendency among government agencies to be less than truthful about what they're doing.
As you will read, Chambers, of Calvert County, was fired after questioning the capacity of government to protect our national parks.
"There's not enough of us to go around any more," she said in an interview with The Washington Post. To reporters and members of Congress, she added her belief that the 620-member Park Police force needed to be doubled to keep up with demands.
She was suspended and later fired for speaking publicly about Park Service problems.
It didn't matter that she was telling the truth. The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association estimated long ago that the entire federal park system was operating on roughly two-thirds of what it needed: a $600 million shortfall.
And duties of park police have expanded because of the need to protect national monuments from terrorist attack.
Chambers' case did not get the national attention accorded the departure from government of White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clark or former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. But like them, she was forced to leave or quit after speaking out about questionable government policies.
We applaud Chambers' grit in continuing to fight her dismissal. At first blush, it might seem that she and her principles are the only victims here.
But when our government sacrifices honesty in the name of loyalty or national security, all of us are diminished.