Intelligence community employees to gain whistleblower protections

Wednesday - 10/10/2012, 9:03pm EDT

Employees in the intelligence community (IC) who report waste, fraud and abuse have gained whistleblower protections, under a directive President Barack Obama issued Wednesday.

The presidential policy directive aims to ensure intelligence and national security employees are able to legally report agency wrongdoing and be protected from retaliation for doing so.

The order specifically bars agency officials from taking any action as a form of reprisal against an employee who legally reports wrongdoing. That includes personnel actions, such as removal or demotion, as well as restricting whistleblowers' eligibility to access classified information.

By July 2013, each of the various components of the intelligence community must update their personnel policies to give employees a review process for any adverse actions taken against them, the directive stated. Employees alleging retaliation will also be able to request an external review by a panel of inspectors general.

The Project on Government Oversight, which first obtained a copy of the order, hailed it as a "landmark" directive.

In a release, the watchdog group said it has long urged "authentic protections for those who make lawful disclosures of wrongdoing in the intelligence community. With the stroke of his pen today, President Obama did just that and took unparalleled action to protect whistleblowers."

Within a year, the director of national intelligence will begin issuing guidance on what disclosures are protected under the directive and how the review process will work.

House bill omitted intelligence employees

The directive comes less than two weeks after the House voted to significantly expand whistleblower protections for federal civilian employees under the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

The bill would make it easier to punish agency officials who attempt to retaliate against whistleblowers and reasserts the right of whistleblowers to report misconduct to Congress.

However, the House version did not apply to employees in national security or the intelligence community. In order to advance to the President's desk, the Senate must approve the House amendments.

(The Association Press contributed to this report)

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