U.S. Intelligence Shuts Down Damning Report on Whistleblower Retaliation

The nation’s top intelligence watchdog put the brakes on a report last year that uncovered whistleblower reprisal issues within America’s spy agencies, The Daily Beast has learned. The move concealed a finding that the agencies—including the CIA and the NSA—were failing to protect intelligence workers who report waste, fraud, abuse, or criminality up the chain of command.

The investigators looked into 190 cases of alleged reprisal in six agencies, and uncovered a shocking pattern. In only one case out of the 190 did the agencies find in favor of the whistleblower—and that case took 742 days to complete. Other cases remained open longer. One complaint from 2010 was still waiting for a ruling. But the framework was remarkably consistent: Over and over and over again, intelligence inspectors ruled that the agency was in the right, and the whistleblowers were almost always wrong.

The report was near completion following a six-month-long inspection run out of the Intelligence Community Inspector General office. It was aborted in April by the new acting head of the office, Wayne Stone, following the discovery that one of the inspectors was himself a whistleblower in the middle of a federal lawsuit against the CIA, according to former IC IG officials.

Stone also sequestered the mountain of documents and data produced in the inspection, the product of three staff-years of work. The incident was never publicly disclosed by the office, and escaped mention in the unclassified version of the IC IG’s semiannual report to Congress.

The IC IG’s office declined to comment for this story.

The affair casts serious doubt on the intelligence agencies’ fundamental pact with the rank and file: that workers who properly report perceived wrongdoing through approved channels won’t lose their job or, worse, their security clearance, as a result. It also adds another layer of controversy to the Intelligence Community Inspector General office, already under fire for cuts to its whistleblower protection program and the unexpected sacking of the program’s executive director in December. In a confirmation hearing last month, Trump’s pick to head the watchdog agency acknowledged the apparent chaos in the office, citing a detailed expose by Foreign Policy magazine. “My first objective as Inspector General, if confirmed, will be to make sure the IC IG’s house is in order,” said former Justice Department prosecutor Michael Atkinson.

Stone shut down the whistleblowing inspection just days after taking over for Charles McCullough III, who’d served as the intelligence community inspector general from the day the office was founded in 2010 until his retirement in March of last year.

None of this was supposed to happen. In 2012, then-President Barack Obama signed a policy directive called PPD-19, which prohibits intelligence agencies from punishing workers who report abuses through approved government channels. The directive has been left in place under President Trump.

Among other things, PPD-19 requires the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at each agency to carry out an investigation when a worker complains he or she suffered retaliation for lawful whistleblowing. If, after investigating, the OIG finds no evidence of reprisal, the whistleblower can appeal up to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, who can choose to impanel a three-person appellate board, comprised of IGs from other agencies, to review the case and either affirm or disagree with the OIG’s decision.

The investigators found that basically never happened. “Absent a review process which adheres to mandated legal standards for reprisal investigations, the protections remain weak with minimal chance for a complainant to have a reprisal complaint substantiated,” read one of the conclusions in the suppressed inspection. “From the data it appears PPD-19 has had no impact on Agency reprisal investigations and/or protections for complainants making protected disclosures.”
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