Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was on Capitol Hill Wednesday to talk about his report on the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The debate over the whistleblower complaint about President Trump and the Ukraine was playing out elsewhere. But Senator Dianne Feinstein of California took the opportunity to ask Horowitz about whistleblower protection.
“Whistleblowers have a right to expect complete, full confidentiality in all circumstances,” Horowitz said, calling it a “very important provision.”
Horowitz added that “any politically motivated investigation undermines the rule of law.”
His support of whistleblowers is well established. Horowitz was joined by about 60 inspectors general in an October letter to the Department of Justice lawyers. They note that the DOJ decision to essentially overrule the Intelligence Community Inspector General over the Ukraine call whistleblower complaint set a bad precedent.
Whistleblowers play an essential public service in coming forward with such information, and they should never suffer reprisal or even the threat of reprisal for doing so. For over 40 years, since enactment of the Inspector General Act in 1978, the IG community has relied on whistleblowers, and the information they provide, to conduct non-partisan, independent oversight of the federal government. Because the effectiveness of our oversight work depends on the willingness of government employees, contractors, and grantees to come forward to us with their concerns about waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct within government, those individuals must be protected from reprisal.
Like other law enforcement officials, the IG’s are familiar with the whistleblowing process. They need insiders to get their jobs done. In the letter, he refers to a July report put together by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, that looks at the role whistleblowers have played in exposing problems and fraud. Cases include poor care at the VA, lax oversight at the Federal Aviation Administration and Social Security and health care fraud. The groups also set up a new website to consolidate IG reports and help whistleblowers who want to file complaints.