New Whistleblower Protections: The Impact on Open Government

The OpenTheGovernment.org coalition is proud to include many champions for whistleblowers, including the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Government Accountability Project (GAP), and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Over the past few months, our partners pushed through two important measures to strengthen whistleblower protections. Here’s a rundown of what the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) and the policy directive for intelligence community Whistleblowers furthers government openness.

The WPEA

Most importantly, the WPEA closes loopholes that had been created through judicial decisions that had weakened the Whistleblower Protection Act. Whistleblowers were not eligible for protections if they were not the first person to disclose the misconduct, made a disclosure to a co-worker or supervisor, disclosed the consequences of a policy decision, or blew the whistle while carrying out job duties.

The WPEA also removes the precedent that “reasonable belief” of wrongdoing meant that whistleblowers had to present uncontestable proof to be eligible for protection. There is also specific protection for scientific freedom, giving whistleblower protections to employees who challenge censorship.

Under the new law, whistleblowers are guaranteed the right to tell their story and present their evidence of retaliation before the Merit Systems Protection Board rules on the case. The MSPB must also now report on the outcomes of whistleblower cases, from administrative judge through Board appeal, in its annual reports. With a past track-record of 3-224 against whistleblowers, this disclosure is essential.

For a full rundown of the WPEA’s changes, check out GAP’s page: http://www.whistleblower.org/program-areas/legislation/wpea/the-protections

Policy Directive

Presidential Policy Directive 19 instructs intelligence agencies to create develop procedures to protect employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse. The WPEA does not cover the intelligence community, which includes the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and others. Until this directive, there was no specific prohibition for retaliation against whistleblowers in these agencies. For more on the directive and what work is left to be done for intelligence community whistleblowers, POGO has more: http://www.pogo.org/about/press-room/releases/2012/20121010-president-obama-issues-directive-for-whistleblowers.html

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