This October 22 letter from 70 inspectors general in the federal government is an extraordinary rebuke of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department of Attorney General Bill Barr.
By trying to block the White House whistleblower’s complaint from going to Congress, the OLC wrongly interpreted the law and weakened the whistleblower process.
Perhaps most concerning to the IG community, we believe that the OLC opinion creates uncertainty for federal employees and contractors across government about the scope of whistleblower protections, thereby chilling whistleblower disclosures. ….
If intelligence community employees and contractors believe that independent IG determinations may be second guessed, effectively blocking the transmission of their concerns to Congress and raising questions about the protections afforded to them, they will lose confidence in this important reporting channel and their willingness to come forward with information will be chilled. More generally, this concern is not limited to the intelligence community but will have a chilling effect that extends to employees, contractors, and grantees in other parts of the government, who might not consider it worth the effort and potential impact on themselves to report suspected wrongdoing if they think that their efforts to disclose information will be for naught or, worse, that they risk adverse consequences for coming forward when they see something they think is wrong. That would be a grave loss for IG oversight and, as a result, for the American taxpayer.