Legal & Policy Challenges

Protect federal workers from retaliation by security clearance

Problem: The voices of some of government's most conscientious and competent employees are routinely silenced by managers who threaten to revoke their security clearances. While most of those with clearance work in defense and intelligence roles, by no means is the problem confined to CIA, NSA, DHS, DOD and the FBI. Many employees at agencies like the Department of Agriculture also hold clearances. Many of those required to hold clearances have little if any real need for them. But, agency managers find a security clearances a handy way to make an end run around laws that protect workers from discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, politicization, cronyism, and other abuses. Under the rules established by Executive Order, agencies can fire an employee with a clearance for virtually any reason. Employees who appeal a revocation or suspension have almost no due process protections - and even those are not guaranteed because there is no external review of the agency's decision. Inexplicably, private sector employees with security clearances have more due process rights than federal employees working on the same federal programs. As whistleblowers, no matter where they work in federal government, are a critical element of transparency and accountability, this problem urgently needs correction.

 

Proposed solution: The Obama administration should therefore reverse its opposition (stated through the Department of Justice) to a provision of H.R. 1507 that gives intelligence agency employees the right to file civil suits in federal district courts for relief from whistleblower retaliation, including relief for violations of due process in adjudicating security clearance revocations. The GAO has found that giving employees access to federal district courts poses no threat to national security, as the courts already have special procedures in place to protect national security information.

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Idea No. 208