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The Intelligence Community's Official Whistleblower Channel Is Going To Start Hunting Down Leakers

The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community is finally implementing long-resisted whistleblower-related reforms. The IG has previously buried reports indicating whistleblowers were being greeted with retaliation for going through the proper channels. Despite this, government officials continue to claim the only whistleblowers they'll recognize are those who use the internal options -- options that allow the government to control the narrative and, in many cases, do as little as possible to address complaints.

The Inspector General's office is one of the official channels. After turmoil that consumed most of last year -- including the ouster of Dan Meyer, the head of the IC's whistleblower outreach program -- a new Inspector General is in place. Michael Atkinson promised to get the IC IG's house in order after news surfaced of its burial of a damning whistleblower retaliation report earlier this year, but so far it's unclear what improvements have been made.

What does appear to be in place is the IG office's participation in the Forever War on Whistleblowers. National security reporter Jenna McLaughlin noticed this disturbing development in the IG office's latest semiannual report [PDF]:

Beginning in June 2018, the Investigations Division began to take steps to permit the ICIG to fulfill its responsibilities under Intelligence Community Directive 701, Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified National Security Information (ICD 701). In December 2017, the DNI revised ICD 701 to improve the IC’s efforts to detect, deter, report, and investigate unauthorized disclosures. The revised ICD imposed new responsibilities upon the ICIG to report and investigate unauthorized disclosures.

The office will somehow protect whistleblowers while hunting down those who operate outside official channels.

Under ICD 701, the ICIG will:

Review unauthorized disclosure cases where the FBI decides not to investigate or the FBI investigates but the Department of Justice declines prosecution, in coordination with the other Office(s) of Inspectors General involved, to determine whether an Inspector General administrative investigation is warranted.

Now, even if the FBI and DOJ decide a disclosure case isn't worth pursuing, the IG will open its own investigation and, apparently, see if it needs to talk the DOJ into taking another look at it. The IG is limited to administrative investigations, but there's no reason the DOJ can't turn it into a criminal investigation after receiving more info from the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

Oddly enough, this is followed directly in the report by the ICIG's announcement of a "Center for Protected Disclosures." This is the IG's belated compliance with whistleblower protections enacted during the Obama administration. Coming along too late to do people like Ed Snowden any good, the new hotline connects whistleblowers to the IG's office, hopefully in a way that keeps their complaints confidential and shields them from retaliation.

Hopefully, this new Center works better than the IG's old whistleblower business model, which saw all but one case resolved in favor of the government and the single outlier allowed to drag on for more than 700 days without resolution. But the IG's plan to get into the leak-hunting business tempers this mild good news, suggesting it may utilize its resources to hunt down those who bypass an office some IC employees justifiably believe won't protect them.

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