Friday night, President Trump fired the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Mr. Michael Atkinson. In a statement issued Saturday, Atkinson said that he “faithfully discharged” his duties as “an independent and impartial Inspector General” who was “legally obligated” to ensure whistleblowers had “effective and authorized means to disclose urgent matters” to Congress. “Inspectors General are not involved in policymaking; they are not partisan,” he stressed.
In an expression of solidarity, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, led by Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department’s inspector general, also issued a statement. “Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight,” said IG Horowitz.
IG Horowitz promised continued “aggressive, independent oversight” from the Inspector General Community, including oversight of the $2 trillion in emergency federal spending through the CIGIE’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.
The President has drawn extensive criticism from both whistleblower advocates and Members of Congress over the firing of Atkinson. President Trump made it clear he dismissed Atkinson in reprisal for his role in revealing the Ukraine matter that led to the President’s impeachment.
Whistleblower attorney Stephen. M. Kohn explained, in an opinion piece in The Hill, how the “president’s treatment of inspector Atkinson will reverberate throughout the entire inspector general community, regardless of whether current IGs assert that they will continue to follow the law.”
Atkinson closed his statement with a plea to government employees and contractors who may have observed fraud, waste, or abuse in the federal government.
“The American people deserve an honest and effective government. They are counting on you to use authorized channels to bravely speak up – there is no disgrace in doing so. Itis important to remember, as others have said, that the need for secrecy in the United States Intelligence Community is not a grant of power, but a grant of trust. Our government benefits when individuals are encouraged to report suspected fraud, waste, and abuse. I have faith that my colleagues in Inspectors General Offices throughout the federal government will continue to operate effective and independent whistleblower programs, and that they will continue to do everything in their power to protect the rights of whistleblowers. Please do not allow recent events to silence your voices.”