The Intelligence Community's Official Whistleblower Channel Is Going To Start Hunting Down Leakers

from the prepare-for-the-worst-of-both-worlds dept

The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community is finally implementing long-resisted whistleblower-related reforms. The IG has previously buried reports indicating whistleblowers were being greeted with retaliation for going through the proper channels. Despite this, government officials continue to claim the only whistleblowers they’ll recognize are those who use the internal options — options that allow the government to control the narrative and, in many cases, do as little as possible to address complaints.

The Inspector General’s office is one of the official channels. After turmoil that consumed most of last year — including the ouster of Dan Meyer, the head of the IC’s whistleblower outreach program — a new Inspector General is in place. Michael Atkinson promised to get the IC IG’s house in order after news surfaced of its burial of a damning whistleblower retaliation report earlier this year, but so far it’s unclear what improvements have been made.

What does appear to be in place is the IG office’s participation in the Forever War on Whistleblowers. National security reporter Jenna McLaughlin noticed this disturbing development in the IG office’s latest semiannual report [PDF]:

Beginning in June 2018, the Investigations Division began to take steps to permit the ICIG to fulfill its responsibilities under Intelligence Community Directive 701, Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified National Security Information (ICD 701). In December 2017, the DNI revised ICD 701 to improve the IC’s efforts to detect, deter, report, and investigate unauthorized disclosures. The revised ICD imposed new responsibilities upon the ICIG to report and investigate unauthorized disclosures.

The office will somehow protect whistleblowers while hunting down those who operate outside official channels.

Under ICD 701, the ICIG will:

Review unauthorized disclosure cases where the FBI decides not to investigate or the FBI investigates but the Department of Justice declines prosecution, in coordination with the other Office(s) of Inspectors General involved, to determine whether an Inspector General administrative investigation is warranted.

Now, even if the FBI and DOJ decide a disclosure case isn’t worth pursuing, the IG will open its own investigation and, apparently, see if it needs to talk the DOJ into taking another look at it. The IG is limited to administrative investigations, but there’s no reason the DOJ can’t turn it into a criminal investigation after receiving more info from the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

Oddly enough, this is followed directly in the report by the ICIG’s announcement of a “Center for Protected Disclosures.” This is the IG’s belated compliance with whistleblower protections enacted during the Obama administration. Coming along too late to do people like Ed Snowden any good, the new hotline connects whistleblowers to the IG’s office, hopefully in a way that keeps their complaints confidential and shields them from retaliation.

Hopefully, this new Center works better than the IG’s old whistleblower business model, which saw all but one case resolved in favor of the government and the single outlier allowed to drag on for more than 700 days without resolution. But the IG’s plan to get into the leak-hunting business tempers this mild good news, suggesting it may utilize its resources to hunt down those who bypass an office some IC employees justifiably believe won’t protect them.

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Comments on “The Intelligence Community's Official Whistleblower Channel Is Going To Start Hunting Down Leakers”

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16 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

"We PROMISE it's not a trap, now just stand right there..."

Well, I’m sure having the same agency that is supposedly the ‘authorized’ way to report problems actively hunting down ‘unauthorized’ leaks will in no way lead people to think that going to them to report problems will just paint a huge target on your back by making you known, should they feel that brushing the problem under the rug is preferable to dealing with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

why now?

Very odd that it’s taken this long. In the first few months after Trump took office, federal agencies were leaking like a sieve, and nothing was being done about it. Now that the leaks have virtually come to a stop, there’s little need to start cracking down on leakers now. Or is this being put in place largely for the few months after the next president takes office?

Thad (profile) says:

Re: why now?

the leaks have virtually come to a stop

No they haven’t. We knew Kelly was on his way out before it was announced; we’ve heard about several of the candidates Trump approached to replace him who turned him down, we’ve heard he was fuming after last week’s meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, and that he’s been showing up for work around noon. None of that’s really whistleblowing, but it’s certainly leaking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: why now?

We knew Kelly was on his way out …… several of the candidates… turned him down …… he was fuming …… he’s been showing up for work around noon

So the "leak" is that Trump is unprofessional, quick to anger, and likes to fire people, and for some reason people don’t want to work for him?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Who do they think they are?

Doesn’t it seem that the first problem is associating the word intelligence with the intelligence community? Self serving blackmail collectors with a tendency to violence and really poor nation building skills (not just others, but ours as well) does appear to be a more accurate description.

And given the fact that they nominally work for us but don’t view us as part of their stakeholder group is arrogant beyond means.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The biggest problem is even when you blow the whistle, nothing actually changes… Congress pushes through another law making it legal again & chipping away the last few rights we allegedly have.

Besides who is going to offer up the articles of impeachment when all of Congress has been indicted for all of the laws they;ve been breaking for decades?

carlb (profile) says:

leaks? I thought this had already been taken care of...

The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, was a covert White House Special Investigations Unit, established July 24, 1971. Its task was to stop the leaking of classified information, such as the Pentagon Papers, to the news media.

The White House’s Special Investigation Unit, nicknamed the “Plumbers,” had been established by John Ehrlichman to prevent information leaks from the White House and were also involved in various activities perpetrated against Democrats and antiwar protesters.

The Plumbers had their own hierarchy, separate from that of CREEP – the Committee to Re-elect the President.

Sound familiar?

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