There are disturbing issues going on at the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s Office, the office which serves as the Intelligence Community central watchdog. Created in 2010, its job is to investigate waste, fraud, abuse and illegalities within the 16 agencies it monitors; communicate with, reach out to and give an additional layer of protection to whistleblowers within the intelligence agencies.
Proponents of the office argue that a strong whistleblowing outlet is needed as an alternative to leaking and to protect employees from retaliation for reporting misconduct.
However, it appears that lately, the office is not able to do its job.
The intelligence community’s central watchdog is in turmoil; there is political backbiting, job insecurity, mismanagement, bureaucratic battles, personality conflicts and the list goes on. While a strong whistleblowing outlet is certainly preferable to leaking and to continue to protect employees against retaliation, it seems that many intelligence officers within the many agencies see “any outreach to their employees as an attempt to cultivate leakers or as outside interference, rather than a secure, proper way to report potential violations of law.”
So let’s see if I get this right. The Intelligence Community management appears to be protecting their turf, otherwise known as CYA, and people are alienated from doing their jobs and taxpayers pay their salaries? Oh, my! These are government offices, right?
According to its website:
The Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IC IG) is an objective office, appropriately accountable to Congress, that initiates and conducts independent investigations, inspections, audits, and reviews of programs and activities within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence; promotes economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration and implementation of such programs and activities; and prevents and detects fraud, waste, and abuse in such programs and activities.
Really? “Objective?” What’s going on?
In 2010, Chuck McCullough III was named to be the first Intelligence Community Inspector General and was charged with developing a process for handling whistleblower reports and grievances for the agencies as well as to work with the various oversight committees in Congress. According to Mr. McCullough, the IG’s purpose was to strengthen whistleblowing, not usurp power from their counterparts at then various agencies. It was also designed to provide an extra layer for employees who wanted to seek recourse for retaliatory behavior.
The office had quite a few successes under Mr. McCullough’s watch, not the least of which was that safe haven, a “go to” place for those who needed to have their case heard by the Inspector General.
However, after heading up the agency for the last seven-plus years, Mr. McCullough retired in March and the office is now in complete chaos. The Acting Inspector General, Wayne Stone, has been consistently absent, off on his own business, so little has been done.
The Acting Deputy Inspector General, Jeanette McMillian, who at one time helped build that office, is, according to sources, sidelining Dan Meyer, the Executive Director for Intelligence Community Whistleblowing and Source Protection.
Mr. Meyer, whose job it is to talk to intelligence community whistleblowers has been barred from doing so. Plus, he no longer has a deputy or staff, can no longer brief the Congressional committees, send out his regular whistleblower newsletter or conduct outreach. His only remaining assignment is to complete an instructional booklet for whistleblowers. When that is complete, so are his assignments. There is nothing else on his plate!
According to a CIA agency spokesperson, the CIA, which itself still has an unfilled Inspector General position, affirms it supports a strong whistleblower program, as a “key element in preventing disclosure of classified documents.” A Congressional staff person told Foreign Policy, ”What’s the point of doing whistleblower reform if the office in charge of it is on fire?”
And an NSA whistleblower, which also currently has its Inspector General position unfilled, told them the Intelligence Community’s Office of the Inspector General “is the only place where you can get a fair review … having an independent inspector general was instrumental … now, however, it’s gutted.” He pointed out Edward Snowden as an example of what has happened to the office, who, if you recall, argued he leaked because he had seen previous whistleblowers retaliated against when they raised complaints internally.
And wait, the issues aren’t letting up.
Chris Sharpley, who is currently the acting head of the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, has been nominated to be the Intelligence Community Inspector General. According to the Project on Government Oversight, Mr. Sharpley is named in at least three open whistleblower retaliation cases. You may remember Mr. Sharpley from last year’s headlines “when he deleted the agency’s only copy of a controversial Senate report documenting the CIA’s history of using interrogation techniques involving torture, embarrassing the Agency and prolonging its dispute over the issue with Congress.”
Mr. Sharpley has said that there’s a special responsibility that goes with being in an Inspector General position that deals in covert operations and covert information: “Programs that are highly classified, the more classified they are, they see less light of day…They don’t share best practices, they focus on the mission, and they are not necessarily focused on efficiency and effectiveness.”
In the next breath he said, “You need an IG to look at this and shine that flashlight on those activities to ensure they are adhering to the law, that programs are being run in an efficient and effective manner to give the taxpayer a seat at the table”
A position and office as critical as this one, that oversees abuses in intelligence agencies and offers those who need to express their concerns about waste, abuse and other pertinent matters in government without being retaliated against is important for us all, by the way, to exist and be sanctioned. It is absolutely imperative that each of the agencies has an office and an Inspector General the employees can feel safe with and go to with issues and concerns.
The Intelligence Community Inspector General office, which has oversight to ensure the agencies maintain that official safety measure, is not only in complete disarray, it seems to be operating abusively. Whistleblowers in these offices need open channels of communication and it appears that is missing and if Mr. Sharpley is indeed nominated, this could still be missing.
Mr. Daniel Brian, the Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), believes that having acting management in place is akin to treading water to keep an office afloat. “Acting IG’s are never as effective. They keep their heads down because they don’t want to rock the boat or they don’t feel empowered to make the big decisions.”
So the office, such a vital one, sits, bickers, makes public buffoons of themselves and victims of others. We, the public, deserve better as do well-meaning employees who may have something crucial to report.