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Senate Intelligence Votes to Bolster Whistle-Blower Protections

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 6/3/2020 Steven T. Dennis

(Bloomberg) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee backed new protections for intelligence community whistle-blowers and new reporting requirements for political campaigns as part of a broader intelligence authorization bill.

The legislation, approved 14-1 by the panel on Wednesday, follows President Donald Trump repeated lashing out at a whistle-blower, whose complaint about the president’s telephone call with Ukraine’s president led to his impeachment in the Democratic-led House. He was acquitted by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

The committee supported measures that would prohibit leaking a whistle-blower’s identity, clarify the definition of an “urgent concern” that must be transmitted to Congress, and allows both the intelligence community inspector general and whistle-blowers to come directly to the intelligence committees in the House and Senate.

Sharing a complaint with the subject of it without written consent would also be made a crime.

Read More: Trump Fires Watchdog Who Flagged Whistle-Blower’s Complaint

It also includes panel Vice Chairman Mark Warner’s legislation requiring political campaign officials to report when foreign nationals make offers of donations or other assistance and cooperation, according to a committee aide.

‘Bipartisan Effort’

Acting Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Warner, a Virginia Democrat, jointly announced the broad intelligence authorization legislation Wednesday following the vote.

The bill “represents the Senate Intelligence Committee’s strong, bipartisan effort to give our Intelligence Community the resources, authorities, and personnel to protect America’s national security while increasing government efficiency,” Rubio said.

Warner said the measure “takes key steps to improve our national security, including investments in 5G technology, reforms to our security clearance process, and important protections for whistle-blowers to report wrongdoing.” Warner said.

The legislation includes efforts to confront attempts to compromise U.S. networks and computers, ensure secure 5G networks with open standards and identify Chinese corruption and influence operations especially regarding Hong Kong, according to the committee.

The committee also said the bill includes provisions targeting corruption by Russian and Eastern European oligarchs, and protecting against foreign influence threats and election interference on social media.

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