The latest whistleblower protections for the intelligence community don’t extend to federal contractors reveals the Intelligence Whistleblower Protections: In Brief report issued by the Congressional Research Service.
The newest addition to intelligence whistleblower protections, Title VI of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2015, only protects intelligence employees from retaliation when they disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, gross mismanagement or a violation of law. They are protected from retaliation from the Director of National Intelligence, the Inspector General of the IC, the head of the employing agency and others. Yet none these protections extend to intelligence contractors.
Restoring Whistleblower Rights
The Make it Safe coalition, which includes 49 organizations including the Government Accountability Project, recently sent a letter requesting Congress to quickly restore whistleblower rights for government contractors who work in the intelligence community.
“In the absence of adequate protections, (intelligence contractor whistleblowers) have only two alternatives to almost certain retaliation: 1) remain silent observers of wrongdoing; or 2) make anonymous leaks,” the letter says. “Whistleblowers must be free to report abuses of power that betray the public trust without fear.”
The Make it Safe coalition says the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is a perfect example of why intelligence contractors need to have a safe procedure. Snowden said the reason he didn’t work within the system as a whistleblower is that he said, “I had read the laws. I knew what would happen, I knew that there were no whistleblower protections that would protect me.”
What Insider Threat Initiatives mean for whistleblower protections
Sen. Charles E. Grassley believes that federal agencies are not giving careful consideration to whistleblower protection with new internal security programs like the Insider Threat Program.
“The Insider Threat Program has the potential for taking the legs out from underneath all of the whistleblower protections we have,” Grassley said.
While Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, included a provision to protect intelligence employees who are whistleblowers in the latest incarnation of the Intelligence Authorization Act, he admitted to being concerned about abuse.
“This really has the potential for abuse, and I think it could have a chilling effect on the public’s right to know and effective oversight of our government,” Wyden said.