Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to President Obama on Tuesday urging him to release a report from the Attorney General on the state of the country’s FBI whistleblower protections. Obama commissioned the report in his October 10, 2012 Presidential Policy Directive (“PPD”) 19 entitled “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” He requested that the Attorney General provide a report in 180 days that assessed the effectiveness of the FBI whistleblower regulations, the enforcement of those regulations, and a description of any needed improvements.
Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the report this past June – a whopping 14 months late – but the report has not yet been released. Grassley and Wyden are now pressing Obama to immediately release the report to Congress so that it can determine whether additional legislation protecting FBI whistleblowers is needed. Here is the full text of the letter:
August 12, 2014
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
When the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 prohibited certain personnel practices in the FBI, it instructed the Attorney General to prescribe regulations against reprisal (5 U.S.C. § 2303). Further, it stated that the President should provide for the enforcement of the section in a manner consistent with section 1206 of the Civil Service Reform Act, which established the Office of Special Counsel. Instead, no action was taken until 1997, when President Clinton issued a memorandum on April 14 delegating these responsibilities to the Attorney General. Now, seventeen years later, effective procedures for protecting whistleblowers at the FBI are needed more than ever.
On October 10, 2012, you issued the Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD 19), entitled “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” Section E of PPD 19 mandated that the Attorney General deliver a report to you within 180 days assessing the efficacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regulations for deterring prohibited personnel practices, as well as ensuring enforcement of those regulations and describing any proposed revisions which would increase their effectiveness.
This 180 day period passed on April 8, 2013, and the report was not delivered at that time. However, we understand that as of June 2, 2014, the Attorney General finally delivered the report.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is currently studying the effectiveness of the Justice Department’s mechanism for investigating retaliation in the FBI as well. In addition to having the findings of the GAO study, Congress also needs to know what the Attorney General’s review found so that we may be fully informed before considering any legislation related to this topic. Therefore, we respectfully request a copy of the Attorney General’s recent report.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
In a joint news release with Grassley, Wyden said that “Whistleblowers play a critical role in holding the government and its employees accountable…. The FBI has had special rules for its own employees for decades that desperately need to be updated. It’s important for the Justice Department to explain whether they will fix this on their own, or if Congress needs to step in.”
Grassley noted that the FBI has a bad track record of dealing with whistleblowers, saying that it “has a history of whistleblower retaliation, often shunning whistleblowers to basement offices without cause and giving them little or no work…. It’s disturbing to see the trend continue in the most recent allegations of a new retaliation method called Loss of Effectiveness orders being used against whistleblowers at the agency.”
Of course, with the whole Snowden whistleblower affair still a hot subject in Washington, what protections should be afforded to national intelligence whistleblowers remains a highly-debated issue. It was only a few weeks ago when President Obama signed into law legislation that for the first time offers protections for whistleblowers within the national intelligence community outside the FBI. Whether Congress will follow suit with improved protections for FBI whistleblowers remains to be seen. But that seems to be what Senators Grassley and Wyden are hoping for with their call on Obama to release this long overdue FBI whistleblower report.
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