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President signs whistle-blower bill for US workers

WASHINGTON — President Obama signed legislation Tuesday that affords greater protection to federal employees who expose fraud, waste, and abuse in government operations.

Capping a 13-year effort by supporters of whistle-blower rights, the new law closes loopholes created by court rulings, which removed protections for federal whistle-blowers. One loophole specified that whistle-blowers were only protected when they were the first to report misconduct.

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The law makes it easier to punish supervisors who try to retaliate against the government workers.

Special counsel Carolyn Lerner, the federal official who investigates retaliation, said her office ‘‘stands ready to implement these important reforms, which will better ensure that no employee suffers retaliation for speaking out against government waste or misconduct.’’

The new legislation, however, would go beyond restoring protections, to expand whistle-blower rights and clarify certain protections. For example, whistle-blowers could challenge the consequences of government policy decisions.

Specific protections would be given to certain employees, including government scientists who challenge censorship. Workers at the Transportation Security Administration would be covered under the law for the first time.

The bill also would clarify that whistle-blowers have the right to communicate with Congress.

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