By Daphne Eviatar 2/4/09
Here’s some good news: since our story Tuesday about Congress’ failure to include adequate protection for government contractor whistleblowers in the stimulus bill, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has taken up the cause.
McCaskill has introduced a whistleblower amendment – S.AMDT. 196 – to the stimulus bill. Although the amendment isn’t yet available on the Library of Congress’ online legislative database, THOMAS, a press release from the National Whistleblowers Center said the amendment “includes protections for all companies, state and local governments that receive any stimulus money. It provides for inspector general investigations, gives employees the right to jury trials, and requires all companies to inform employees of their whistleblower rights.”
“The McCaskill amendment is an absolutely invaluable component of the stimulus bill to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected from fraud, waste, and abuse, ” said NWC President Stephen M. Kohn, preside in the release.
NWC Advocacy Director Lindsey Williams assures me that the bill covers internal whistleblowing by employees within their own companies – which was the subject of TWI’s story. But strangely, it does NOT include federal employees. They still remain unprotected in the Senate version of the bill, though whistleblower advocates are hoping that will be added during a joint House-Senate conference committee, since protection for federal employees was finally included in the House bill.
Protection for federal employee whistleblowers has become a point of contention among some Republicans, who claim that protecting whistleblowers within the federal intelligence agencies would endanger national security. However, I can’t see why classified intelligence information couldn’t be protected from public disclosure, and made available only to a congressional committee or inspector general that needed to review it, as is routine in courtroom cases and other situations where classified evidence is at issue.
Like the Bush administration’s broad use of the “state secrets” privilege to protect executive conduct from judicial scrutiny, this big concern with protecting executive authority on intelligence secrets once again seems to be placing executive secrecy – from other branches of government – over fiscal and legal accountability.