WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today called on the FBI to explain why it has failed to update its whistleblower policies, employee trainings and internal communications to comply with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (FBI WPEA). Grassley introduced the new protections last Congress to bring FBI whistleblower policies in line with other federal agencies. The bipartisan bill was signed into law on December 16, 2016.
As of yesterday, four months after the bill became law, the FBI’s official whistleblower policy directive still provides incorrect guidance to employees on how to make protected disclosures of wrongdoing because it does not reflect the changes made in the FBI WPEA. Multiple internal communications to employees containing inaccurate and outdated information about whistleblowers’ rights under the law have occurred despite enactment of the new law.
Additionally, the Office of Inspector General provided an updated version of employee training on FBI whistleblower protections months ago. That updated training has not yet been implemented.
In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Grassley requested a copy of a correct and updated policy, as well as details on steps the FBI will take to ensure employees are informed of their statutory rights under the FBI WPEA.
“Whistleblowers are critical to uncovering wrongdoing in government. However, the old process for reporting waste, fraud or abuse at the FBI was vague, confusing and left whistleblowers with conflicting instructions for how to properly make disclosures without fear of reprisals,” Grassley said. “The FBI has had months to update its policies. It’s failure to do so suggests a serious gap between rhetoric and reality on whistleblower protection at the FBI.”
The full text of Grassley’s letter follows.
April 14, 2017
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable James B. Comey, Jr.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20535
Dear Director Comey,
On December 16, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The new law clarified that FBI employee protections include disclosures made not just to specific officials listed in the previous regulation but also to supervisors and officers within the chain of command up to and including the head of the agency, members of Congress, and the Office of Special Counsel.
However, the FBI’s official whistleblower policy directive still does not reflect the changes to the law. It was apparently last reviewed on February 19, 2017 and still posted on the FBI’s internal system as of yesterday—nearly four months after the FBI WPEA became effective. Yet, it erroneously tells FBI employees that they are only protected for disclosures to the certain, specific officials that could receive protected disclosures before the new law.
Further, multiple employee communications issued at least a month prior to this policy on whistleblower protection in the FBI were inaccurate. I understand these and other errors were brought to the attention of agency leadership. Significant errors, including the February 2017 policy, reportedly remain in place.
An updated version of the training on FBI whistleblower protections was provided to the FBI by the Office of the Inspector General months ago, and has yet to be implemented. Further, no other effort allegedly has been made to ensure that FBI employees are fully aware of their new statutory rights under the FBI WPEA.
Accordingly, please provide the Committee with a copy of a correct, updated policy. Additionally, please describe what specific steps the FBI will take to ensure its employees are properly and timely informed and trained on these statutory clarifications through guidance and training.
Thank you in advance for your cooperation with this request. Please respond no later than April 27, 2017. If you have questions, contact DeLisa Lay of my Committee staff at (202) 224-5225.
Charles E. Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee
cc: The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Senate Judiciary Committee