Bill to Strengthen Whistleblower Protections Advances

06.05.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Last week the House Oversight Committee reported out the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, a bill that is intended to increase protections for government employees and contractors who “blow the whistle” and disclose illegal or improper government activity.  Among other things, the bill would require intelligence agency heads to advise employees on how to make lawful disclosures of classified information without retribution.

“Whistleblowers are crucial in helping to expose waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement and criminal activity across the Federal government,” the May 30 House Committee report stated. “Their disclosures can save billions of dollars, and even human lives. It is vital that Congress encourage–not discourage–these well-intentioned individuals from coming forward.”

The pending bill would bolster the comparatively flimsy provisions of the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.  Establishing improved channels for lawful disclosures of illegal activity could serve to diminish incentives for unauthorized disclosures of classified information, the Committee suggested.

“These modifications are intended to reduce the often destructive disclosures that occur through anonymous leaks by providing an alternative in which institutional channels can be used by whistleblowers assured of certain safeguards,” the report said.

The House Committee did not approve a provision that would have allowed whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation for their actions to request a jury trial.

Last month, the Senate passed its version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act by unanimous consent.

“Approximately 450 whistleblower cases and around 2,000 complaints about prohibited personnel practices (including engaging in reprisals against whistleblowers) are filed against the federal government each year,” according to a Senate report on the bill.