The U.S. Senate tonight unanimously approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009 (S. 372). The bill amends the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and strengthens the rights and protections of federal employees who come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.
The legislation is sponsored by Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and Susan M. Collins (R-ME) and cosponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joe I. Lieberman (ID-CT), George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Carl Levin (D-MI), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Mark L. Pryor (D-AR), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
"For far too long, Federal employees have feared retaliation for disclosing government wrongdoing," said Senator Akaka. "This legislation strengthens critical protections federal whistleblowers need to help us stop waste and abuse."
Senator Collins added: "I am pleased that the Whistleblower Protection Act is moving forward. Whistleblowers play a crucial role in Congress's efforts to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse and to help ensure the effectiveness of government programs. They provide crucial information that Congress and our Committee need to conduct proper oversight of the federal government. This legislation would give federal workers the peace of mind that if they speak out, they will be protected."
"Whistleblowers know where the skeletons are, deep in the closets of the federal bureaucracy. They help strengthen transparency, good government and accountability," Senator Grassley said. "The bill restores the congressional intent behind a number of key whistleblower laws. It also includes, for the first time, whistleblower protections for employees in the intelligence community by creating a new procedure for whistleblowers to come forward and shed light on fraud and wrongdoing in the intelligence community."
"The federal government's most critical asset is its people," said Senator Voinovich. "This legislation clearly provides the protection federal employees deserve if they find themselves subject to retaliation following a credible disclosure of waste, fraud or abuse. Protecting the federal workforce is critical to the integrity of government programs and operations."
The bill as amended would:
* Clarify the broad protections for disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse - including those made as part of an employee's job duties.
* Extend whistleblower protections and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws to employees at the Transportation Security Administration.
* Clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse.
* Provide all federal employees a process for making protected disclosures of classified information to Congress.
* Suspend the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sole jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases for five years.
* Codify and strengthen the anti-gag provision that has been part annual appropriations laws since 1988.
* Require Whistleblower Ombudsmen in Inspectors General offices to educate federal whistleblowers.
* Allow whistleblowers to bring their cases before a jury under certain circumstances.
* Provide protection for Intelligence Community employees against retaliation for whistleblowing.
* Set up a process to review claims of whistleblower retaliation in security clearance decisions.