Washington, DC – Today, President Barack Obama enacted the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 at a ceremony in the Oval Office. This landmark legislation, championed by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) for over a decade, strengthens the Whistleblower Protection Act to better protect federal employees who come forward to disclose government waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoing.
The U.S. Senate passed the bill on November 13, and the House of Representatives passed it on September 28.
The bill was authored by Senator Akaka and cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joe Lieberman (ID-Connecticut), Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Jon Tester (D-Montana), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Chris Coons (D-Delaware).
Representatives Darrell Issa (R-California), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Todd Russell Platts (R-Pennsylvania), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) were instrumental in moving the bill through the House.
Senator Akaka said: "I count today's signing ceremony among my career highlights. Federal employees who risk their careers to step forward and disclose waste, fraud, and abuse save taxpayer money and make our government more efficient. They absolutely deserve our support and I am so proud that these new protections are now enacted into law."
Senator Collins said: "Our new law makes crystal clear that federal employees should not be subject to prior restraint from, or punishment for, disclosing wrongdoing. The whistleblowers’ law will help give federal workers the peace of mind that if they speak out, they will be protected. Whistleblower protections will also help ensure that Congress has access to the information necessary to conduct proper oversight. It is important to note a major change made by the Akaka-Collins law is that, for the first time, the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel will have the tools needed to enforce the law."
Senator Grassley said: “As one of the authors of the original Whistleblower Protection Act, and a long-time advocate for whistleblowers, it's wonderful to see this legislation signed into law. Whistleblowers strengthen our system of checks and balances, and that strengthens our system of representative government. It’s a constant battle to make sure that these patriotic citizens who shed light on overspending, mismanagement and layers of ineffective leadership within the federal government are protected. Now, more work needs to be done to ensure that FBI whistleblower protections are updated and that intelligence community whistleblowers are covered under the law and given the protections they deserve.”
Senator Lieberman said: "Whistleblowers are key to improving the performance of the federal government and must be protected for having the courage to speak out about waste, fraud, and abuse. Without these protections, those closest to the problems will remain silent for fear of retaliation, and American taxpayers will pay the price."
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 will:
- clarify that any disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;
- suspend the sole jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals over federal employee whistleblower cases for two years;
- extend Whistleblower Protection Act coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;
- clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;
- codify the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;
- establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and
- provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file "friend of the court" briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.
Senator Akaka has been Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia since 2007, and he is a senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.