New intelligence community whistleblower protections lacking

On July 7, 2014, President Obama signed the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.” This bill includes a section providing “Protection Of Intelligence Community Whistleblowers.” These protections specify that employees who divulge information about possible misconduct within their agencies to their Inspectors General or other designated intelligence offices will be protected.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center released a statement urging intelligence agency whistleblowers to use these new protections with caution:

 “The whistleblower provisions passed in the Intelligence Authorization Act are a very small step forward. They are weak and essentially unenforceable. The provisions empower the President to exercise his discretion in determining the procedures to protect whistleblowers.  None of the protections mandated by the Whistleblower Protection Act (which covers other federal employees) are included. There is no provision permitting discovery or hearings, let along judicial review. The law does not ensure due process or even stipulate the remedies for which whistleblowers would be entitled if they were to miraculously prevail in a case.  The law does not provide for attorney fees to be paid to prevailing whistleblowers, who could go broke just trying to report fraud in government programs.”

 “Due to the lack of procedural protections, the law could easily morph into a bureaucratic trap leaving whistleblowers vulnerable and unemployed.  The law needs to be amended to have some teeth. In the meantime, we advise whistleblowers to use these new provisions with extreme caution, if at all.”

 It should also be noted that the new provisions do not cover intelligence agency contractors.