The legislation containing this provision was signed into law nine months after McCullough sent his two notifications to the House and Senate intelligence committees. Grassley clearly knew about the notifications for years, which raises the question: Why didn’t he use this section of the law to go after the CIA officials responsible for what appears to be illegal monitoring of Meyer’s communications with Congress? Why didn’t he call out McCullough for ignoring the law itself?
IC officials have been gunning for Meyer for years. In late 2017, Meyer was placed on administrative leave “with no explanation.” When that became public earlier this year, Grassley told GovExec.com that if Meyer was facing retaliation for communicating with Congress, it would be “unacceptable.” But Grassley appears to have accepted it. Meyer was officially fired by the IC IG in March 2018, just months after he filed his own whistleblower complaint.
Grassley is hardly the only member of Congress to take a less‐than‐aggressive approach to Meyer’s case, specifically, and the threats to IC whistleblowers more generally.
As Jenna McLaughlin reported earlier this year, Senators Mark Warner (D‐Va.), Ron Wyden (D‐Ore.), Susan Collins (R‐Maine) and Grassley asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct “a far‐reaching review” of IC whistleblower protections. Yet just months before the Senate quartet made the request to GAO, the agency published a damning assessment of the state of the Defense Department’s IG office—the very office where Meyer had worked—and been retaliated against—years earlier.
GAO found that between fiscal years 2013 and 2015, the DoD IG closed without investigation 1,094 of 1,197 whistleblower complaints it received—a whopping 91 percent of them. In commenting on GAO’s findings, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) noted that the report raised “questions about whether the office can fairly and appropriately handle those who come forward with allegations of misconduct.”
That’s something of an understatement, given what I’ve found in my own investigation of how the DoD IG has handled previous IC (specifically NSA) whistleblower complaints.
Why has Warner, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee—who is clearly aware of the gravity of these issues—not prioritized them like he has the Russia investigation? Why did Grassley dither for years in the Meyer case when he had a legal sledgehammer to cut off the salaries of out‐of‐control CIA bureaucrats spying on whistleblowers trying to convey their concerns to Congress?
As Loch Johnson, a former senior staffer on the Church Committee, told me years ago, “There’s no substitute for member engagement.” I worked for an engaged House member, so I knew what Johnson meant—introducing and pushing for passage of legislation, getting agency or department heads on record in writing about problems and their optimal solutions, and in the Senate, using the power to hold up nominations to force key executive branch documents out into the open. But there’s a world of difference between the kind of feckless, press‐cycle “oversight” practiced by Grassley and Warner and the kind of accountability‐driven action that should be the hallmark of the committees on which both serve.
Grassley, Warner, and their Senate and House colleagues have, thanks to the country’s founders, ample Article I power to aggressively protect IC whistleblowers and punish their bureaucrat retaliators. That they choose not to is precisely why the fraud, waste, corruption and criminal conduct in the IC continues apace.