In 1997 the case of FBI whistleblower Dr. Frederic Whitehurst prompted President Clinton to issue an executive order enforcing FBI whistleblower protections. These protections are not perfect, but they have allowed FBI employees to come forward and report civil liberties and civil rights abuses. Currently, the Senate is "hotlining" the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (S. 372), which means it could pass without any public debate or vote. This bill eliminates the protections FBI employees have currently. S. 372 must be fixed now.
TAKE ACTION NOW! Read Fred Whitehurst's letter and urge your Senator to contact the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to ensure S. 372 is fixed!
Why does the FBI want to get rid of protections provided under 5 U.S.C. § 2303?
Under 5 U.S.C § 2303, FBI whistleblowers have the right to independent review of their claim, either by the Office of the Inspector General or the Office of Professional Responsibility.
The following reports are examples of these independent reviews, which have resulting in findings critical of the FBI. It is no wonder they are lobbying aggressively to push S. 372 through the Senate. If S. 372 passes as is, independent IG and OPR investigations like those listed below, will cease to exist:
A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Use of Exigent Letters and Other Informal Requests for Telephone Records, January 2010
A Review of the FBI's Use of National Security Letters: Assessment of Corrective Actions and Examination of NSL Usage in 2006
A Review of the FBI's Response to John Roberts' Statements on 60 Minutes, February 2003
Double Standards Report
The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation into Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases, April 1997
The FBI Laboratory One Year Later: A Follow-Up to the Inspector General\'s April 1997 Report on FBI Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases, June 1998
Whistleblower Protection Act (S. 372) is pending in the Senate and seeks to clarify the rules and protections that cover whistleblowers.
Some, however, think it will have the opposite effect, and it's drawing fire from some whistleblower groups.
March 9, 2010 (Politico). In a bid to secure a much-needed bipartisan victory, the Obama administration is trying to secure passage of protections for government whistleblowers. But some advocacy groups are complaining that the legislation does not go far enough to protect government employees in the national security field and, in fact, would roll back protections that FBI whistleblowers now have.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The FBI broke the law by improperly obtaining thousands of telephone records in terrorism investigations from 2003 to 2006, the U.S. Justice Department's inspector general said on Wednesday.
January 19, 2010 (Washington Post) The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions.
E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats.
Are jury trials better protection or just "window dressing"?
OhMyGov! August 24, 2009. A new whistleblower bill, the Whistleblower Enhancement Act of 2009, passed the Senate in late July to decidedly mixed reviews.
"This significantly strengthens protections of whistleblowers," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) of the Senate bill. But the praise is far from universal.
Washington Times. August 20, 2009. White House attorneys have backed away from an effort to weaken legal protections for FBI whistleblowers in a bill now before Congress, according to advocacy groups in negotiations with the Obama administration.
Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said this week that they were given guarantees that protections for FBI whistleblowers - federal employees who uncover fraud and waste - would be restored in a Senate bill when Congress returns in September.
The shift follows a report in The Washington Times earlier this month about the uproar among civil liberties groups and past FBI whistleblowers about proposed changes in the bill, which critics said would strip existing rights for FBI whistleblowers who expose fraud or misdeeds.
Washington Times. August 18, 2009. FBI whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst spent close to a decade fighting the Clinton White House to win limited protections for his brethren in the intelligence community willing to risk their careers to expose wrongdoing.
Now critics say the Obama administration is seeking to strip away those protections, and Mr. Whitehurst predicts the effort will set national intelligence employees back decades in their efforts to expose fraud and corruption.
"It's very dangerous thing that [President Obama] has done. That he would allow that as touting himself as a president of the people is astonishing," Mr. Whitehurst said.
Washington Times. August 7, 2009. Despite its pledge to better protect federal employees who expose wrongdoing, the Obama administration privately sought to weaken protections for national security whistleblowers under legislation making its way through Congress, according to correspondence obtained by The Washington Times.
E-mails that documented the White House's intervention show the White House counsel's office provided its own drafts of the proposed legislation in late June and mid-July.
While strengthening protections for some whistleblowers, the drafts weakened protections for FBI employees and reduced access to jury trials for those national security workers who sue for protection from retaliation after blowing the whistle.
Daily Kos. June 11, 2009, by Jesselyn Radack
This afternoon, a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee will hear testimony on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. Why should we care? Last month, President Obama said he would seek to bar the release of photographs that depict abusive interrogations at secret overseas prisons during the Bush years--photos that are similar to, or worse, than the Abu Ghraib photos disclosed by whistleblower Joe Darby back in 2004.
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