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Intel Bill Passage is Breakthrough for Whistleblower Protections

Congress is finally sending protections for national security and intelligence community whistleblowers to President Obama for his signature. While the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, which the House passed Tuesday, is not everything we sought, it goes a long way to putting into statute President Obama’s policies. This is a breakthrough for whistleblowers and accountability—a real anti-leaks measure.

I’d especially like to thank two members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and their staff who championed these protections: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

Too often, federal workers who witness wrongdoing don’t speak up out of fear of risking their reputations, losing their jobs, or worse. This legislation will encourage them to speak up about wrongdoing and help us to root out government corruption in the most secretive and unaccountable parts of government.

However, this legislation does not protect intelligence community contractors, leaving them without statutory protections for using legal channels to disclose wrongdoing. So there is more work to be done.

After the Senate passed the bill, we noted in a joint statement with the Make It Safe Coalition that the bill provides:  

  • Protection for intelligence community government workers against retaliation banned by the Whistleblower Protection Act. Disclosures by whistleblowers would be protected when made within their agencies, to the Office of Inspector General, or to the select congressional intelligence committees.
  • Extension of free speech rights to workers holding security clearances. Whistleblowing now will be accepted as an affirmative defense in legal proceedings involving these workers, although agencies that normally are defendants will still control initial hearings, and legal burdens of proof are modified for national security concerns.
  • Equal protection for those exercising personnel rights or providing testimony.
  • Rights to appeal to an administrative board selected by the Director of National Intelligence.
  • Appeal board authority to rule do novo that an agency action is illegal whistleblower retaliation, with authority to order continued employment, and payment of up to $300,000 in compensatory damages (attorneys’ fees are available under the Equal Access to Justice Act).
  • Preservation of all existing rights, including limited whistleblower protection already available for FBI employees.

By: Danielle Brian
Executive Director, POGO

danielle brian Ms. Brian's areas of expertise include: National Security, Government Oversight, Wasteful Defense Spending, Ethics, Open Government, Whistleblower Issues

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: Intelligence

Authors: Danielle Brian

Submitted by TV Dinner at: July 24, 2014
One problem is that there is no specific law that punishes government personnel who violate the Constitution. Bureaucrats can come up with all kinds of secret programs that require employees to violate their oaths to defend the Constitution and nobody ever gets punished, so there is no meaningful disincentive to prevent new abuses from arising.
Submitted by Anonymous at: June 28, 2014
Far over 90 percent of the United States government now classified material is information that the common taxpaying citizen should be entitled to know, and it should be immediately made 'unclassified' and available for routine public access. Work done in secret encourages wrong-doing as well as rightly causes pubic concern. Much of classification is cover-up of official acceptance shady/corruption in government policies and corporate abuses. Corruption, tyranny, mismanagement/mistakes must be pointedly separated from the routine overly classified government operations. The US government secret agencies that in fact 'secretly' broke our Constitutional laws, should be prosecuted for their crimes against us, (while officially operating in secret). Whistle Blowers should be officially and warmly rewarded for their exposing official agencies that abuse their positions of trust.
Submitted by Viking at: June 28, 2014
ute that they left Snowden out to dry. He was your inspiration and yet because we elect anarchist to congress,we daren't say anything intelligent.

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