Today, GAP and its taxpayer protection and good government partners sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee, urging restoration of Senator Grassley’s 25-year-old “anti-gag” rider as part of the upcoming appropriations bill. Its removal from last year’s appropriations law created an accountability vacuum that must be filled before Congress adjourns.
Significantly, the anti-gag provision provides clarification that whistleblower protection laws supersede nondisclosure restrictions, and it outlaws spending on agency nondisclosure policies that do not include the rights in whistleblower statutes.
The anti-gag provision was codified in 2012 as part of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA). Although it was a considerable milestone for federal employees, the letter cautions that the WPEA provision was not intended to replace the anti-gag rider, which also provided enforceable rights for intelligence community employees.
The letter, also signed by Liberty Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, and Taxpayers Protection Alliance, explains what is at stake:
The anti-gag provision was included without dissent for 25 years, because it is so fundamental to prevent unconstitutional prior restraint, and for whistleblowers to challenge abuses of power. It forbids spending on agency nondisclosure policies, forms or agreements that do not include an addendum incorporating by reference the rights and responsibilities in whistleblower laws, as well as clarification that those statutes supersede any conflicting nondisclosure restrictions. Because it covers all government spending, it has been the essential failsafe despite loopholes in whistleblower laws for national security and contractor employees. It has not resulted in excessive litigation or even any alleged national security breaches, and has served as an effective boundary on agency nondisclosure policies.
We commend Senator Grassley’s unwavering commitment to whistleblower protections. It would behoove the House Appropriations Committee to follow his lead and restore this basic resource for accountability that worked effectively for the past two and a half decades. It has already passed in the FY 2015 Appropriations Bill as marked up by the Senate.
The full letter can be viewed here.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.