Lightspring / Shutterstock.com

Justice IG Tells FBI to Improve Training in Handling of Whistleblowers

Protected disclosures not always honored in program former director Comey lauded.

The FBI, which has been rocked by firings and charges of partisanship, on Thursday drew fire from the Justice Department’s watchdog for inadequate training of supervisors in the handling of whistleblowers.

In a “procedural reform recommendation,” the inspector general, after a recent investigation that backed a claim of reprisal against a whistleblower, determined that the bureau’s “training on whistleblower protections does not provide sufficient guidance to FBI supervisors and managers concerning identifying and responding to potential whistleblowing activity under the U.S. code’s whistleblower statute and the Code of Federal Regulation’s FBI whistleblower regulation."

Potentially “protected disclosures” of waste or wrongdoing by a subordinate employee were interpreted by supervisors as “failing to follow the ‘chain of command,’ ” and those supervisors took personnel actions against the discloser when that employee communicated directly with a high-level official.

Though the recommendation didn’t specify the case, the IG on March 14 released an investigative summary that substantiated a claim of retaliation by an FBI whistleblower. It described a technician on temporary duty who claimed retaliation after he made a protected disclosure to the special agent in charge of his division. A home-office supervisor then banned him from sending “additional emails outside the division without her prior approval, threatened to give him a lower score on his annual Performance Appraisal Report, and told him that TDY opportunities ‘could dry up.’ ”

The responsibility for making a final adjudication of the reprisal claim lies with the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, the IG said.

In its broader recommendation, the IG reminded the bureau that such retaliation may be unlawful and reiterated that proper whistleblowing may constitute reporting any “violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

Officials to whom an aspiring whistleblower may disclose allegations, the IG reiterated, include the supervisor in the direct chain of command, the IG, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI’s inspection division, Congress, the Office of Special Counsel, or any employee designated by the above parties.

The admonishment comes after years of efforts to improve FBI managers’ understanding of the whistleblower laws. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office issued a report recommending clarification of roles, improved training and an acceleration of the investigatory process. Some 47 percent of all FBI whistleblower cases filed in one year were dismissed because the employee reported problems directly to their supervisor instead of reporting to one of the nine “designated officials,” it said.

In August 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey marked National Whistleblower Appreciation Day on Capitol Hill with a speech in which he said whistleblowers “are not entitled to be right, but they are entitled to be heard in an adult conversation.” Hence the FBI “talks about whistleblowers constantly and provides training in the laws, regulations and rules with a structure designed to encourage whistleblowers to raise their hands,” Comey said.

In December 2016, Congress passed a narrow version of a bill originally introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Titled the FBI Whistle Protection Enhancement Act, it was designed to clarify that FBI whistleblowers are protected if they report wrongdoing to their supervisors or through their managerial chain of command.

Last October, a federal circuit court ruled against an FBI agent who claimed the right to defend himself in federal court or a third-party appeals agency (such as the Merit Systems Protection Board) against adverse personnel actions using whistleblower retaliation.

That case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and on March 8, the National Whistleblower Center joined with the Project on Government Oversight in a friend-of-the-court brief seeking a high court hearing for John Parkinson and others after Parkinson reported employees who used FBI surveillance planes for joy rides and to pick up prostitutes.

The brief argues that the Justice Department’s “procedures for FBI whistleblowers are not an adequate substitute for a veterans’ preference-eligible FBI employee raising a whistleblower claim in an MSPB case,” according to the center.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.