Today, the House Judiciary Committee will consider amendments to the USA Liberty Act of 2017, which reauthorizes the programs in Section 702 of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which has previously allowed the intelligence community to monitor U.S. citizens’ communications without a warrant. The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) applauds Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) for including an enforcement provision to the whistleblower protections for intelligence community contractors provided by the bill.
Abuses in the 702 program, including collecting U.S. persons’ communications, were first revealed by then-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. At the time he went to the press, there were no protections against retaliation for intelligence community contractor whistleblowers.
POGO champions strong and enforceable protections for whistleblowers, who are the first line of defense against waste, abuse, and fraud in the government. The original bill language claimed to provide legal protections against retaliation for intelligence community contractors, but lacked any way to enforce these protections--leaving whistleblowers at risk of severe retaliation for lawful, good-faith disclosures of wrongdoing.
POGO specifically endorses Title 2, Section 204 within the Manager’s Amendment to H.R. 3989, which goes further than the original language to protect intelligence community contractors’ right to challenge illicit retaliation against lawful whistleblowing.
POGO’s Director of Public Policy, Liz Hempowicz, stated:
“We commend the inclusion of these much-needed protections for intelligence community whistleblowers. Contractors currently make up a growing part of the intelligence community workforce, yet they are extremely vulnerable to the same consequences of whistleblowing that are illegal if the victim is a federal employee. This amendment would include a clear right for a whistleblower to challenge retaliation, a key element to enforcement that was previously missing.
By empowering individuals to blow the whistle when necessary, Congress fulfills its responsibility to protect whistleblowers, and destroys the incentive to depart from proper reporting channels and potentially risk national security.”