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Whistleblower provisions for intelligence workers clear committee

A few weeks ago, an important whistleblower protection proposal was passed by the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). These protections are detailed in the Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2014 fiscal year. This committee passage represents an important development in the area of workers' rights. For while many workers are protected by law when they seek to file whistleblower claims, intelligence workers have not consistently been granted access to this set of legal protections.

One year ago, the SSCI restored whistleblower provisions within the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) that apply specifically to workers within the intelligence community. However, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) then demanded that these provisions be removed from the active legislation. Their efforts were successful, because at the time the committee's threats that it would block wider whistleblower rights for all federal employees seemed viable.

The legal director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) recently explained why these provisions are so critical to the advancement of workers' rights. He noted both that these provisions will not jeopardize national security and that, "This is the first step toward a safe alternative to leaks for potential whistleblowers in the intelligence community. If approved, it will be a landmark congressional action to create free speech rights within intelligence agencies, and against security clearance retaliation throughout the civil service."

These whistleblower provisions have received bi-partisan support and will hopefully therefore be fully implemented in the near future. However, as the HPSCI blocked similar efforts both in 2012 and 2010, it is possible that resistance from the committee may imperil this critical advancement.

Source: Government Accountability Project, "Senate Intelligence Committee Approves Whistleblower Rights," Dylan Blayloc, Nov. 7, 2013

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