Grassley: IC should have whistleblower protections too
For nearly three decades, whistleblowers have relied on their guardian angel in Congress -- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
In 1989, Grassley co-authored the Whistleblower Protection Act. He enhanced the bill in 2012.
Now, Grassley wants to extend some of those protections to members of the intelligence community.
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Morris: Let's talk about the term 'non-critical sensitive.' What does that mean? And why did it prompt you to send a letter to President Obama last September?
Grassley: Non-critical sensitive. It's an example of excuses that are used not to give us information. I wrote to the president because it's completely contrary to a position he's taken from day one of his inauguration, 2009. He says, my administration is going to be the most transparent in the history of the country. Now, I would have to say Obama isn't a whole lot different than other presidents, sometimes, in not cooperating with Congress. But by his own benchmark of being the most transparent in the history of the country, he ends up being the most stonewalling of any president in the history of our country.
Morris: In April, you met with FBI officials to discuss their Insider Threat Program. According to The Washington post, that meeting did not go well. What happened?
Grassley: The people that were supposed to be briefing my staff, when certain questions were asked, they walked out -- said, we aren't going to talk about it. What was the purpose of the briefing? Here again, you get attorney generals, FBI directors, that say they are going to cooperate with Congress. You ask for that cooperation. You expect it. It doesn't materialize. One of the things we always ask when people come up for confirmation before our committees is, will you answer our letters? Will you appear before Congress? Will you talk to us on the phone? Will you give us the information we want? We always get a 'Yes.' They don't cooperate accordingly. They might answer a letter, but you don't get an answer the first time. You write back. After two or three times, you might get an answer. Or in the case of Fast & Furious, you might be fighting them in the courts.
Morris: How do you view Edward Snowden or Bradley Manning -- now Chelsea Manning -- relative to this discussion? Do you think inadequate whistleblower protections put them on a more problematic path?
Grassley: In both of those cases -- where there's intelligence involved -- the present law does not cover intelligence people. I've got legislation moving through Congress that would extend whistleblower protection to people in intelligence. That would be both DoD and CIA and things like that. So, for the case of having whistleblower protection for somebody like Snowden there just wasn't a process for him to do that. I'm suggesting that this legislation would give people a channel to go through if they want to whistleblow. On the other hand, you can't whistleblow national security information. That's quite obvious that you shouldn't do that. So, I have to view Snowden -- and anybody else like that -- as violating the law. You have to suffer the consequences of violating the law. At the same time, I'm saying that the intelligence community should have the same whistleblower protections that other people have.