MAKE IT SAFE COALITION PRAISES HOUSE VOTE TO MAKE CONTRACTOR WHISTLEBLOWER RIGHTS PERMANENT
Action follows Senate passage institutionalizing landmark reform
The Make It Safe Coalition (MISC) praised House action to unanimously approve S. 795, legislation that makes permanent a 2012 pilot program creating best practice whistleblower rights for contractor employees outside the Intelligence Community. (IC) The Make It Safe Coalition consists of whistleblowers and 75 NGO’s whose common mission is stronger protection for employees who use free speech rights to challenge abuses of power that betray the public trust.
In 2012 Congress, led by Senator Claire McCaskill, enacted a four year pilot to expand preexisting rights for Pentagon contractors and those receiving stimulus funds. Congress acted after Inspectors General credited prior whistleblower laws as effective resources to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in government spending. The pilot program provided jury trial rights for contractor whistleblowers that actually are far stronger than those available for government employees. Legislation to make the rights permanent unanimously passed the Senate earlier this year. Lead sponsors to the House action were Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.)
While MISC applauded the action, it noted that a loophole created in 2012 continues to exclude IC contractor employees. While permitting whistleblower protection for the rest of government spending, in 2012 the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) forced removal of preexisting whistleblower rights for IC contractors, an action that Edward Snowden has explained helped convince him to bypass normal channels in favor of media leaks. This Congress, both HPSCI and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), have refused to permit action on or even to discuss S. 794, legislation that would extend whistleblower protection to IC contractors.
Statements by MISC Steering Committee representatives follow:
Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project legal director: Whistleblower protection may be the only major issue on Congress with a unanimous bi-partisan mandate for good government reform. Today’s unanimous House vote institutionalizes the infrastructure for best practice legal rights when contractor whistleblowers defend taxpayers against fraud, waste and abuse. Unfortunately, whistleblower rights are weaker for actual government civil service employees, who do not have access to jury trials. Worst of all, independent due process rights are nonexistent for Intelligence Community contractors. The result: there is no accountability for what often are government’s worst abuses of power and corruption, and the lack of rights working within the system leads to classified media leaks. Congress needs to finish what it started with this reform.
Emily Gardner, Public Citizen, worker health and safety advocate: We commend Congress for taking action on this commonsense, bipartisan bill to make permanent an important program safeguarding certain federal contractor employees from employer retaliation. Whistleblowers play a critical role in protecting our democracy from waste, fraud and abuse. For this very reason, we also urge Congress to extend similar protections to all federal workers, especially intelligence community contractors, who remain virtually defenseless against retaliation when they bravely report corruption and other abuses of power.
Danielle Brian, Project On Government Oversight Executive Director: As our government’s reliance on federal contractors and grantees continues to increase, it is important to recognize that those individuals should have the same whistleblower protections as federal employees. Whistleblowers are the best source of information about fraud, waste, and abuse in the public and private sectors, and they are critical to promoting institutional accountability, compliance, and safety and security. We support the work of whistleblower champions in Congress who have worked tirelessly to extend whistleblower protections to the millions of contractors and grantees working for the federal government.