During the third day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) claimed that the whistleblower, whose complaint sparked the probe, has a “statutory right” to remain anonymous.
“The whistleblower has the right, a statutory right, to anonymity. These proceedings will not be used to out the whistleblower.”
Watch his comments below:
.@repdevinnunes: "Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower. "— CSPAN (@cspan) November 19, 2019
Lt. Col. Alex Vindman: "Ranking Member, it's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please."
Watch LIVE here: https://t.co/4flJQm1g62 pic.twitter.com/oXgiFgbDg6
The Washington Post’s fact-checker looked into Schiff’s claim and gave him “Three Pinocchios.”
“It’s not a right spelled out in any statute. But national security experts warn that disclosing the whistleblower’s identity could expose him to danger and retribution, and chill whistleblowing in general.”
The Post notes that Schiff has claimed several times that the whistleblower statute protects the individual’s identity.
However, an examination of whistleblower laws by the paper found that there is no requirement that whistleblowers remain anonymous. But they do prohibit workplace retaliation.
“Neither the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (ICWPA) nor any related statutes have language guaranteeing anonymity for whistleblowers. These laws, in conjunction with Presidential Policy Directive 19 and Intelligence Community Directive 120, provide protections from work-related retaliation. Intelligence community whistleblowers can’t be demoted, fired or reassigned for legally reporting their concerns; their pay can’t be cut; they can’t be sent in for psychiatric exams; and their security clearance level can’t be touched.”
Federal law prohibits the inspector general from disclosing the identity of the whistleblower, but that is the extent of the statute that guarantees anonymity. The Post also notes that outing the whistleblower may not violate the ICWPA, but they may run afoul of laws prohibiting witness intimidation.
Ultimately, the Post’s fact-checker decided that there is not a “statutory right” to anonymity, but outing the whistleblower may run counter to other federal laws.
“The ICWPA doesn’t include language granting whistleblowers a right to anonymity. Neither do other statutes, directives, or court rulings that apply to the intelligence community. The argument that whistleblower-protection laws implicitly provide anonymity is more nuanced, and debatable, than what Schiff said in a nationally televised hearing. (And what good is a statutory right anyway if there’s no mechanism to enforce it?) We found the case for Three Pinocchios more compelling. Schiff says the whistleblower has a ‘statutory right’ to anonymity, and it apparently, in Schiff’s understanding, extends to congressional hearings and settings that don’t involve the inspector general. That’s debatable at best.”
In October, the Post gave Schiff “Four Pinocchios” over his claim that members of his staff had not communicated with the whistleblower, as IJR has previously reported.
Republicans have repeatedly called on Schiff to have the whistleblower testify in the impeachment probe.