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Obama expands whistleblower protections to cover intelligence agencies

Directive urges security employees to report waste, fraud and abuse.

President Obama has extended whistleblower protections to cover employees working in the intelligence and national security fields.

According to presidential policy directive, PPD-19, signed Wednesday, employees who have access to confidential information can report waste, fraud and abuse without fear of retribution. Specifically, the directive prohibits agencies considered part of the intelligence community from retaliating against employees who make such reports to the appropriate authorities or curtailing their access to classified information.

The directive gives agency heads 270 days to modify their personnel policies to create a process for employees to report violations. It also orders them to develop an appeals process for employees who feel they have had their security clearance privileges wrongly removed.

The new policy directive adds the protections for national security employees who weren’t included in whistleblower legislation Congress passed. The House approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act last month. The Senate cleared similar legislation in May and will revisit the issue in November.

The Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group, praised the Obama administration’s policy directive in a statement released Thursday morning. GAP Legal Director Tom Devine said intelligence employees now have the means to combat waste and fraud within channels inside their agencies. He added, however, the policy directive was only the beginning and cautioned there are disincentives to protecting whistleblowers.

“There are only false due process teeth on the horizon,” Devine said. “Regulations to enforce whistleblower rights will be written by the same agencies that routinely are the defendants in whistleblower retaliation lawsuits.”

The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight had similar sentiments on the Obama administration’s policy directive. In a statement posted on the group’s website Wednesday, Angela Canterbury, director of public policy, said the move was a long time coming and “fills a large void” in whistleblower protections.

“We have repeatedly urged that anti-leak efforts include authentic protections for those who make lawful disclosures of wrongdoing in the intelligence community,” Canterbury wrote. “With the stroke of his pen today, President Obama did just that and took unparalleled action to protect whistleblowers, for which we are truly gratified and grateful.”

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