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.

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  • identicon
    Will B., 21 Feb 2018 @ 2:01pm

    Well, I feel the need to point out one thing...

    "...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."

    Now, I certainly agree with much of what Techdirt says here, and I have no love for the intelligence community, I do have to say: IF this statement is accurate, it sounds like they may have had a legitimate conflict of interest issue with that specific investigator.

    That said, they could have just taken him off the report and nullified his specific findings, rather than shit-canning the entire report.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 2:16pm

    Seems like the usual suck has been upgraded. Of course, the mere fact that pointing out something wrong is being a "whistleblower" frames everything in a bad way in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 4:41pm

    If it's bad then whom does it harm? Those doing it or all of us? If only them, then why do those doing it get to decide if it's bad?

    There is a definitive distinction between whistleblowing and treason. That the people in positions of power either fail to discern that distinction, or fail to do so for ideological reasons is of import, but less so than that they fail to discern.

    If something is leaked to another country, but is otherwise kept secret, that is treason. If something is leaked to a responsible person with the ability to do something about something that is wrong, or leaked to the entire world when course one fails, that is whistleblowing. That no action is taken on the information disclosed could not be classified as treasonous, it should be classified as illegal (what the actual charges should be would be up to someone with better legalese than I can muster). That actions are taken in the form of 'shooting the messenger' only harms the rest of us.

    There needs to be some entity, separated from the government in some way that prevents the government from interfering, including how people are appointed/elected/hired for such office, that has the power to do something about wrongs done by the government. I know, a fourth estate that isn't the fourth estate, maybe a fifth estate because the fourth estate is failing in their, 'ahem' responsibilities. Possibly due to undue influence from the first estate, who actually has no responsibility to interfere, but does have some economic influence on that fourth estate. Where they should not have any influence.

    Those persons whom are not treasonous, but mere whistleblowers should feel no harm from their actions. That includes how others within their current assignment interact with them, and especially managers who are responsible for performance reviews and immediate colleagues. No harm, no repercussions. Most difficult, but could be dealt with even if it takes an early retirement with full pay and benefits.

    Possibly more important, those with any hand in blocking the information from reaching appropriate sources, or the public, or attempting retribution or trying to obscure the information being reported should suffer dire consequences. Those should include termination, and trial by jury for actions detrimental to the well being of the nation (let the legalese people define that better). Yeah, just what they would like to claim the crime the whistleblower committed was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2018 @ 1:55am

      Re: If it's bad then whom does it harm? Those doing it or all of us? If only them, then why do those doing it get to decide if it's bad?

      That the people in positions of power either fail to discern that distinction,

      Or think that the very idea that they would let the agency under their control break the law is a personal attack.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 21 Feb 2018 @ 6:11pm

    Want to blow the whistle?

    Go to Russia where you will be safe from retaliation. USA!, USA!, USA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 6:21pm

    ...the official channels have suffered a perverse form of regulatory capture. 

    Huh? In the backwoods where I come from, they call that "corruption!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 7:07pm

    i WONDER..

    For a gov. by the people, by the people..
    Where are all the people??

    I speak to a person from another country, abit younger then I am..And he has asked me questions and Said what he see's and has heard, about our country.

    Clarifying and explaining this country is getting very hard. Talking about different Ideals in gov. is always fun, and interesting from others perspective. The one thing I suggest is that Most forms of Gov. Can survive as long as Corruption is held to a minimum..And keeping the Poor, abit happy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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