The National Whistleblowers Center has advocated on behalf of many FBI whistleblowers, including FBI Counterterrorism Whistleblower Bassem Youssef. NWC is the main public interest organization supporting FBI agents who have exposed significant agency misconduct, including the illegal FBI actions at Ruby Ridge, fraudulent science in the FBI crime lab, major breakdowns in the War on Terror and illegal retaliation against whistleblower agents. NWC’s efforts have resulted in systemic reform of the FBI crime lab, the introduction of Inspector General oversight of FBI misconduct, the removal and discipline of supervisors who retaliated against employees or engaged in misconduct, and ongoing Congressional review of the FBI’s wrongdoings. The NWC has also been invited to testify in Congress on the need to protect national security whistleblowers.
National Security Whistleblowers
Although national security
employees were deprived protections under the Whistleblower Protection
Act of 1989, that does not mean they have no rights. In fact, all
federal employees, including national security employees, are required
under Executive Order 12731 to report waste, fraud, and abuse to the
proper authorities. The President has mandated employees report.
However, Congress has not lived up to its obligations to protect these
There are four critical cases that have determined
that all federal employees, including national security employees, are
protected under the First Amendment and cannot be retaliated against on
the basis of protected speech. These decisions are:
Pickering v. Board Of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), which established First Amendment rights for federal employees.
Snepp V. United States, 444 U. S. 507 (1980), which recognized First
Amendment protection for national security employees in the context of
Weaver v. USIA, 87 F3d 1429 (1996),
litigated by attorneys working with the NWC, determined that federal employees could file a
case in U.S. District Court to prevent 1st Amendment abuses.
Sanjour v. EPA, 786 F.Supp. 1033, 1036 (D.D.C.1992), also litigated by attorneys working with the NWC,
gave all federal employees the right to enjoin their agencies from
retaliation for 1st Amendment activities.
In addition, national
security whistleblowers have used the Privacy Act and the Freedom of
Information Act to obtain protections.
Finally, in the FBI as a
result of a successful five-year legal battle by Dr. Frederic
Whitehurst, President Clinton was forced to sign an Executive Order
requiring the attorney general to provide protections for FBI
whistleblowers. 64 Fed. Reg. 58782.
National security agencies
have traditionally tried to gag attorneys and employees from blowing
the whistle by forcing them to sign non-disclosure agreements. The NWC
has strongly and successfully opposed overly broad non-disclosure
agreements. The NWC has fought back by forcing agencies to follow the
obscure, but important, Appropriations Act of 2006 that prohibits such
Lloyd -LaFollette Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7211, is another
law that provides protections for national security employees. Passed
in 1909, it was the first whistleblower law to protection federal
employees. This law prohibits retaliation against any federal employee
for providing information to Congress. The NWC has consistently
insisted on a whistleblower's right to appear before Congress. In
fact, the NWC had a major confrontation with the Department of Justice
(DOJ) in 2003 on this issue. The DOJ wanted to have "handlers" present
during a whistleblower's meeting with Congressional staff. The DOJ
eventually backed down and today whistleblowers can go to Congress without their supervisors knowing what they are reporting.