[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [JURIST news archive] on Monday signed into law legislation concerning spending for the US intelligence community that increases protections for intelligence agency whistleblowers. The bipartisan legislation authorizes [AP report] $564 million in spending over five years and specifies that employees who divulge information about possible misconduct within their agencies to intelligence committees will be protected. Supporters of the law hope that it will encourage whistleblowers to report issues through channels and discourage unauthorized leaks. The legislation expands upon whistleblower protection proposals made by the president in 2012, but it does not protect intelligence agency contractors like National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive].
Revelations surrounding the US intelligence community have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. In November the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [official website] declassified [JURIST report] intelligence documents regarding data collection under Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Also in November the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] the petition for certiorari in a case challenging the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s (FISC) April order requiring Verizon to turn over data to the NSA including US telephone calls and Internet exchanges. In September the FISC released [JURIST report] a previously classified opinion explaining why a NSA program to keep records of Americans’ phone calls is constitutional. Also in September the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI’s surveillance powers.