Grassley: FBI, DOJ Employees Have Protections, Legal Right to Blow the Whistle
Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Whistleblower Protections at the FBI
May 24, 2018
Mr. President, I want to clear up a few things. I have been seeing reports that individuals within our federal law enforcement agencies want to talk to Congress about problems they have seen on the job. But, the reports say these individuals want to be subpoenaed by congressional committees, rather than coming forward voluntarily. There is a perception that without a subpoena, they have no legal protection against retaliation for cooperating with Congress. That is nonsense and a misperception that has been fomented by FBI and DOJ leadership for many years.
I’ve worked hard to strengthen legal protections, especially for FBI employees. You have a right to cooperate with Congressional inquiries, just as you have a right to cooperate with the Inspector General. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
FBI agents and all federal law enforcement are protected for providing information to Congress. That’s true whether it is by a subpoena or not. If that is news to you, I encourage you to research the law yourself. It is found at title 5, United States Code, section 2303.
As you will see, nowhere in that law do its protections require a subpoena. Nor do they require the approval of an agent’s chain of command or congressional affairs staff.
Moreover, federal appropriations law also forbids the use of taxpayer dollars to pay the salary of any individual who interferences with, or attempts to interfere with, a federal employee’s right to communicate directly with Congress.
The Government Accountability Office recently found that an Obama Housing and Urban Development congressional affairs official did just that in 2013, so paying that salary violated the restrictions Congress had placed on the money. Based on that ruling HUD initiated collection efforts to recover a portion of the salary paid illegally as a debt owed back to the United States.
Congress has the power of the purse, and the bureaucrats need to understand that funding for their salaries comes with strings attached. You can’t prevent federal employees from talking directly to Congress. Period. Don’t even try.
If unelected bureaucrats have so much contempt for an employee who voluntarily informs the people’s elected representatives of facts necessary to do oversight, then we still have a lot of work to do. That kind of thinking is dangerous, and totally contrary to law.
And if that perception is persisting throughout law enforcement, or indeed throughout the government, then the leaders of those agencies are not doing their jobs. They are failing in their responsibilities as leaders. They are failing their workforce. And they are failing the American people.
I don’t want anyone out there to be confused. If you are a federal employee and you want to disclose wrongdoing to Congress or cooperate with a Congressional inquiry, you are legally allowed to do so. You should not have to fear retaliation.
No FBI agent or other government employee should be afraid to cooperate with Congress or the Inspector General. Any FBI agent who has information to provide or questions about their rights to provide it should not hesitate to reach out and ask.
Contact the Committee.
Contact the Inspector General.
There are people there who can tell you more about what protections may apply to your specific situation.