ATF Informs Employees of Whistleblower Rights Following Letter from Senator Grassley

National Whistleblower Day

On February 26, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) issued an announcement addressing Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) concerns regarding the issuance of The Prohibited Discourse of Unclassified, Sensitive Information Without Proper Authorization memo. The agency-wide memo was met with intervention by Grassley when it failed to adequately advise ATF employees of their statutory rights and protections to disclose information. 

Grassley states, “The ATF ought to encourage, not discourage, its employees to report potential waste, fraud, and abuse. The federal government needs more sunshine to bring accountability—but ATF’s original memo was shady.” He continued, “We have whistleblower protection laws on the books for a reason, so I’m glad ATF corrected itself to at least be up to code. This importance of whistleblowers knowing their rights cannot be overstated”. 

The recent announcement addresses federal employees’ protected rights to disclose information to Congress, Inspectors General (IG), and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) when discovering a “violation of any law, rule or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or censorship related to scientific research or analysis if censorship meets one of the above-listed categories,” under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. 

Stephen M. Kohn, co-founder of whistleblower firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto and Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center, commends Grassley’s efforts, “Time and time again, Senator Grassley has stood up for whistleblower rights, and we are grateful to see him do so again here.”

On February 12, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent letters to the ATF and the United States Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJ-OIG) regarding the issuance of the memo, highlighting that it threatened ATF employees with disciplinary action or criminal charges for unauthorized disclosure of unclassified information.

“The ATF memo fails to explicitly inform ATF employees of their Constitutional and statutory right to make protected disclosures of wrongdoing and misconduct to Congress, inspectors general (IG), and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC),” wrote Grassley.

Grassley’s intervention on the matter highlights the importance of Congressional oversight in ensuring accountability within administrative agencies by guaranteeing federal whistleblower provisions are correctly implemented.

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