Obama Issues Directive on Intelligence Community Whistleblowers

President Obama yesterday issued Presidential Policy Directive 19 on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.”

The directive generally prohibits official reprisals against an intelligence community employee who makes a “protected disclosure” concerning unlawful activity or “waste, fraud, and abuse.” It does not authorize disclosure of classified information outside of official channels to the press or the public.

The directive was occasioned by the ongoing failure of Congress to extend the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act to intelligence community employees.

The new presidential directive, reported today by Joe Davidson in the Washington Post, was welcomed by whistleblower advocacy organizations.

“While this directive is not a panacea, it begins to fill a large void in whistleblower protections and lays the framework for more government accountability where it is sorely needed,” said Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight. “Because the President directs agencies to create procedures for internal review of claims, we will be very interested in the rulemaking and strength of the due process rights in practice.”

“For the first time, intelligence community employees have free speech rights to challenge fraud, waste and abuse within agency channels,” said Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, while cautioning that “Until agencies adopt implementing regulations, no one whose new rights are violated will have any due process to enforce them.”

“This policy directive represents a significant breakthrough, but it is no substitute for Congress to legislate permanent rights for national security whistleblowers, with third party enforcement the same as for other employees,” Mr. Devine said.

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