WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden today expressed optimism that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whistleblowers may receive better protection under new guidelines outlined in a proposal to President Barack Obama.
In August, Grassley and Wyden asked the President to release a 14-month overdue report on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” The President had requested on Oct. 10, 2012, that the Attorney General deliver a report to him within 180 days assessing the effectiveness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation regulations for protecting whistleblowers as well as ensuring enforcement of those regulations and describing any needed improvements.
“Nobody’s got on rose-colored glasses that the culture for whistleblowers at the FBI will change anytime soon, but many of the items outlined in the FBI’s analysis are promising. I’m not a fan of all of the recommendations, but it would at least be a step forward if some of them are actually implemented and carried out. That said, in an agency with so much focus on the chain of command, it makes no sense for the FBI to be the only agency in the federal government not to protect disclosures of waste, fraud, and abuse to immediate supervisors,” Grassley said.
“They have been a long time in coming, but many of the Justice Department proposals to improve protections and due process for whistleblowers at the FBI would be significant improvements,” Wyden said “What’s important now is to make sure the Department follows through and really makes those changes.”
The report makes several proposals that would bring FBI whistleblowers more in-line with the rest of the government, such as equalizing a whistleblower’s access to witnesses with the agency’s access, awarding compensatory damages for retaliation, and publishing decisions on internal whistleblower appeals as well as the annual Justice Department reports on FBI whistleblowing. The report proposes expanding the categories of officials to whom a protected disclosure can be made, but only to the top two levels of management in each office instead of to a whistleblower’s immediate supervisor. Limiting protected disclosures to only a handful of officials per office would still be more restrictive than any other agency in the federal government, including other law enforcement and intelligence community agencies.
A copy of the letter and the report from the Justice Department can be found here. A copy of the letter from Grassley and Wyden requesting the report can be found here.