Sen. Charles Grassley is demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder delegate auditing FBI whistleblower protections to the Justice Depatment’s Inspector General.
Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member and longtime advocate of government whistleblowers, wrote that given the department’s “abysmal” record on dealing with FBI whistleblower cases, it should transfer the duty to the Office of the Inspector General, the department’s independent watchdog.
“There is no logical reason to empower people who have such a horrendous record on whistleblowers with the responsibility to determine whether the current process helps FBI whistleblowers,” Grassley wrote in Thursday’s letter to Holder. “The Attorney General and his Deputy have already allowed cases to languish for far too long.”
President Barack Obama issued a directive last month aimed at protecting whistleblowers with national security clearances from retaliation. The Oct. 10 directive mandates that the Attorney General, in consultation with special counsel and FBI employees, review the efficacy of whistleblower anti-retaliation procedures and report back to the president within 180 days.
The federal regulation governing retaliation claims requires an investigation conducted by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility or the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. A decision is then rendered by the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, and any appeal is handled by the Deputy Attorney General. It also dictates the necessity to be timely with dealing with such claims.
Grassley wrote that it’s a conflict of interest for the Attorney General to author the review of the department’s performance with regard to retaliation claims.
“The OIG would offer a more objective and accountable analysis of the regulations prescribed in the Directive,” the senator wrote. “Further, it would allow you to continue to focus resources on closing these cases that continue to languish before the Department, instead of devoting resources to this review.”
Grassley cited retaliation cases as examples of the department’s “woeful” attempts at meeting resolution deadlines. In 2002, FBI Special Agent Jane Turner blew the whistle on fellow agents who removed items, or “souvenirs,” from Ground Zero in New York City following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Turner filed a retaliation claim, but her case “has been continually stalled with appeals and is still open,” Grassley wrote, adding that Deputy Attorney General James Cole most recently sent the case back to the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management for further proceedings.
This case and others, Grassley wrote, “call into question the department’s ability, and willingness, to follow through on FBI whistleblower cases in a fair and timely fashion.”