Whistleblower Legislation Introduced In Congress

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A bill introduced in Congress Monday would beef up protection for federal government employees who risk their jobs by disclosing waste, fraud, abuse or violations of law they witness on the job.

Specifically, the bill would amend the Whistleblower Protection Act that Congress passed in 1989 - and strengthened in 1994.

The new legislation -- introduced by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) in the Senate and by Reps. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and Connie Morella (R-MD) in the House - would close loopholes that have made the Whistleblower Protection Act useless in many cases.

"The original congressional intent has been partially nullified by certain judicial decisions," said Rep. Morella. She said the bill introduced Monday reaffirms congressional support for people who point out wrongdoing within the government.

Morella's congressional district includes Montgomery County, Maryland, a Washington suburb where many federal government employees live.

The bill's sponsors say the new legislation is needed not only because of recent federal court decisions, but also because of a little-noticed provision in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2001.

That provision could make whistleblowers liable for criminal prosecution for divulging classified information, even if the information was not labeled as classified. Critics call the provision "America's First Official Secrets Act."

"Secrecy is the breeding ground for corruption and the worst betrayals of national security," said Danielle Brian, who serves as executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. "This legislation is indispensable to restore both the public's and Congress's right to know."

Rep. Gilman called the bill he co-sponsored "the best opportunity to detect fraud, waste and abuse before it spreads. This bill will help ensure that Congress will be there to defend federal workers who risk everything to tell the truth."

It's not known whether the legislation will see floor action before Congress adjourns for the year.