Today the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, a bi-partisan bill designed to protect FBI whistleblowers. The bill, introduced by Committee Chair Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, will reform current FBI whistleblower protections by providing compensatory damages for whistleblowers, expanding the scope of protected activity, ending bureaucratic delays in processing cases, and allowing for case review by independent administrative law judges. Now it will advance to the full Senate for a vote.
The FBI retaliated against whistleblower Jane Turner, who reported theft from Ground Zero and the victims of the 9/11 attacks by FBI agents. The current system failed to protect Turner, and she had to fight for over 15 years for justice. Turner made the following statement about the need for these reforms.
“My honest, and trusting use of the OARM system set up for whistleblowers was a failure, and resulted in a lesson to all other FBI whistleblowers that their struggle to tell the truth is being thwarted at all levels. Unless they are prepared to spend fifteen years of their lives seeking exoneration, and ultimately, find no justice, whistleblowers will remain outside of the system, unwilling to come forward. This is why I am writing this letter to support your efforts to reform non-existent protections. The FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) is critical and, if any case demonstrates why it is critical my battle certainly sets the prevailing reason.”
Turner wasn’t the only FBI whistleblower that the current system failed to protect. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that the FBI’s whistleblower protection system failed to guarantee basic due process rights and took an unacceptably long time to review cases. FBI whistleblowers have exposed illegal surveillance operations, systemic weaknesses in the counterterrorism program, civil rights abuses, and the FBI’s role in numerous wrongful convictions of innocent Americans.
Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, testified before the Committee regarding the need for this legislation. Kohn has represented high profile FBI whistleblowers since 1993, and noted that the bill:
“…is a major step forward for protecting the rights of all Americans from abuses within the most powerful law enforcement agency in the United States. Whistleblowers within the FBI have exposed thousands of illegal national security searches, systemic weaknesses in the counterterrorism program, civil rights abuses, and the FBI’s role in numerous wrongful convictions of innocent Americans. These whistleblowers must be protected. The Senate bill will greatly enhance the ability of FBI agents to report wrongdoing and ensure that the FBI protects all Americans from violations of their constitutional rights.”
We need your help now. Make sure Congress passes this vital reform law. Tell your representative to support S.2390, the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.