Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Posted on 2015-12-10
LEAHY. Mr. President, whistleblowers serve an essential role in
providing transparency and accountability in the Federal Government. It
is important that all government employees are provided with strong and
effective avenues to come forward with evidence of government abuse and
misuse. To ensure that whistleblowers feel comfortable speaking up when
they discover wrongdoing, it is also imperative that they are afforded
protections from retaliation. That is why Senator Grassley and I are
joining together to introduce the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
``FBI'', Whistleblower Protection Enhancements Act of 2015.
Current FBI policies do not go far enough to protect whistleblowers. In March, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing that highlighted a number of serious problems facing whistleblowers at the FBI. We received testimony about the lack of protections for employees who report waste, fraud, or abuse to their direct supervisors. We also heard instances of the FBI failing to comply with regulatory requirements when conducting retaliation investigations, and that adjudication of contested cases can take years. One former employee, Michael German, testified in detail about how he was forced to end his distinguished career at the FBI after he disclosed to Congress serious deficiencies in the agency's handling of counterterrorism investigations. He chose to do this after making a protected whistleblower disclosure at the FBI that went nowhere while the retaliation continued.
The concerns expressed at the hearing echo concerns that were identified in two recent reports on the FBI whistleblower framework, one by the Department of Justice and the other by Government Accountability Office. Clearly the status quo is unacceptable. Congress should extend to FBI whistleblowers the same level of protection that is afforded other Federal employees who speak out about waste, fraud, or abuse. That is what Senator Grassley and I seek to do today with this bill.
Our legislation closely tracks the protections contained in the Whistleblower Protection Act. Importantly, we extend whistleblower protections to FBI employees who blow the whistle to supervisors in their chain of command. This common sense fix is crucial to protect those employees who dare to speak up and report concerns to their superiors. The bill also provides clear guidance on the investigation and adjudication of retaliation claims. Investigations will now be handled solely by the Office of Inspector General, rather than sharing this responsibility with the Office of Professional Responsibility. This will provide much needed clarity and consistency in the process. Contested cases will now be adjudicated by Administrative Law Judges instead of by the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management. Under this new process the Administrative Procedures Act will apply, ensuring a hearing on the record and strong procedural protections for all parties.
This bipartisan bill will help to ensure that FBI employees are able to blow the whistle on waste, fraud, or abuse at the FBI and not face personal repercussions for doing so. I urge the Senate to act quickly to take up and pass this important bipartisan legislation.