Senate Homeland Security Committee Votes to Advance Whistleblower Protections

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Policy Fellow Matt Rumsey wrote this post.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a business meeting yesterday morning where they discussed a number of measures, including S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2011. The Act is intended to renew and strengthen previous whistleblower protection legislation passed in 1989.

According to the Project on Government Oversight, the bill has 14 cosponsors and support from more than 400 groups and 50 members of the Make it Safe coalition.

According to Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), who sponsored the bill, federal courts have interpreted the original act in a way that is inconsistent with congressional intent. These interpretations have proved harmful for whistleblowers. Akaka introduced his bill in order to solve these issues.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) noted that a similar bill had been passed by the Senate last year, but the House of Representatives had stripped it of provisions protecting intelligence community personnel. The bill ultimately failed. This year, according to Collins, the two chambers “worked to achieve a consensus on how intelligence commuity personnel should be handled” that is now reflected in the bill.

Before voting on the bill, Senator Akaka introduced an amendment to clarify provisions on nondisclosure agreements, give the Government Accountability Office more time to review the bill, and provide the Defense Department with access to information and consultation rights in some of the intelligence provisions. The amended bill was passed by the committee via a voice vote and will now advance to the full Senate.

The committee also considered and passed S. 1409, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2011 and S. 237, the Government Accountability Office Improvement Act of 2011, in addition to a number of other measures.

A webcast of the entire hearing is available here.

Thanks to PopVox, you can view and search the bill text below.

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