(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and over 60 other groups, including the National Taxpayers Union and Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, sent a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca), urging him to reconsider his newly changed position of wishing to delay a House of Representatives vote on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) until next Congress. The WPEA would greatly strengthen whistleblower protections for federal workers.
“In one afternoon, 63 groups from all views joined to demand House passage of rights for whistleblowers,” commented GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. “That is only an opening taste of how strongly the public feels about protecting those who risk their careers to fight fraud, waste and abuse. Isn’t that what the last election was supposed to be about?”
The full letter is available here
In a news report this morning, a spokesman for the Representative stated that there were "new areas of concern that have been raised by the WikiLeaks" disclosures.
However, passing the WPEA (S. 372) would be a step to stem future disclosures to WikiLeaks by providing federal whistleblowers with enhanced whistleblower protections, specifically allowing national security and intelligence workers to expose wrongdoing through their chain of command, keeping classified information within the intelligence community. Specifically, the letter states:
S. 372 will prevent leaks and strengthen our national security. It creates a safe, responsible channel to work within the system, when none currently exists. Further, S. 372 does not under any circumstances protect public disclosures of classified information. Nor does it protect disclosures of sensitive sources and methods information to any unauthorized person or entity.
Many issues that have been raised by WikiLeaks have nothing to do with this bill and efforts to draw a connection between WikiLeaks and this good government measure are misguided. However, S. 372 is an anti-leaks measure.
Furthermore, the same news article states that one roadblock to the bill's passage is that Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) objected to it "because he thinks that, as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, he had not been properly consulted about the measure, according to congressional sources."
The letter points out that as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in 2006 Rep. Hoekstra recognized that whistleblower rights are necessary to prevent leaks, stating:
[P]eople [must] feel free that if they are observing illegal activity or they are observing activity within their departments that they are uncomfortable with, that they feel there is an effective process to bring that to the attention of the management within the community or to the committees of jurisdiction…. And that's why we need to make sure the whistleblower process is an open door, so that these folks are not faced with a, you know -- believing they're in an environment where they don't have a choice, that they don't -- see something they don't like, that they just go, "Well, I'll just go to the press.”
In response to this, the letter states:
For the first time, the WPEA provides genuine due process rights to challenge retaliation, enabling employees to work through safe channels within the government, so they are not tempted to go to the media with illegal disclosures. That is a win-win both for national security and intelligence community accountability.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.