Yesterday the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations held hearings on whether national security whistleblowers have enough protection against retaliation and whether they have sufficient process to be able to report wrongdoing in their respective agencies. Some very interesting things came out of the hearings.
Russell Tice tried to report potential espionage in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and tried to find a way to report possibly illegal programs in the National Security Agency, and was declared paranoid, had his security clearance pulled, and was fired as the government’s way of saying thanks. Tice testified that he had further information to give to the Congress regarding other programs in NSA which may be illegal, but as it turns out, the intelligence committees which are supposed to oversee such programs don’t have the necessary security clearance (PDF) to hear about them; the armed services committees, however, do.
Members of the Subcommittee asked questions of each of the witnesses to determine how someone who finds wrongdoing would go about reporting it and what is likely to happen to them if they do. The witnesses described the retaliation which was taken against them, as well as the unresolved status of each of their respective allegations. The Subcommittee appeared concerned that whistleblowers don’t have adequate procedures to report wrongdoing and that their fear of retaliation may cause them to turn to the news media as a safer option instead.
As I was watching an Internet stream of the hearings, I missed much of it, and the audio kept cutting out on all the good parts, or I’d give you some nice quotes. If I can dig up a copy of video from the hearings, I’ll post an update.
Update: The Project On Government Oversight also points out that part of the problem is that inspectors general aren’t independent enough from the agencies they are supposed to oversee.
(Thanks to POGO.)
Update 2: Another good summary of the hearings from the New York Times.