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Making Lawful Disclosures

Retaliation for Engaging in Protected Activity

A Federal agency cannot retaliate against an employee or applicant because that individual exercises his or her rights under any of the Federal antidiscrimination or whistleblower protection laws listed above. If you believe that you are the victim of retaliation for engaging in protected activity, you must follow, as appropriate, the procedures described in the Antidiscrimination Laws and Whistleblower Protection Laws sections or, if applicable, the administrative or negotiated grievance procedures in order to pursue any legal remedy.

Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections

General Protections

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 amends the National Security Act of 1947 to provide statutory protections for Intelligence Community employees who make lawful disclosures of fraud, waste, or abuse in IC programs and activities. These statutory provisions prohibit an employee from taking a personnel action in reprisal or making security clearance access determinations in reprisal against an employee who made a lawful disclosure. Further, these provision require an inspector general to conduct fact-finding in reviewing allegations of security clearance reprisal.  

Presidential Policy Directive – 19 (PPD-19), Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information, also provides protections for IC employees against personnel actions taken in reprisal for lawfully participating in the whistleblowing process.  In addition, employees and contractors are protected from reprisals in the security clearance adjudication process. PPD-19 requires that the agency inspector general review whistleblower reprisal allegations in violation of PPD-19.  Further, PPD-19 allows employees and contractors to seek an external review from the IC IG of their reprisal allegations once they have exhausted their own agency’s review process


Protections for Reporting to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community  


The IC IG statutory authorities also provide whistleblower protections for IC employees and contractors who report fraud, waste, or abuse to the IC IG.  The IC IG may receive and investigate whistleblower reprisal complaints from any IC employee or contractor. 


Protections for Reporting to Congress

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act provides IC employees the means to report to Congress complaints or information pertaining to "urgent concerns" (see below) without suffering reprisal.

In general, the ICWPA defines an "urgent concern" as:

  • A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of law or Executive Order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinion concerning public policy matters.
  • A false statement to Congress, or a willful withholding from Congress, on an issue of material fact relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity.
  • An action constituting reprisal or threat of reprisal in response to an employee reporting an urgent concern.


As outlined in the link below, the IC IG must adhere to strict statutory timeframes in order to process whistleblower complaints of “urgent concern.” 

Summary of Procedures for Reporting Urgent Concerns

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