By ANDRE FRANCISCO
A key House leader said he intends to advance whistleblower protection legislation before the end of the year.
"Our intention is to move something that is either identical or compatible with the SSCI [Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] solution and it is my intention to move that, with or without the support of the Select Intelligence Committee in the House," said Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) at an October 6 Transparency Caucus meeting. That solution--protections for intelligence community whistleblowers who use safe, legal channels to disclose wrongdoing--is currently part of the Senate version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act [WPEA], S. 743.
Issa was answering a question from Shanna Devine, the Legislative Campaign Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project (GAP).
Rep. Issa and Rep. Michael Quigley (D-IL), co-chairs of the Transparency Caucus, discussed a number of transparency bills including the WPEA and the DATA Act (which POGO also supports). WPEA would modernize and expand protections for federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse. It has come close to being law numerous times, but last year it died on the very last day of the 111th Congress after inaccurate connections with the Wikileaks controversy and a secret hold from an anonymous senator.
“I was deeply disappointed we almost or didn’t quite get through in the last Congress. So, we will get it through in this Congress,” Issa said. Importantly, Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over WPEA.
POGO is a long-time advocate for the WPEA, along with partners like GAP, members of the Make It Safe Coalition, and more than 400 ideologically diverse organizations which support the reform legislation.
Angela Canterbury, POGO’s Director of Public Policy, said, “We have been working for many months with Issa’s staff, the bills’ former cosponsors, and other congressional offices to introduce a bill that can pass the House with our support. But just when some have begun to lose patience with the delays, it is terrific to hear Issa strongly recommitting to getting it done.”
Additional good news for whistleblowers and taxpayers is that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is expected to vote on S. 743 on October 19. The bill already has strong bipartisan consensus support of senators (it passed unanimously in the last Congress), so we hope it will move quickly out of committee and to a Senate vote before the end of the year.
Issa also mentioned an interest in reforming the Inspector General (IG) system. We have raised concerns about the independence of the State Department IG and the lack of permanent IGs, including a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. Issa’s calls for reform, depending on the details, might be something that POGO could get behind.
You can watch the Transparency Caucus meeting below (Issa’s whistleblower comments are at about 16:00). Angela Canterbury serves on the Transparency Caucus’ advisory board, spearheaded by the Sunlight Foundation, and was recently on a panel about making whistleblowing work.
Andre Francisco is a POGO Communications Associate.
Photo of Rep. Darrell Issa at Conservative Political Action Conference via Flickr by Gage Skidmore.