The Government Doesn’t Want You to Know How It Retaliates Against Whistleblowers

Intelligence agency whistleblowers must walk a fine line: reporting the wrongdoing they witness within their own agencies without leaking sensitive information to the public. Unfortunately, the top brass not only tends to disregard whistleblowing reports from its lower ranking members, they openly permit punishment of the workers for bringing up the issue in the first place.

In fact, as the Daily Beast reports, the government doesn’t even want its own report on this matter to get published.

Last year, the Intelligence Community Inspector General office conducted a study into retribution by agencies (such as the FBI, CIA and NSA) against internal whistleblowers. Staffers found that in the 190 cases where intelligence workers alleged they had been punished after reporting unethical behavior, the intelligence agencies only found in favor of the whistleblower on one occasion.

Per the report, the only time that a case was settled in the whistleblower’s favor, it took just over two years for that to be resolved. There’s also still an ongoing complaint that’s been waiting for a verdict since 2010.

Before the report could be finalized, however, the (then) newly appointed acting director Wayne Stone of the office ordered it terminated. Presumably, since it showed intelligence agencies in a terrible light, Stone didn’t want it to see the light of day.

To further bury this would-be oversight, the Intelligence Community Inspector General office omitted the study entirely from the office’s biannual report to Congress despite it being one of the office’s major projects over the preceding months.

Daily Beast reporter Kevin Poulsen writes, “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.”

To see intelligence agencies almost always subsequently deeming their own retaliation against whistleblowers as fair play creates an environment where workers are afraid to report misconduct. Whistleblowers should be congratulated for making our intelligence agencies better institutions, not threatened, fired or demoted for speaking up.

That’s not just unethical, that’s explicitly not allowed. Six years ago, Barack Obama signed PPD-19, an order that specifies that intelligence whistleblowers cannot face retribution so long as they make their claims through sanctioned government channels.

Intelligence agencies are also directed to conduct a formal review when a whistleblower claims they’ve been targeted, but the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s office discovered that this process was rarely followed.

Rob Johnson, a former deputy for the office, corroborated this with Daily Beast. “We saw a couple of cases from some offices that showed that they didn’t speak to witnesses that they should have, or that the cases had languished,” he said. “And we saw cases where they took no action.” He added the study was launched to investigate if, in fact, the problems were systemic.

Although disturbing, it’s probably not surprising to see intelligence agencies come down on whistleblowers since it mirrors the government’s overall vilification of them. Heck, the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s office itself has been involved in the pushback, just last year cutting the whistleblower protection program’s budgets and firing the director.

At a point in time when intelligence agencies are being blasted by some in the media and Congress for being corrupt and/or partisan, it’s all the more important for these bureaus to commit themselves to the highest levels of ethics and excellence. Without allowing whistleblowers to come forward and address perceived wrongs, it gives Americans reason to suspect that something is afoot.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W
Marie W6 months ago


Jessica C
Jessica Cabout a year ago

thank you

natasha p
Past Member about a year ago


Winn A
Winn Aabout a year ago


Winn A
Winn Aabout a year ago


RICKY SLOANabout a year ago


Ruth G
Ruth Gabout a year ago

Whistleblowing &,the right of the public to expose wrongdoing lawbreaking & unethical practices is at the very base of a DEMOCRACY!! Govts who try to thwart this right are CORRUPT! ! & need to be challenged hopefully by the courts! but in some countries ,even THEY can be corrupt.

Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a year ago

thank you for posting

Paul C
Paul Carterabout a year ago

There was a time when ethical behaviour was the norm. Unfortunately that time has passed and now holding anyone or any organization to any sort of standards is regarded by them as unfair. We may be starting to get past this phase in public life but it will take a long time to root out unethical behaviour as a norm. In the mean time people in power will still cry foul when caught out, still try to hide behind their positions of power and refuse to believe they have done anything wrong in the first place or when covering their tracks.

Debbi W
Debbi Wabout a year ago

I believe whistle-blowing is need, however I do not approve of going out of country to do it, running to Russia, which in my mind makes the action treason, giving classified information to the enemy.