Grassley Defends Whistleblower Law, But FBI Agents Want Assurances That Legal Fees Are Covered If Dept. Retaliates

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Kerry Picket Political Reporter
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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley disputed claims Thursday that a congressional subpoena would be necessary in certain cases for a government employee to give lawmakers testimony about wrongdoing while being ensured appropriate legal protections from their agency.

“I want to clear up a few things. I have been seeing reports that individuals within our federal law enforcement agencies want to talk to Congress about problems they have seen on the job. But, the reports say these individuals want to be subpoenaed by congressional committees, rather than coming forward voluntarily,” Chairman Grassley said in a floor speech.

He went on to say, “There is a perception that without a subpoena, they have no legal protection against retaliation for cooperating with Congress. That is nonsense and a misperception that has been fomented by FBI and DOJ leadership for many years.”

The Daily Caller first reported late Tuesday night that FBI agents would be willing to testify before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the problems plaguing the bureau if they receive a subpoena, arguing that Congress would have to pay their legal fees if they are mandated to reveal what they know. (RELATED: Sources: FBI Agents Want Congress To Issue Them Subpoenas So They Can Reveal The Bureau’s Dirt)

Grassley’s floor speech disagreed with the agents’ assumption that a subpoena would better protect them from agency retaliation than the Whistleblower law that he spearheaded, saying, “I’ve worked hard to strengthen legal protections, especially for FBI employees. You have a right to cooperate with Congressional inquiries, just as you have a right to cooperate with the Inspector General. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.”

The Iowa Republican added, “FBI agents and all federal law enforcement are protected for providing information to Congress. That’s true whether it is by a subpoena or not. If that is news to you, I encourage you to research the law yourself. It is found at title 5, United States Code, section 2303.”

Chairman Grassley made no mention in his remarks, however, about the issue about attorneys’ fees that official government whistleblowers must pay. The Daily Caller contacted Sen. Grassley’s office about the issue related to legal fees government workers, who step forward to reveal wrongdoing, must pay and is waiting on a response.

Sources explained that a subpoena can serve as financial protection for the agents, should their agency attempt to retaliate against them and the agents require legal representation in court to defend themselves.

“It would force whatever agency the [government worker] is from to pay for attorney’s fees should they retaliate,” one congressional source said noting the employee was called in before Congress in the line of duty.

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