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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Make It Safe Coalition Praises House Vote to Make Contractor Whistleblower Rights Permanent

Staff, December 07, 2016

Action follows Senate passage institutionalizing landmark reform

The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) praised House action to unanimously approve S. 795, legislation that makes permanent a 2012 pilot program creating best practice whistleblower rights for contractor employees outside the Intelligence Community (IC). The Make It Safe Coalition consists of whistleblowers and 75 NGO’s whose common mission is stronger protection for employees who use free speech rights to challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust.  

In 2012, Congress, led by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), enacted a four-year pilot to expand preexisting rights for Pentagon contractors and those receiving stimulus funds. Congress acted after Inspectors General credited prior whistleblower laws as effective resources to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in government spending. The pilot program provided jury trial rights for contractor whistleblowers that actually are far stronger than those available for government employees. Legislation to make the rights permanent unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. Senator McCaskill again successfully led the charge in the Senate. Lead sponsors to the House action were Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

While MISC applauded the action, it noted that a loophole created in 2012 continues to exclude IC contractor employees. While permitting whistleblower protection for the rest of government spending, in 2012 the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) forced removal of preexisting whistleblower rights for IC contractors, an action that Edward Snowden notes helped convince him to bypass normal channels in favor of media leaks. This Congress, both HPSCI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), have refused to permit action on or even to discuss S. 794, legislation that would extend whistleblower protection to IC contractors.

Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project legal director, noted: Whistleblower protection may be the only major issue on Congress with a unanimous bi-partisan mandate for good government reform. Monday’s unanimous House vote institutionalizes the infrastructure for best practice legal rights when contractor whistleblowers defend taxpayers against fraud, waste and abuse. Unfortunately, whistleblower rights are weaker for actual government civil service employees, who do not have access to jury trials. Worst of all, independent due process rights are nonexistent for Intelligence Community contractors. The result: there is no accountability for what often are government’s worst abuses of power and corruption, and the lack of rights working within the system leads to classified media leaks. Congress needs to finish what it started with this reform.