On December 6th, the National Whistleblower Center filed an amicus brief in support of FBI whistleblower Darin Jones. Jones alleged he made whistleblower disclosures about an improper award of a million contract and other improper procurement spending at the FBI. The FBI fired him from his position as a Supervisory Contract Specialist, which Jones alleges was done as an act of retaliation for his whistleblowing. The FBI argued that the current inadequate whistleblower protections at the FBI did not protect Jones because they require whistleblowers to report to the highest-ranking FBI official at their job site, rather than reporting to their immediate supervisor, which is consistent with FBI policy. Because Jones behaved in a manner consistent with standard practices at the FBI of reporting alleged wrongdoing through the managerial chain of command, he was written out of whistleblower protection for supposedly not reporting his allegations to the correct office and the retaliation against him has thus far been tolerated by the Department of Justice.
In an amicus brief filed in support of Jones, the National Whistleblower Center argues that the whistleblower protections do in fact apply to Darin Jones. The argument here is that if FBI officials have the authority to hire or fire personnel, they are necessarily acting in the shoes of the Attorney General of the United States. This means the Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits these officials from retaliating against a whistleblower if they are aware of the Whistleblower’s legal reporting activities because under current law FBI employees are protected if they disclose wrongdoing to the Attorney General. In Jones’s case the FBI officials who fired him were acting on behalf of the Attorney General and they were the very same officials to whom he reported his whistleblower disclosures. You can read the amicus brief here.
The National Whistleblower Center has testified about the dysfunction in the FBI whistleblower protection system before. Fortunately, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act this past April. This bill would fix many of the issues preventing FBI whistleblowers from receiving protection, including the absurdity at play in Darin Jones’s case.
The House recently passed a vital piece of the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that would clarify that FBI employees like Darin Jones would be fully protected for disclosing wrongdoing to their supervisors. It remains to be seen whether the Senate will take a vote on this badly needed improvement to whistleblower protections before it finishes its work this year.