Senator Intervenes to Back Intel Community Whistleblower Ombudsman

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked for all documents related to Meyer's disciplinary case. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, asked for all documents related to Meyer's disciplinary case. Flickr user Gage Skidmore

The embattled whistleblower ombudsman for the intelligence community faced a disciplinary hearing on Dec. 13 that could result in termination, days after Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, intervened on his behalf, Government Executive has confirmed.

Dan Meyer’s role for the past four years as executive director of Intelligence Community Whistleblowing and Source Protection has come under fire in recent months under acting Intelligence Community Inspector General Wayne Stone. The result has been cutbacks in Meyer’s role in educating employees at all intelligence agencies about their rights and obligations in cases of reporting alleged waste, fraud or abuse.

Late last month, Meyer was escorted from the ODNI watchdog’s premises and his office sealed off with crime-scene tape, according to sources that relayed the details to the staff of Judiciary Committee chairman Grassley, a longtime whistleblower advocate.

On Nov. 29, Grassley sent letters both to Stone and Dan Coats, director of the Office of National Intelligence, demanding that all records related to Meyer’s disciplinary case and his subject files be preserved. “Mr. Meyer’s office reportedly contains evidence relating to open cases involving alleged misconduct by senior officials,” the senator wrote to Stone. “Therefore, it is paramount that you ensure the contents of Mr. Meyer’s office are independently secured by officials with no involvement with his proposed termination. Or any of the subject matters contained in his files.”

Grassley asked Coats and Stone to turn over all documents related to Meyer’s disciplinary case by Dec. 8. As of Dec. 15, no response has been received, Grassley’s staff told Government Executive.

Accusations of unresolved instances of retaliation against whistleblowers surfaced this fall during the confirmation hearing for Christopher Sharpley, President Trump’s nominee to be the permanent inspector general at the CIA, where he is currently acting.

In the letter to Coats, Grassley questioned Meyer’s sudden removal and placement on administrative leave. “For an agency to take such a drastic personnel action while there is no confirmed, permanent inspector general in place irreparably undermines the independence of that office,” the senator told Coats in a message copied to Judiciary ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Grassley asked that all records related to Meyer’s proposed termination “be preserved in anticipation of congressional oversight requests.”

Grassley went on to remind the ODNI that “obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime. Additionally, denying or interfering with the right of employees to furnish information to Congress is also against the law.”

He then placed the actions against Meyer in the context of indications that the ODNI might “hamstring” Meyer’s program, calling that program “critical to ensuring protections for whistleblowers in the intelligence community, safeguarding classified information and preserving the national security.”

Coats and his spokeswoman in October denied the suggestion by some of Meyer’s defenders that his program is on its way to elimination. Coats sent employees a memo saying “the ODNI whistleblower protection program is active, strong and an essential part of the Intelligence Community mission.”

The charges against Meyer are undisclosed, but are said by at least one insider to involve both alleged security violations and personal conduct.

Asked for comment on Friday, an ODNI spokesman cited a prohibition on commenting on personnel matters, but said the office will engage directly with the senator. “While we will not speak to any alleged cases or personnel matters, the ODNI unequivocally supports Intelligence Community whistleblower programs,” he added. “We are committed to ensuring that all IC personnel have the means available to report wrongdoing to a variety of authorized individuals without compromising national security or retaliation.”

Trump has nominated Justice Department attorney Michael Atkinson to be the permanent Intelligence Community inspector general.

(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

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