Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden issued the following press statement today in regard to the National Intelligence Agency’s plans to implement continuous monitoring of security clearance holders and it’s impact on whistleblowers who communicate with members of Congress:
Grassley, Wyden Press for Answers on Continuous Monitoring of
Whistleblower and Legislative Branch Communications
WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden are pressing the Director of National Intelligence to explain in detail how the intelligence community plans to implement continuous monitoring of security clearance holders without undermining legal protections for whistleblowers or constitutional protections for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch.
In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Grassley and Wyden noted that any monitoring within the executive branch must preserve the rights and confidentiality of whistleblowers when making protected disclosures to Congress or Inspectors General.
The senators wrote, “If whistleblower communications with Inspectors General or with Congress are routinely monitored and conveyed to agency leadership, it would defeat the ability to make protected disclosures confidentially, which is especially important in an intelligence community context. Truly meaningful whistleblower protections need to include the option of a legitimate channel for confidential disclosures. Inspectors General and Congress provide such an option. However, if potential whistleblowers believe that disclosing waste, fraud or abuse means putting a target on their backs for retaliation, they will be intimidated into silence. The failure to provide such protected alternatives could result in whistleblowers choosing to make unprotected disclosures in public forums, with potential negative consequences for national security.”
The Senators also wrote that continuous evaluation or monitoring of holders of security clearances in the legislative branch would raise serious issues and potentially violate fundamental privileges of the legislative branch guaranteed in the Constitution. Grassley and Wyden asked Clapper for an explanation about whether he believes the executive branch has the authority to engage in ongoing monitoring of legislative branch employees with clearances or members of Congress with access to classified information.
Grassley and Wyden asked for a response to their letter by July 15. A signed copy can be found here.