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Grassley, Durbin Propose Enhanced FBI Whistleblower Protections

Bipartisan proposal seeks to increase accountability at FBI

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have introduced bipartisan legislation to further protect whistleblowers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from retaliation. The FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act would allow FBI employees to appeal retaliation claims to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) – a board already utilized by several other federal law enforcement agencies to ensure whistleblowers have the right to a fair, third-party hearing.
“With transparency comes accountability, and it’s clear both are sorely needed at the FBI. From my years of working with whistleblowers, I know the number one concern among those who decide to come forward is retaliation, which could destroy their careers. Our whistleblower protection enhancement bill takes a commonsense approach to fixing this problem, utilizing an effective system that’s already in place for other law enforcement agencies. I appreciate Chairman Durbin for joining me on this important effort,” Grassley said.
"Whistleblowers bravely step forward to report when agencies like the FBI are skirting accountability. But if we want to ensure that whistleblowers can come forward, we must shield them from retaliation. My legislation with Ranking Member Grassley, the FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, will improve protections for those who report wrongdoing at the FBI and, in turn, increase transparency and accountability within our government," Durbin said.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was able to get this provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House earlier this month.
“The reason whistleblowers are able to blow the whistle — and protect taxpayers’ money — is because they know they’re protected from payback and bullying from their superiors. The fact that FBI employees don’t have whistleblower protection means they’re unable to report waste, fraud, and abuse. FBI employees must be treated like every other federal employee,” Speier said. “This legislation will ensure that happens and I’m pleased that I was able to get this essential reform included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act, and will fight for it to remain in the final conference agreement.”
Currently, the FBI handles all whistleblower reports internally. This increases the likelihood of whistleblower retaliation within the FBI, which deters employees from coming forward and prevents Congress from uncovering waste, fraud and abuse. This ultimately hurts taxpayers by hamstringing government transparency and accountability.
The FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act would help restore justice and accountability at the FBI by granting whistleblowers the right to take their case to the MSPB. The MSPB is currently utilized by the U.S. Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to handle whistleblower activity, including cases that involve sensitive matters.
Specifically, this legislation:
  • Maintains the FBI’s internal adjudication process for all initial claims but grants employees the ability to appeal determinations or adverse actions to the MSPB.
  • Prevents the FBI from using delay tactics to punish whistleblowers by introducing a kick-out provision. After 180 days, if the FBI has not made a final determination or corrective action order, employees can take their case directly to the MSPB.
  • Increases accountability at the FBI and guarantees that FBI whistleblowers are afforded the same protections that nearly every other federal law enforcement agency in the country enjoys.
Cosponsors of the proposal include Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).
A bill summary is available HERE.