Nearly all of President Barack Obama’s agencies are ignoring a transparency law intended to shield whistle-blowers from overreaching federal “non-disclosure agreements,” according to a new report by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top-ranking GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Officials in the Education Department and in the Health and Human Services agency have implemented none of the law’s whistle-blower protection requirements, says the April 2 Grassley report.
Top officials at the Department of Justice, Interior, Commerce and Veterans Affairs ignored letters from Grassley asking for evidence that they have implemented the whistle-blower protection law, which Grassley helped pass in 1988.
The whistle-blower protections were strengthened in 2012 by the Whistle-blower Protection Enhancement Act, which made any violation of the anti-gag provision “a prohibited personnel practice,” according to Grassley’s report.
Only one agency, the Department of Treasury, scored a B in Grassley’s rating system, because it is implementing the minimum elements of the ant-gag rule.
Eight agencies scored Cs for partially implementing the anti-gag rule.
During his 2008 election, Obama promised to implement the “most transparent administration in history.”
Since then, his deputies have blocked numerous congressional investigations, investigated journalists, jailed federal officials, and stonewalled myriad media investigations into many scandals. For example, a 2009 White House directive told agencies to send routine Freedom of Information Act requests to White House lawyers for review if they impact White House “equities.”
Even reporters at Obama-friendly news sites have complained.
“This is most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered,” New York Times reporter David Sanger said in 2013.
“At great risk to their careers, whistleblowers expose waste, fraud, and abuse… whistle-blowers are too often singled-out for retaliation and other personnel practices prohibited by law,” said the report, which was sent by Grassley to 16 Inspectors Generals at Obama’s agencies.
Nearly all of the IGs were picked by Obama’s deputies, and later confirmed by the Democratic-run Senate.
“Agencies that require employees to enter so-called ‘non-disclosure agreements’ can abuse such agreements to prevent the flow of information about wrongdoing to Inspectors General and to Congress,” said Grassley. The 2012 law requires agencies to information employees about the whistle-blower protections when they’re signing the non-disclosure agreements.
“Enforcing cover-ups in this manner mocks the rule of law and undermines the public trust,” he added.
Attorney General Eric Holder did not answer any letters from Grassley’s office.
“No response has been received to date, despite three follow-up emails from Senator Grassley’s staff and two additional letters from Senator Grassley, including a public letter about the matter to the Justice Department’s Inspector General,” Grassley’s report noted. FBI officials are still using do-not-disclose forms that don’t mention “the required anti-gag language,” said the report.
Even the agency that scored best, the Treasury Department, hid the required anti-gag protections from employees. In its response to Grassley, the agency provided a copy “of the anti-gag provision that is posted on its website as a standalone PDF-document [which is] not part of the Whistleblower Protection page where the posting would be accessible to those whom the statute is meant to reach,” said Grassley’s report.
“[The] Treasury’s current posting — while technically accessible on the Department’s website — is difficult to find for those employees who do not know to search for the posting using ‘whistleblower protection enhancement act’ as keywords,” Grassley said.