The Obama administration and its supporters of the national security state never tire of telling us that whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should not go public with the revelations but instead go through the ‘proper channels’ since those channels supposedly have safeguards to protect them from retaliation. Apart from the fact that Snowden was a contractor and not a federal employee and thus not entitled to those protections, we saw the harsh treatment meted out to previous whistleblowers who did try to use these methods. Indeed it was seeing what happened to these earlier whistleblowers that made Snowden choose his particular path.
But now McClatchy News Services’ excellent investigative reporters Marisa Taylor and Jonathan Landay report that the CIA has tapped into the channels that whistleblowers were supposed to use.
The CIA obtained a confidential email to Congress about alleged whistleblower retaliation related to the Senate’s classified report on the agency’s harsh interrogation program, triggering fears that the CIA has been intercepting the communications of officials who handle whistleblower cases.
The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.
At the time, the CIA was embroiled in a furious behind-the-scenes battle with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the panel’s investigation of the agency’s interrogation program, including accusations that the CIA illegally monitored computers used in the five-year probe. The CIA has denied the charges.
The email controversy points to holes in the intelligence community’s whistleblower protection systems and raises fresh questions about the extent to which intelligence agencies can elude congressional oversight.
The email related to allegations that the agency’s inspector general, David Buckley, failed to properly investigate CIA retaliation against an agency official who cooperated in the committee’s probe, said the knowledgeable people, who asked not to be further identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Somehow, according to these people, Buckley obtained the email, which was written by Daniel Meyer, the intelligence community’s top official for whistleblower cases, to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a leading whistleblower-protection advocate. The Senate Intelligence Committee also learned of the matter, said the knowledgeable people.
After obtaining the email, Buckley approached Meyer’s boss, I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the 17-agency U.S. intelligence community, in what may have constituted a violation of the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process, they said.
Monitoring inspectors’ general communications with lawmakers would clash with efforts by Congress and President Barack Obama to strengthen protections for intelligence community whistleblowers. If government officials outside an inspector general’s office accessed such communications, they could discover whistleblowers’ identities and retaliate against them by targeting them as security risks known as “insider threats.”
The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured lawmakers that if such confidential emails were disclosed,that “they’d be accidental, and in such cases there are safeguards in place to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblowers.” Of course, Clapper has been shown to be a flat-out liar so his assurances are worthless.