Follow Us

Senators demand answers on FBI agents forced to sign nondisclosures stopping whistleblowers

"Federal agencies cannot conceal their wrongdoing behind illegal nondisclosure agreements and related documents," Grassley and Johnson wrote.

Published: April 23, 2023 11:02pm

Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wisc.) sent letters to the Justice Department demanding answers after a former FBI agent said he was forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement that did not include the legally required whistleblower exceptions allowing him to come forward to Congress. 

Whistleblower protections have been enshrined in federal law for more than a decade, and federal agencies may not use taxpayer dollars for nondisclosure agreements without including whistleblower exceptions. However, former Special Agent Steve Friend, who came forward in the fall with claims that the FBI used excessive tactics and did not follow its own rules in probing the Jan. 6 riot, provided the GOP senators with the nondisclosure agreement he was forced to sign that did not include the required anti-gag provision.

"These accountability measures are critically important because they ensure whistleblowers know they have the right to disclose government fraud, waste, and abuse to Congress and Inspectors General," Grassley and Johnson wrote in a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray. "Federal agencies cannot conceal their wrongdoing behind illegal nondisclosure agreements and related documents."

The senators are demanding information about the FBI's specific treatment of Friend and, more broadly, how many times the agency had employees sign nondisclosure forms without the anti-gag provision as required.

The senators also wrote a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to inform him of "additional acts of apparent wrongdoing by the FBI" and ask for his office to "investigate the FBI's alleged retaliation against former Special Agent Friend."

"The FBI is not above the law, and Congress needs to hold it accountable," Tristan Leavitt, president of the nonprofit watchdog Empower Oversight, said after the senators sent their letters to Justice Department officials. "Congress cannot allow agencies to thumb its nose at its power of the purse. Those who blow the whistle deserve to be protected, not punished and silenced."

Madeleine Hubbard is an international correspondent for Just the News. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook