Whistleblowers in national security agencies stand to get more protections for reporting fraud, waste or abuse under a presidential policy directive signed this week by President Barack Obama.
The directive prohibits retaliation for employees in the Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, among other agencies, and will "fill a large void in whistleblower protections and lays the framework for more government accountability where it is sorely needed," according to a statement from the nonprofit Project On Government Oversight.
"When implemented properly, this policy should provide for more balance between guarding precious rights and legitimate secrets while ensuring more disclosures of wrongdoing necessary for a more accountable [intelligence community]," wrote Angela Canterbury, POGO director of public policy.
But POGO and other whistleblower advocacy groups like the Government Accountability Project also said more needed to be done – particularly by Congress. “Regulations to enforce whistleblower rights will be written by the same agencies that routinely are the defendants in whistleblower retaliation lawsuits,” GAP Legal Director Tom Devine said in a statement.
Devine pointed out that the directive issued Wednesday was a major advance for whistleblower rights but does not include protection for those employee's disclosures to Congress or the public of even unclassified information.
"This policy directive represents a significant breakthrough, but it is no substitute for Congress to legislate permanent rights for national security whistleblowers, with third party enforcement the same as for other employees," Devine said.
The House has passed a Senate version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, which contains some of the same protections. The Senate could consider the bill during its upcoming lame duck session.