Congress Sends Bill Strengthening Whistleblower Protection to Obama's Desk

November 14, 2012

The Senate November 13, 2012, cleared a bill that would strengthen protections for federal whistleblowers, who often suffer retaliation for disclosing government waste, fraud, and abuse. Whistleblowers are key sources for investigative journalists.

The Senate approved by unanimous consent a bill (S 743/HR 3289) meant to shore up weaknesses in the existing Whistleblower Protection Act. It now goes to the president for signature.

The bill was hailed by watchdog groups including the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Project on Government Oversight (POGO), who had fought for its passage.

The House passed the bill unanimously, or "without objection," on September 28, 2012, exempting certain national security employees from its protections. On October 10, 2012, President Obama issued a directive extending some protections to national security and intelligence employees. This allowed the two chambers to agree on the other provisions. The Senate action on November 13 agreed to House changes in the bill.

Over the years, court decisions had eliminated many of the enforcement teeth in the Whistleblower Protection Act, originally passed in 1989.

While the original law was focused on protecting those who disclosed violations of law, the just-passed revision specifically includes disclosure of "a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety."