Steven Aftergood: Presidential Directive Protecting Intelligence Community Whistleblowers

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Steven Aftergood

Obama Issues Directive on Intelligence Community Whistleblowers

President Obama yesterday issued Presidential Policy Directive 19 on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.”

The directive generally prohibits official reprisals against an intelligence community employee who makes a “protected disclosure” concerning unlawful activity or “waste, fraud, and abuse.” It does not authorize disclosure of classified information outside of official channels to the press or the public.

The directive was occasioned by the ongoing failure of Congress to extend the protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act to intelligence community employees.

The new presidential directive, reported today by Joe Davidson in the Washington Post, was welcomed by whistleblower advocacy organizations.

“While this directive is not a panacea, it begins to fill a large void in whistleblower protections and lays the framework for more government accountability where it is sorely needed,” said Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight. “Because the President directs agencies to create procedures for internal review of claims, we will be very interested in the rulemaking and strength of the due process rights in practice.”

“For the first time, intelligence community employees have free speech rights to challenge fraud, waste and abuse within agency channels,” said Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project, while cautioning that “Until agencies adopt implementing regulations, no one whose new rights are violated will have any due process to enforce them.”

“This policy directive represents a significant breakthrough, but it is no substitute for Congress to legislate permanent rights for national security whistleblowers, with third party enforcement the same as for other employees,” Mr. Devine said.

Phi Beta Iota:  This is a very positive step forward, but it does nothing for the many people that continue to be abused by “fitness for duty” physicals and other forms of intimidation, harrassment, and outright abuse.  One reason the secret world is lacking in innovative integrity is the raw fact that it drives its innovators out within 5-7 years of their Entering on Duty (EOD).  This then leads to both an empty bench in the middle, and when innovation is desperately needed, to the recruitment of very expensive contractors who can be relied on to be “sort-of” innovative without rocking the boat.  Key observation: at this point, the problems of the secret world are well beyond repair by honoring any single whistle-blower on any single instance of fraud, waste, or abuse.  The lack of integrity (in the holistic sense of the word, remembering these are good people trapped in a bad system) is “root.”  It will take a quarter century to create a Smart Nation, and the clock will not start ticking until the most senior elected and confirmed appointed officials want it so.

See Also:

21st Century Intelligence Core References 2007-2013