The following NSWBC letter was sent to House Committee on Government Reform: Rep. Tom Davis-R, Chairman, and Rep. Henry Waxman, Ranking Member; House Judiciary Committee: Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Chairman, and Rep. John Conyers, Ranking Member; Senate Judiciary Committee: Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman, and Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member; Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee: Senator Susan Collins, Chairman, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, Ranking Member.
May 23, 2005
On May 18, 2005, we, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, wrote to you requesting support for legislation to provide meaningful protection for whistleblowers who report deficiencies affecting our national security.† We believe this is an important first step to ensure that current government employees who see ongoing problems in our national security mission have the confidence to come forward and report these deficiencies before they can be exploited by our enemies.
But we need to recognize this is only a first step.† National security whistleblowers do more than just report waste, fraud and abuse in their agencies; they identify vulnerabilities that continue to leave our nation at risk.† Legislation to protect them from retaliation is important, but it is just as important to ensure that the deficiencies they report are quickly and thoroughly addressed and corrected.†
The current system does not ensure that national security whistleblower complaints are adequately investigated.† Too often our agencies immediately adopt a defensive posture that inhibits an objective investigation of the complaint.† When retaliation is involved the focus of the investigation turns to the mistreatment of the whistleblower rather than the security vulnerability they reported.† In many of our cases the deficiencies we reported were never adequately investigated, but even when whistleblower complaints are addressed the investigations often take years, with no concern for the immediacy of the threat to national security.† By the time the investigation concludes, the national security threat at issue is often moot.† Our national security agencies have repeatedly demonstrated they do not effectively investigate themselves.
The National Security Whistleblowers Coalition proposes a two-pronged approach:
First, improve the internal controls within the intelligence community so employee complaints regarding deficiencies affecting national security are immediately and objectively investigated; and
Second, improve congressional oversight of the national intelligence community by giving Congress the tools necessary to compel cooperation with congressional inquiries.
Internal controls within the national intelligence community can be improved through the creation of an independent, statutory Inspector General of National Intelligence Authority with the power to report directly to the Director of National Intelligence, the President and the Congress.† This would provide loyal employees of the various national intelligence agencies an avenue to report security deficiencies within their agency to an independent authority that could conduct an objective review of the allegations.†
Internal controls can also be improved through the creation of an independent Ombudsman of National Intelligence Authority, which would provide employees with an advocate if their agency engaged in retaliatory activities in response to a whistleblower complaint.† Keeping the retaliation issue separate from the Inspector Generalís investigation of the complaint would allow the Inspector Generalís investigation to remain focused on the national security issue.
Congressional oversight can be improved by requiring the Inspector General and Ombudsman to report directly to the Congress on a regular basis.† Congress also needs tools to compel cooperation with congressional investigations and inquiries.† Too often oversight is thwarted when the agencies responsible for national security delay responses to requests from Congress.† National security issues are immediate and Congress requires timely responses in order to fulfill their Constitutional oversight obligations.† Legislation should be enacted that requires the agencies responsible for our national security to respond to congressional inquiries within a time certain.
Finally, oversight is too often thwarted through the improper over-classification of documents and testimony.† Information is being classified not to protect national security, but rather to hide governmental misconduct.† This imperils national security and erodes public trust in government.† Congress should support an independent de-classification process to improve oversight and public accountability of the national security community.
None of these proposals are original.† They were all part of the Senate Intelligence Reform Bill, which passed the Senate with bi-partisan support.† The 9/11 Commission said that strengthening congressional oversight was the most important of all of its recommendations.† The threats to our national security are growing, and it is time for Congress to act.
We, the NSWBC, look forward to working with you on these issues and all issues relating to our national security.
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition