For twelve years, whistleblower advocates have labored to convince the U.S. Congress to strengthen the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The WPA purports to protect employees of federal agencies (but not intelligence agencies) from reprisal when they report possible waste, fraud and abuse. However, judicial interpretations have relentlessly weakened the law, giving agencies the green light to fire, shun, slander, assault and prosecute whistleblowers as they choose.
In each of the six Congresses that considered proposed WPA reforms, legislators declared unanimous or near-unanimous support for the bills. But, invariably, each bill died at session’s end, typically from an ‘anonymous’ hold by a single U.S. senator. (Insiders allege different senators preformed the role.) Oddly, this fate rarely befalls pork-filled funding bills that, like greased pigs, always seem to slip through potential legislative roadblocks.
This week, federal whistleblower legislation again fell victim to an “anonymous Senate hold.” Some observers have speculated that the whole process was little more than theatrics, a smokescreen for anti-whistleblower sentiments. In any case, wealthy Congressional campaign donors who profit from corruption in federal agencies can now rest comfortably. Without better protection from reprisals, federal employees will be discouraged from reporting wrongdoing lest, like whistleblowers before them, they inherit the wind.