August 03, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a confirmation hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) urged a top nominee to support accountability in the Intelligence Community by protecting whistleblowers. During his questioning, King stressed the historic importance of America’s whistleblower protections at otherwise secret agencies, and asked Terrence Edwards – nominee to be Inspector General at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) – if he would protect these long-standing, uncommon laws. Edwards agreed with Senator King, and pledged to “absolutely” protect the critical form of government oversight.
“Part of the [Inspector General’s] responsibility is the oversight and management of the whistleblower process. It's interesting, I learned some time ago the first whistleblower law in the US preceded the Constitution. It was in 1788 the Continental Congress passed the first whistleblower law. And it is again, it's sort of anomalous for the government to pay people to differ with its own activity,” said Senator King. “So can you commit to this committee that you will have a fair, open and reasonable process for dealing with whistleblowers and not in any way try to suppress information that might come forward?”
“Yes, I will absolutely commit to that,” replied Mr. Edwards. “Whistleblowers are essential to this process and to oversight. We must make sure, and if I confirm, I will make sure that all of the processes in my office to educate them, to open and welcome them, to report any concerns that they have are effective, confidential and freeze them from any chances of reprisal.”
During his questioning, Senator King also highlighted the importance of inspectors general in the Intelligence Community being independent from their agency, and having the fortitude to “bite the hand that appointed you.”
“The real qualification for this job is back bone, is the willingness, and in fact the relishing, of taking a position that is contrary to that of the people who hired you. And give me some reassurance because as Senator Rubio pointed out at the beginning, the odd thing about these jobs that we're talking about here is you're going to work for a secret agency. Nobody else is watching other than this committee and it's comparable committee in the House,” said Senator King. “In other words, the public doesn't there's no newspaper that reports that can know what's going on within the NRO, that knows about the contracts, how they're structured. So it's doubly important, it seems to me, because of the secret nature of the agency. And that makes your job doubly important because very few other people are looking. Reassure me that you're willing to bite the hand that appointed you.”
As a member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, and Co-Chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), Senator King is seen as a highly-influential voice in the intelligence and national security conversation. He has worked to provide America’s Intelligence Community the tools they need to meet 21st century challenges, while ensuring the agencies have proper oversite and accountability.