Intel Community Watchdog Reports Steady Rise in Whistleblower Activity
The intelligence community’s internal push to encourage legitimate whistleblowing appears to have helped increase disclosures of potential wrongdoing as its inspector general’s office has stepped up training and outreach, a new report suggests.
“Integrity and accountability are the building blocks of a strong and effective intelligence community,” said the just-released semiannual report covering April through September of 2016. Fourteen disclosures to Congress from agency employees in fiscal 2016 marks a 127 percent increase over previous figures, according to the report.
Requests for review of individual complaints by outside inspectors general—the so-called external review option under guidance for implementing President Obama’s 2012 presidential policy directive on whistleblowing—grew to 11, a 550 percent increase over the entire fiscal year.
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One example of such a case involved a complaint from a National Security Agency employee who claimed to have suffered retaliation from an inspector general after disclosing allegedly wasteful spending on conferences. The external review panel of three IGs backed the whistleblower, and the NSA IG was removed.
The steady activity came as the whistleblower protection staff within the intelligence community’s IG office has boosted internal training events by 146 percent and outreach events (visits to orient agency employees) by 172 percent, the semiannual report said.
The uptick is relative, an IC IG staffer told Government Executive, because of an “initial bow wave” of complaints received in fiscal 2014 and 2015 “as IC employees and federal security clearance holders were introduced to the program.” And the reduction in case load places the active load about where it was expected to be this year.
“The good governance and civil society stakeholders receiving outreach are typically potential whistleblowers or review requesters, and the opinion leaders and enablers who either inform or assist potential whistleblowers,” the report said.
The office, which implements the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, works with congressional intelligence committees to review cases; it had reduced its open case load by 60 percent, while also exceeding all its performance goals.
The whistleblower protection staff later this year plans to upload an outreach tool that will allow them to reach more constituents within intelligence agencies on both classified and unclassified systems.
During the recent election season, the report added, intel community IG staff processed several complaints of possibly improper political activity by staffers in violation of the Hatch Act. The staff’s hotline received 109 contacts during the period.