Federal agencies ignore anti-gag provision of whistleblower law


Research conducted by Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Judiciary Committee staff reveals stunning disregard by federal agencies for an anti-gag provision of the 2013 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA).

An April 2 memorandum, addressed to Special Counsel Carol Lerner and the inspectors general of 15 Executive Departments, reports on the status of federal implementation of the WPEA. Section 115(a), authored by Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa), requires “every U.S. Government nondisclosure policy, form or agreement” to explicitly notify employees that “government nondisclosure requirements do not supersede employees’ rights and obligations created by existing statute or Executive Order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) reporting violations and/or misconduct to an Inspector General, or (4) any other whistleblower protection.”

Respective agencies also must post the information on their websites along with “a specific list of controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions.”

The memorandum grades 15 Executive Departments on the adequacy of their response to a May 10, 2013 letter from Grassley requesting documentation of their implementation of the WPEA. Four Departments–Commerce, Interior, Justice and Veterans Affairs–did not respond and received a failing grade of “F.”  Education and HHS (Health and Human Services) received “D” grades. The rest received “C” grades with the exception of Treasury. The only Department found “fully compliant with section 115(a),” Treasury received the highest grade, a “B.”


In an op-ed published April 1 in The Hill, Grassley writes, “Resisting accountability and transparency is a persistent problem no matter which party controls the White House.” Still, the WPEA should have been implemented by now–nearly a year and a half after President Obama signed it into law, concludes the senator.

Meanwhile, the official who “spearheaded” implementation of Obama’s ban on whistleblower reprisal via security clearance reportedly has been threatened with an investigation and the loss of his security clearance,  a development likely to chill further implementation of the WPEA.

[photo source:  Wikimedia Commons]