National Security Whistleblowers Could Win New Protections

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, and the committee ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, and the committee ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. Susan Walsh/AP

One of the many government responses to this summer’s leaks from fugitive National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden could be a new set of tools to allow defense and intelligence agency whistleblowers to make controversial disclosures through official channels.

The Senate Intelligence Committee recently voted 13-2 to approve a fiscal 2014 intelligence authorization bill that would enhance oversight in the wake of Snowden’s revelations of what critics view as domestic spying in the name of combating terrorism. But the measure would also institute “new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders,” a committee summary said.

To guard against a future Snowden, the bill would allow additional funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the intelligence community. And it would empower the director of national intelligence to strengthen the process of investigating and reinvestigating employees seeking access to classified information.

“With our debt at $17 trillion and growing, we face stark budget realities that demand wise and efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., ranking member of the intelligence panel. “This year’s intelligence authorization bill achieves both objectives by providing clear guidance and appropriate resources to the intelligence community, while enhancing the committee’s oversight of vital intelligence activities.”

Added panel Chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., “We recognize that budget reductions and sequestration are impacting our intelligence agencies, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure the DNI and other intelligence leaders have the resources and flexibility they need to protect the nation.”

Whistleblower advocates were pleased that the bill would restore provisions for intelligence workers under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act that the Republican-controlled House killed in prior years.

“This is the first step toward a safe alternative to leaks for potential whistleblowers in the intelligence community,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. “If approved, it will be a landmark congressional action to create free speech rights within intelligence agencies, and against security clearance retaliation throughout the civil service.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.