Four years after the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed take steps to streamline the FBI whistleblower program, the agency has not taken action, according to a program review.

The Government Accountability Office issued recommendations in 2015 to make improvements like shortening the time it takes to process whistleblower complaints.

So far, the agency has not:
  • Clarified regulations
  • Given complainants timeframes for returning decisions
  • Developed an oversight mechanism to ensure compliance with requirements
  • Assessed the impact of efforts to reduce the duration of complaints or requirements

FBI agent at white board
FBI file photo

In a May letter to the DOJ, National Whistleblower Center director John Kostyack urged the FBI to agency to adopt the GAO recommendations. “The law provides for FBI employees to make protected disclosures without retaliation; the practical reality must, as well,” he wrote.  

According to an April 10 letter from the GAO to Attorney General William Barr, the agency wants the DOJ clarify guidance “to clearly convey to whom FBI employees can make protected disclosures. “The GAO also asked DOJ to let complainants know approximately how long it would take to process their cases.

They also recommended that DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of the Inspector General, Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, and Office of the Deputy Attorney General “jointly assess the impact of ongoing and planned efforts to reduce the duration of FBI whistleblower retaliation complaints. This will ensure that these changes are in fact shortening total complaint length, without sacrificing quality.”

The GAO notes that in response to its 2015 report, Congress passed the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The law provides “a means for FBI employees to obtain corrective action for retaliation for disclosures of wrongdoing made to supervisors and others in the employees’ chain of command.” The FBI developed a training program that “clearly identifies to whom FBI employees may make protected disclosures., updated its policy directive and issued two fact sheets on whistleblower rights, according to the GAO. However, as of 2019, the DOJ’s regulations “have not been updated and are inconsistent with the current statute and FBI’s guidance and training,”

Resources

An FBI whistleblower flagged problems with forensics 25 years ago. A new report finds they persist

NWC: Protection from Retribution