Inspector General For Intelligence Community Buried Report Showing Whistleblower Retaliation
from the to-end-career,-blow-whistle dept
A report by Kevin Poulsen for The Daily Beast shows, once again, that those suggesting Ed Snowden should have used the proper channels to voice his concerns about domestic surveillance are either ignorant or deliberately obtuse.
Just prior to the Snowden leaks, President Obama enacted Presidential Policy Directive 19, which was supposed to prevent retaliation for whistleblowing. It was issued in 2012 and went into force just months before Snowden left the NSA with a trove of documents. However, it did not protect contractors like Snowden. Those protections were added by Congress years later. Not that it really matters. It has been well established those protections are mostly worthless.
Over the past year, there’s been a concerted effort to oust Dan Meyer — the person Intelligence Community whistleblowers are supposed to take their complaints to. Meyer filed his own whistleblowing complaint against the Defense Department, claiming IC officials retaliated against him for exposing waste and misuse of funds. Those gunning for top-level positions in Trump’s Intelligence Community have histories of retaliatory behavior against whistleblowers, which would further cement the reputation of the “official channels” as a good way to jettison your career.
According to The Daily Beast, the problem is larger than previously thought. The implementation of PPD-19 hasn’t changed anything. Whistleblowers are still facing retaliation or being ignored completely.
The investigators looked into 190 cases of alleged reprisal in six agencies, and uncovered a shocking pattern. In only one case out of the 190 did the agencies find in favor of the whistleblower—and that case took 742 days to complete. Other cases remained open longer. One complaint from 2010 was still waiting for a ruling. But the framework was remarkably consistent: Over and over and over again, intelligence inspectors ruled that the agency was in the right, and the whistleblowers were almost always wrong.
This damning report has never been presented to intelligence oversight nor to the general public. It was buried by the new head of the IC Inspector General’s office.
The report was near completion following a six-month-long inspection run out of the Intelligence Community Inspector General office. It was aborted in April by the new acting head of the office, Wayne Stone, following the discovery that one of the inspectors was himself a whistleblower in the middle of a federal lawsuit against the CIA, according to former IC IG officials.
Stone also sequestered the mountain of documents and data produced in the inspection, the product of three staff-years of work. The incident was never publicly disclosed by the office, and escaped mention in the unclassified version of the IC IG’s semiannual report to Congress.
In essence, the IC has no independent oversight. That’s not going to prevent whistleblowers from losing their jobs or security clearances. If the oversight is burying reports and withholding findings from its Congressional oversight, then there’s really no reason whistleblowers should stick to the proper channels. If the IC wanted to shut down leaks, this was completely the wrong way to handle it. If careers are on the line, IC employees may as well take their complaints to the press, where they’ll get heard, rather than to their supervisors or the Inspector General’s office.
The numbers quoted in the Daily Beast’s report show there’s scant chance the Inspector General’s office will be of any help to whistleblowers. Even if whistleblowers aren’t suffering direct retaliation, the office’s ability to “wait it out” prevents whistleblowers from escalating complaints further than the office uninterested in investigating complaints. To move forward, there must be some form of ruling or determination from the Inspector General. Without it, complainants have almost zero chance to seek other remedies, including suing agency officials for workplace retaliation.
The burial of this report by the Inspector General shows the official channels have suffered a perverse form of regulatory capture. The IG is no longer independent. It’s owned and operated by the Intelligence Community, highly-deferential to officials who have nothing to gain if whistleblower complaints are sustained. It was arguably worse when Snowden left for Hong Kong. The bad news is it hasn’t gotten any better over the last five years.