It seems that President Obama has reversed his opinion that cracking down on whistleblowers is a brag-worthy accomplishment and has now signed a new law ostensibly to protect federal employees who reveal government wrongdoing:
Capping a 13-year effort by supporters of whistle-blower rights, the new law closes loopholes created by court rulings, which removed protections for federal whistle-blowers. One loophole specified that whistle-blowers were only protected when they were the first to report misconduct.
The whistle-blower law makes it easier to punish supervisors who try to retaliate against the government workers.
The new legislation, however, would go beyond restoring protections, to expand whistle-blower rights and clarify certain protections. For example, whistle-blowers could challenge the consequences of government policy decisions.
Specific protections would be given to certain employees, including government scientists who challenge censorship. Workers at the Transportation Security Administration, who provide airport security, would be covered under the law for the first time.
The law also would clarify that whistleblowers have the right to communicate with Congress.
To stop illegal retaliation, the law would make it easier to discipline those responsible, by modifying the burden of proof required when taking action against those trying to punish whistle-blowers. Also, the Office of Special Counsel, which was established to protect federal employees, would no longer be liable for attorney fees of government managers if the office does not prevail in a disciplinary action.
This is all very commendable, albeit rather belated. Now, if only the White House had any intention of actually applying these protections to those who reveal information that makes the President’s office look bad.