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Whistleblowing Misinformation

Although speculation has arisen this past week that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) changed requirements for whistleblower complaints, the rules for considering information of the ICIG to not reject were not recently altered.

According to the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) of 1998, a whistleblower or complainant must meet certain standards to qualify as a whistleblower, granting him or her certain legal protections. Along with being employed in some way by the intelligence community and reporting information about an "urgent concern," the complainant also fills out a Disclosure of Urgent Concern form.

Bloggers, publications, and even U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that the Disclosure of Urgent Concern form was revised in August to eliminate a requirement of first-hand information.

But according to a press release issued by the ICIG, the form has not been altered, and that although the form asks if the whistleblower has such information, it is by no means a requirement. The office also points out that the ICWPA, which is the ICIG’s authorizing statute, includes no such requirement.

"In fact, by law the Complainant … need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern," the press release said. "Since Inspector General Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the ICIG has not rejected the filing of an alleged urgent concern due to a whistleblower's lack of first-hand knowledge of the allegations."

Regarding the complaint filed on 12 August 2019, concerning that President Trump asked the Ukranian government to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden, the ICIG "determined, after conducting a preliminary review, that there were reasonable grounds to believe the urgent concern appeared credible."

The erroneous claims even drove a group of Republican U.S. legislators to demand an explanation from Inspector General Atkinson in a letter on 30 September.

Even with the President’s tweet receiving four Pinocchios on the Washington Post’s Fact Checker Scale, the complainant could still face significant backlash as Trump continues to demand the identity of the anonymous whistleblower.

While some whistleblowers may receive monetary awards for shining a light on a fraud or criminal enterprise, as detailed in Security Management's January 2018 article, Whistleblowing: Money v. Motivation, this does not apply to all complainants in all industries. The Washington Post also pointed out that federal protections are limited to whistleblowers from the intelligence community.