FBI Can’t Have Whistleblower Protection Because It Would Encourage Too Many Complaints

The Department of Justice is undercutting Chuck Grassley’s efforts to provide FBI employees whistleblower protection. That became clear in an exchange (2:42) on Wednesday.

The exchange disclosed two objections DOJ has raised to Grassley’s FBI Whistleblower Protect Act. First, as Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed, DOJ is worried that permitting FBI Agents to report crimes or waste through their chain of command would risk exposing intelligence programs.

What I would say is that as we work through this issue, please know that, again, any concerns that the Department raises are not out of a disagreement with the point of view of the protection of whistleblowers but again, just making sure that the FBI’s intelligence are also protected at the same time.

I suspect (though am looking for guidance) that the problem may be that the bill permits whistleblowers to go to any member of Congress, rather than just ones on the Intelligence Committees. It’s also possible that DOJ worries whistleblowers will be able to go to someone senior to them, but not read into a given program.

Still, coming from an agency that doesn’t adequately report things like its National Security Letter usage to Congress, which has changed its reporting to the Intelligence Oversight Board so as to exempt more activities, and can’t even count its usage of other intelligence programs, it seems like a tremendous problem that DOJ doesn’t want FBI whistleblowers to have protection because it might expose what FBI is doing on intelligence.

That’s sort of the point!

Especially given Grassley’s other point: apparently, DOJ is opposed to the bill because it will elicit too many complaints.

One of the issues that your department has raised is that allowing FBI employees to report wrong-doing to their chain of command could lead to too many complaints. You know? What’s wrong with too many complaints? … Seems to me you’d invite every wrong doing to get reported to somebody so it could get corrected.

Apparently, DOJ knows there are so many problems FBI employees would like to complain about that things would grind to a halt if they were actually permitted to complain.

This is the FBI! Not only a bureau that has tremendous power over people, but also one with a well-documented history of abuse. It should be the first entity that has whistleblower protection, not the last!

Grassley raised two more points. First, in April 2014, DOJ promised to issue new guidelines on whistleblowing for FBI, clarifying who employees could go to. That hasn’t been done yet.

FBI has, however, created a video about whistleblowing which is, according to what Grassley said, pretty crappy. He’s asking for both those things as well.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

4 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    the bungling, misconduct, incompetence, and illegality of actions by high-level officials of government and corporations has been on public view forever in this country. unfortunately, it’s most often from a historical view, not a real time (or should i say real-time crime) view.

    there is no legislation, no change in the way our government does business nor in the way our corporations do business, that would make this nation run more effectively and with greater welfare for all than a strong whistleblower law protecting a whistleblower legally, economically, and physically. but whistleblower protection is not enough. there must be anti-whistleblower prosecutions for supervisors, lawyers, and top officials. those would be the teeth in the bill.

    in particular, lawsuits to punish whistleblowers should result in dismissals of officials and disbarments of lawyers involved.

  2. mzchief says:

    “Google’s always useful for free advertising” – @grsecurity ( https://twitter.com/grsecurity/status/707646500692602880 )

    That time when one discovers that all those central banks ( http://suitpossum.blogspot.co.za/2016/03/money-is-not-store-of-value.html ) using negative interest rates ( http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/your-money/in-the-bizarro-world-of-negative-interest-rates-saving-will-cost-you.html ) are run by some “free” code from Google ( following quote at https://twitter.com/CareyShenkman/status/708377789670543361 ):

    Carey Shenkman [email protected]
    Imp by @jerezim that even Signal is obtained from Google Play (analytics), traffic + metadata passes through Google. @logancij16 #logancij16
    11:43 AM – 11 Mar 2016

  3. Lucymarie Ruth says:

    Apparently the DOJ doesn’t know that it’s always been as American as apple pie to “whistle while you work”. Where did we lose our sense of tradition?

  4. orionATL says:

    laws and punishments alone won’t do the job.

    we need to become a nation that reveres whistleblowers. they need to become our true heroes, not the ersatz commercial heroes we now applaud perfunctorily at football games.

    we need, as citizens, to protect whistleblowers for the critical reason that some of them will be the only eyes and ears us citizens can ever hope to have into gov and corp shenanigans that can harm us all or leave us with less economic or physical security than we would otherwise have had with well-functioning govs and corps.

    the media will always fail us. reporters are always time pressured and managing editor/owner pressured, often ignorant of details, and often collaborative with power.

    whistleblowers and weblogs on the other hand were made for each other. the means to get a whistleblower message out is there exists in weblogs, but the protection of the whistleblower herself just does not exist except in mendacious assertions in congressional testimony, i. e., assertions that all edward snowden needed do was talk with some of his superiors. snowden’s response to this audacious lie: “without thomas drake, there would be no edward snowden.”

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