FBI whistleblower Dr. Frederic Whitehurst issued a letter
today strongly opposing the repeal of FBI whistleblower rights contained in the current Senate version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372
). This bill is currently being “hotlined” in the Senate, a process by which legislation can be passed by unanimous consent, without any formal debate or vote.
In the 1990’s Dr. Whitehurst blew the whistle on scientific abuses in the FBI crime lab. He won his cases and as a result, President Clinton signed an order protecting FBI agents who blow the whistle. The current Senate bill repeals the Clinton order and the law it was based on. It will result in the dismissal of numerous pending whistleblower cases, including that of FBI Counterterrorism Unit Chief Bassem Youssef.
Dr. Whitehurst wrote:
“Like most Americans I was looking forward to seeing President Obama and Congress fulfill their promise to strengthen these whistleblower rights that protect Americans. However, I was horrified to discover that the Senate whistleblower bill does not do this. For national security whistleblowers it does the exact opposite. S. 372 repeals the FBI whistleblower protections that I sacrificed my career for.”
Dr. Whitehurst’s letter comes shortly after two other FBI whistleblowers, Jane Turner and Sibel Edmonds, issued a similar plea to fix the Senate bill.
Although many provisions of the bill enhance whistleblower protections, there are many “poison pills” that must be corrected, including these (see links to Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report accompanying S. 372):
S. 372 repeals the FBI whistleblower protection law
! Originally passed in 1978, improved in 1989, and given strong teeth by President Clinton in 1997, the law has been instrumental in permitting FBI agents to expose abuses ranging from civil rights violations, agent misconduct, and threats to our nations security. (see p.46
Agency heads of the Justice Department, Commerce Department and security agencies (Defense Department etc.), covering over half the federal workforce, are given the power to unilaterally fire a whistleblower with no administrative or judicial review
. (see p.73
National security whistleblowers are denied the right to have their retaliation cases reviewed by independent agencies, such as the Office of Special Counsel or the Inspector General and they are denied the right to court access. Instead, the very agency that fired the whistleblower is given exclusive power
to conduct the “fact finding” investigation into whether that agency broke the law. (see p.70
A new procedural roadblock impacting every federal employee was inserted into this 105-page bill. This provision gives all federal agencies the power to request the dismissal of a whistleblower case
without giving the employee an opportunity to have a hearing and will prevent most employees from obtaining a jury trial. (see p.57)
“Hotlining” requires unanimous consent, which means that every Senator, regardless of committee assignment, has the opportunity to weigh in on this legislation. It only takes one Senator’s demand that these issues be fixed in order to stop this Trojan horse from destroying existing whistleblower protections.
Please take the time to read both Dr. Whitehurst’s letter and Jane Turner and Sibel Edmonds’ letter. You can TAKE ACTION by requesting that your Senator place a hold on S. 372 until these national security provisions are fixed.
*Meryl Grenadier (NWC fellow) contributed to this posting.