Statement of Angela Canterbury, Director of Public Policy, Project On Government Oversight:
We are very pleased that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has approved protections for national security and intelligence community whistleblowers in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014. Today, these workers must rely upon an unproven framework of protections recently mandated by President Obama. The reforms the Committee proposes would provide for the first time specific statutory protections for those who hold security clearances and have access to classified information.
The protections are very similar to those the Senate passed by unanimous consent last year, only to be blocked in the end by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). We hope that given the recent high-profile leaks of classified information, Chairman Rogers will reconsider his position and make it safe to use legal channels to disclose waste, fraud and abuse in our intelligence activities.
We are very grateful for the leadership of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in championing these whistleblower protections. While the Committee did not include all of the reforms the Collins and Wyden proposed, the protections in the bill will be landmark if they become law. We will continue to work with these committed senators and their staff to strengthen the reforms as the legislation advances. We must at least ensure that the protections available now are not weakened.
But there are other much-needed reforms to the status quo. In particular, we must protect all disclosures to Congress—not just those made to the Intelligence Committees. There must be far more independence in the review of both the wrongdoing disclosed and retaliation alleged. Also, it would be irresponsible to continue to deny the half a million contractors with security clearances the protections they need for legal disclosures of classified information.
If Congress wants to prevent leaks, it has to effectively reduce the risks for blowing the whistle legally.