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Whistleblower protection bill goes to the White House

Nov. 14, 2012 - 07:24PM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C. (Karen Bleier / AFP via GettyImages)

President Obama is expected to sign the first major upgrade of whistleblower protections for federal employees in almost two decades.

After winning final congressional approval Tuesday, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is headed for the president’s desk.

“This legislation takes a giant leap forward in ensuring that legitimate disclosure of wrongdoing will be protected and accountability to taxpayers increased greatly,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a news release.

The bill:

• Explicitly spells out protections for Transportation Security Administration employees.

• Protects government scientists who challenge censorship.

• Suspends the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ sole jurisdiction for hearing appeals of whistleblower complaints. In the view of whistleblower advocates, that court almost always sides with the government. Under a two-year experiment, such appeals will instead be handled by circuit courts around the country, depending on where a whistleblower suit originates.

• Makes it easier for the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates federal whistleblower cases, to discipline officials found to have engaged in illegal retaliation.

Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, praised the bipartisan legislation as the first significant strengthening of whistleblower safeguards for federal workers since 1994. To the disappointment of POGO and other advocacy groups, the final bill does not cover employees at the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

In a directive last month, however, Obama barred agencies from firing or otherwise punishing security clearance holders throughout the government who report waste, fraud or abuse.

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