Senate clears Atkinson, though tensions remain over fate of whistleblower program.
The Senate Monday night approved by voice vote former Justice Department attorney Michael Atkinson to be inspector general of the 17-agency intelligence community, more than six months after his nomination by President Trump.
Atkinson was voted out of committee in February, but has seen his nomination delayed while senators tangled with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over the fate of the whistleblower ombudsman’s office, from which longtime occupant Dan Meyer was recently fired.
Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had held up Atkinson’s nomination while negotiating with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, whom they’ve asked to turn over documents on the firing of Meyer.
Coats has said he supports continuing the Whistleblowing and Source Protection program, but the two senators have continued their hold on the nomination of Jason Klitenic to be the IC watchdog’s general counsel.
Atkinson earlier this year told senators at a hearing that he agrees with many on the Senate Intelligence Committee that “the IC IG needs to get its own house in order.”
Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst at the Government Accountability Project, which has tracked the Meyer case, told Government Executive on Tuesday, "The IC IG's been steered off course. If Mr. Atkinson holds true to his word, and removes the bad actors while reinstating good ones, then he will right the ship.” In the meantime, “whistleblowers shouldn't feel comfortable going to the IC IG unless they see positive and loud changes within Mr. Atkinson's first few months,” McCullough said.
McCullough’s father, Chuck, was the intelligence community IG until early 2017.