Secrecy News

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.

One thought on “Obama Issues Directive on Intelligence Community Whistleblowers

  1. Why doesn’t the policy directive mention the Office of Special Counsel as an avenue where nat’l security whistleblowers may safely blow the whistle? For one, it is the only avenue that guarantees confidentiality and channels the disclosures to Congress and the National Security Advisor. Moreover, the directive directs the Director of National Intelligence to educate the workforce about their options. Many of them don’t know what’s out there (otherwise why would we have the Drake case or the Kiriakou case?)

    Tom Devine of Government Accountability Project once told me, in CYA mode, that “Everybody knows that Title 5 [executive branch] employees can make classified disclosures to OSC.” Well either that’s true, in which case this directive is not that groundbreaking (since it’s largely redundant). Or, and this is more likely, OSC is being treated like the ugly and ignored step-child of the federal bureaucracy, once again, for the 35th year in a row. It seems it will remain obscure yet again, and the rights granted will be insufficient and inferior to what’s already on paper.

    If only Devine was telling the truth then, or trying to make it come true now.

    See more at mspbwatch periodnet.

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