McCaskill Presses Top Cyber Officials for Whistleblower Protections in the Intelligence Community, Discusses Consequences of Government Shutdown

Senator calls for passage of her legislation to protect intel community whistleblowers; Hears from top U.S. cyber defense officials on adverse effects of a government shutdown

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today pressed the Director of National Intelligence on the need for contractors in the intelligence community to have the same whistleblower protections as other federal intelligence employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse, as well as discussed with top cyber defense officials the adverse effects of a government shutdown.

“I’m not aware of any classified or sensitive information that has made its way to a damaging place as a result of these [whistleblower] protections,” said McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee. “The 2014 Intel Authorization gave these protections to the government employees within intelligence. And one of the challenges we have in government is this divide between the contractors and government employees. And frankly whistleblower protections – I can’t think of a good policy reason that we would give whistleblower protections to employees and not give them to contractors. So I am hopeful today that you would indicate that you believe this is an important principle and that we should move forward with this legislation.”

“Absolutely, Senator.” replied James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. “…Whistleblowers absolutely must be protected so they are induced or motivated to go within the channels, knowing that they’ll be protected.” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command Admiral Mike Rogers agreed as well.

McCaskill’s legislation to protect whistleblowers in the intelligence community extends whistleblower protections to intelligence contractors, who are often doing similar jobs to federal employees. Last year, the same bill was endorsed by nearly 50 good government groups. McCaskill also used a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to call for expanded whistleblower protections for intelligence contractors—to better protect those who use appropriate channels to blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse in the intelligence community.

McCaskill also questioned the witnesses on the effects of a potential government shutdown on the operational capability of the U.S. mission to fight cyber threats, saying: “…Government is never going to win a popularity contest, certainly not in my state. On the other hand, there’s a difference between being responsible in terms of public policy and being irresponsible…we have divided checks and balances in this country, unlike other countries. The American people sent a president of one party to the White House and elected the Congress of a different party, and that means we have to figure out how to get along. So could you talk a moment about what the impact would be to this important mission if once again we went down the rabbit hole of deciding the best thing to do is just to shut down government?”

Admiral Rogers agreed on the adverse effects of a shutdown on training and employee retention abilities in the cyber force, saying: “Despite all our technology, never forget it is men and women who power this enterprise. That’s our advantage.”

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