President Obama signed a whistleblower bill into law Tuesday that makes sweeping changes to current laws by closing loopholes and offering greater protection to federal employees who blow the whistle on fraud, waste, and abuse in government operations.
Passage of the far-reaching Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act marks the final stage of a 13-year effort by whistleblower advocates who fought court rulings that weakened whistleblower protections and made reporting fraudulent activity extremely risky. Supporters of the bill said that from October 1994 to May 2012 the court consistently undermined whistleblower protections and ruled in favor of whistleblowers only three times in that period.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, a federal official who investigates retaliation against government whistleblowers, said her office “stands ready to implement these important reforms, which will better ensure that no employee suffers retaliation for speaking out against government waste or misconduct.”
The new law will also make it easier for the government to punish supervisors who illegally retaliate against workers who try to expose fraudulent activity and other wrongdoing. In addition, the law expands whistleblower rights while clarifying certain protections. For instance, the bill gives special protections to scientists who challenge censorship and extends protections to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers for the first time ever.
“This reform took 13 years to pass because it can make so much difference against fraud, waste and abuse,” Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, told the Associated Press. “Government managers at all levels made pleas and repeatedly blocked the bill through procedural sabotage.”
The bill’s passage was welcomed by whistleblower advocates as a reversal of the Obama Administration’s record of prosecuting many government whistleblowers under the Espionage Act. President Obama also restored several protections for national security whistleblowers that had been previously scrapped under a presidential directive.