Whistleblower Attorney Discusses Potential Chilling Effect on Intelligence Community Whistleblowers
Recent reports that an intelligence official lodged a whistleblower complaint against President Trump has landed the topic of whistleblowing by the intelligence community into the news. Today, David K. Colapinto, a partner at the whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal to speak about the procedures in place for intelligence community whistleblowers. He also discussed the impact of not following them would have on future intelligence community whistleblowers.
“There needs to be a system in place for all federal employees, whether you work in the regular civil service or the intelligence community, to report misconduct when it occurs,” Colapinto said.
Colapinto spoke about the process in place for intelligence community whistleblowers to file allegations of wrongdoing. He said that this case “is testing the system set up by Congress for intelligence community whistleblowers.”
The process for intelligence community whistleblowers is to file a complaint with the inspector general. If the inspector general determines it to be credible and significant enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” that ruling triggers the notification of congressional oversight committees.
“It would be the worst possible outcome to have a whistleblower who did everything right, obeyed the law, did not leak to the media, had the complaint verified, and then not have the complaint go to Congress,” Colapinto said of the process.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Colapinto explained that the creation of a system where whistleblowers could go to Congress on their own would remedy this problem.
The recent complaint, Colapinto told me, shows why the congressional outlet for whistle-blowers is so important. Ideally, he said, their complaints could be brought directly to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, whose members hold security clearances and are well versed in dealing with classified material. “They are perfectly … capable of handling classified information. That’s how they’re set up,” he said. “They do it all the time.”
Excerpt from “The Problem With the Whistle-Blower System.”
Colapinto, who is a founder of the National Whistleblower Center, where he serves as General Counsel, told The Washington Post that the refusal to send the whistleblower complaint to Congress is “unprecedented.” He explained, “The system of whistleblowing will fail in the intelligence community if that complaint is not transmitted to Congress.” “There would be a crisis in confidence in the intelligence community,” he said.