Federal Watchdog: FBI Mistreating Whistleblowers

Government’s own watchdog agency believes whistleblower retaliation complaints aren’t being investigated properly.


February 24, 2015—This might not come as a surprise, but government whistleblowers are seldom treated fairly.

According to a recent report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more needs to be done to address the Department of Justice’s poor handling of FBI retaliation complaints. From the GAO website:

“Unlike employees of other executive branch agencies, FBI employees do not have a process to seek corrective action if they experience retaliation based on a disclosure of wrongdoing to their supervisors or others in their chain of command who are not designated officials. This difference is due, in part, to DOJ’s decisions about how to implement the statute governing FBI whistleblowers.”

GAO also claims that at least 17 cases have been dismissed. That leaves whistleblowers involved unprotected. The oversight is due to a series of factors. Part of the DOJ’s reason for not offering whistleblowers enough support is the lack of resources. But the report points to a lack of clear directions when it comes to identifying who a whistleblower is supposed to contact. Poor knowledge of who’s to listen to the concerns may also put whistleblowers in danger.

“We also found that DOJ and FBI guidance is not always clear that FBI employees reporting alleged wrongdoing to a supervisor or someone in their chain of command may not be a protected disclosure. Ensuring that guidance always clearly explains to whom an FBI employee can report wrongdoing will help FBI whistleblowers ensure that they are fully protected from retaliation.”

The DOJ claims to be taking  steps to provide a better response to whistleblowers. Clearing retaliation complaints more efficiently is one of them.

GAO also pointed to the fact DOF officials often fail to investigate retaliation claims properly. Failure to follow regulatory requirements may be undermining investigations. It could also be putting the safety of whistleblowers in jeopardy.


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