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Obama's NDAA Signing Statement May Undermine Whistleblowers, Members Of Congress Say

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OBAMA NDAA SIGNING STATEMENT
U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on January 16, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Obama's decision to issue a signing statement to the NDAA has some lawmakers worried about the strength of the law's whistleblower protections. (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images) | Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers concerned about whistleblower protections in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) say President Obama is unnecessarily trying to end-run those safeguards, and they are asking him to instead abide by the letter of the law.

Obama issued a signing statement circumventing the NDAA's whistleblower protections, saying he would interpret the law in a way that still allowed the heads of federal agencies to "supervise, control, and correct employees' communications with the Congress" if those communications "reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential."

In a Thursday letter to the president obtained by The Huffington Post, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) noted that Congress had already carved out exceptions for employees working in intelligence, rendering the president's signing statement unnecessary.

Congress had inserted language into the NDAA extending whistleblower protections to 12 million employees of federal contractors. Those measures would apply to Defense Department contractors, subcontractors and grant recipients permanently and to other federal agency contrators as part of a four-year pilot program.

The four members of Congress said they were concerned Obama's statement "may be perceived as undermining Congressional intent and discouraging individuals from helping to protect taxpayer dollars." It could also be perceived as "eroding" protections for federal workers and discouraging them from exposing improper behavior, they said.

"The Legislative Branch has the Constitutionally-mandated authority and responsibility to oversee the Executive Brach, and federal employees and government contractors have the right and obligation to bring information to Congress in a lawful manner," the lawmakers wrote. "We encourage you to enforce the law as written. In doing so, your administration will show its dedication to transparancey and accountability at all levels of the federal government."

The full letter is embedded below:

2013-01-17 DEI McCaskill EEC Grassley to President - WPEA NDAA

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