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Senate bill would increase protections for whistleblowers

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information    

Senate bill would increase protections for whistleblowers

  • Federal employees would not likely lose their security clearances for disclosing government wrongdoing and would enjoy other protections under proposed legislation.

June 16, 2003 — A Senate bill introduced Tuesday would give federal employees greater protection from harassment and dismissal when they disclose wrongdoings by their employers.

The Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act would defend federal employees when they make “any disclosure” that demonstrates a violation of the law, gross mismanagement, or waste of government funds.

Under the bill, whistleblowers need only “substantial proof” that wrongdoing is occurring in order to be provided with legal protection. Courts currently require employees to provide irrefutable evidence that a federal official is acting wrongly before they are afforded any protection as whistleblowers.

The bill guarantees that those with access to sensitive national security information cannot have their security clearances revoked indiscriminately by federal agencies. It protects whistleblowers who face “retaliation by having their security clearance removed,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) when he introduced the bill June 10.

The bill also gives the Merit Systems Protection Board, the body that handles most whistleblower cases, the right to oversee and review security clearance issues. Currently there is almost no judicial oversight when security clearances are revoked.

The legislation also would allow the Office of Special Counsel, which represents whistleblowers, the right to seek appeal to the Federal Circuit when cases are decided against a client.

“In order to be protected, the whistleblower must have a reasonable belief that X is going on and must provide accurate information,” Elaine Kaplan, the outgoing head of the OSC told EEO Adviser in a June 6 interview. “Requiring the whistleblower to present irrefragable proof to overcome a presumption that the government always does the right thing goes far beyond that standard.”

(The Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act, S. 1229) GS

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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