Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley informed his congressional colleagues on Tuesday that he intends to object to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 because it restricts jurisdiction for whistleblowers to just the overly politicized House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have made every effort to promote greater awareness and flexibility for whistleblowers that wanted to bring their concerns to any member of the legislative branch,” Grassley said. “Unfortunately, this bill does the opposite, and it further codifies existing standard practices within the several intelligence agencies to limit whistleblower access.”
Grassley’s largest objection to the legislation, he said, is that it stops potential whistleblowers from bringing information or problems to any congressional committees that could be adequately prepared to handle their “concerns.”
“If the goal of this legislation is expanding whistleblower protections, then whistleblowers should be given more avenues, not fewer,” Grassley said. “This means allowing them to report instances of wrongdoing to any committee of jurisdiction.”
Grassley also said he is hesitant that the legislation as it stands “may inadvertently roll back protections for FBI employees that under current law, can bring their concerns to any member of Congress” and contradict the unanimously passed “FBI Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act” of 2016.
“This bill would instead require FBI whistleblowers with Intel equities to bring their concerns exclusively to the Intelligence Committees. In some instances, this may be a good option for some whistleblowers, as well as the best way to protect national security. However, not all matters that are classified or that involve Intel equities are exclusively Intelligence Committee matters,” Grassley said.
Certain issues, he continued, such as information or problems with the abuse-ridden Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, “may be more appropriate for the Judiciary committee; likewise a National Security Agency (NSA) matter may be better heard by the Armed Services committees.”
“This would align with SSCI’s founding documents which make it clear that its jurisdiction does not supersede, or take away from, any other committee’s jurisdiction,” Grassley pointed out.
Grassley said he plans to object to the bill unless it includes an amendment that changes the restrictions to encompass “committees of Jurisdiction” and “clarifies that, when codified, that this bill would not place additional restrictions on whistleblowers with intel related equities and that they retain all of their other rights under other federal whistleblower laws.”
Grassley’s concerns are not unfounded. While whistleblowers are still free to approach either chamber with information, both are plagued with politicization and national security concerns that may deter some people from reporting abuse. Earlier this year, Democrats rejected a motion to remove Rep. Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee over his ties to a spy for communist China. Democrats have also used intelligence committees to target former President Donald Trump and Republicans as “domestic extremists.”