Michael Atkinson J.D. ’91 at his nomination hearing.

Courtesy of Office of Director of National Intelligence

Michael Atkinson J.D. ’91 at his nomination hearing.

March 11, 2018

Cornell Alumnus Expelled From the Office of the Inspector General as Another Seeks to Enter it

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The West Wing’s revolving door sometimes facilitates coincidences. A Cornell alumnus working in the intelligence community was terminated by the acting inspector general of the intelligence community last year, a position which another alumnus, Michael Atkinson J.D. ’91, may soon occupy.

The acting inspector general, Wayne Stone, fired Dan Meyer ’87 from his post as executive director for intelligence community whistleblowing and source protection in November, following undisclosed allegations of issues related to workplace conduct and handling of classified information, according to the Govern­ment Executive.

Atkinson now stands to take over Stone’s temporary position in the Office of the Inspector General, after a Senate confirmation.

The inspector general holds the entire intelligence community ac­countable for waste, fraud, abuse and violations of law, rule, and regulation.The ICWSP reports to the inspector general to offer the highest intelligence officials a place to independently share concerns with the promise of unbiased review.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who co-chairs the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), expressed concerns that Meyer’s dismissal during a time of transition infringed upon the integrity of his role.

“For the agency to take such a drastic personnel action while there is no confirmed, permanent Inspector General in place irreparably undermines the independence of that office,” Grassley wrote, in reference to Stone’s position as an acting rather than a permanent inspector general.

Charles McCullough III, the head of Office of Inspector General under Barack Obama, described Meyer as a “consummate expert in whistleblower protection” in a Foreign Policy report.

Congressmen and nonprofit organizations identify Meyer’s termination as an attempt to gut the intelligence community’s whistleblowing program.

“[Meyer] was terminated in a process marked by procedural irregularities and serious conflicts of interest,” Grassley wrote in a letter sent to Daniel Coats, National Intelligence director on March 6. “The termination of the executive director came after an extended period during which the acting leadership of the OIG demonstrated a lack of support for the critical whistleblower protection mission of the office.”

Andrew Bakaj, former OIG staffer, said that the OIG is “critical to national security” and that Stone — who will be replaced by Atkinson if he is confirmed by the Senate — is not fit for the job.

“Putting the pieces together, and knowing how the process works,” said Bakaj. “The IG is not the popular guy. You have to be the type of person that has the intestinal courage to do your job. Wayne Stone did not have the intestinal courage.”

Even Atkinson himself, a former Justice Department prosecutor, took issue with the OIG’s rights and practices in his opening statement at his nomination hearing.

“The OIG is not currently functioning as effectively as Congress intended,” said Atkinson. “This needs to change before the OIG loses the support of the Committee and the Congress as a whole. Simply put, the [Intelligence Community Inspector General] needs to get its own house in order.”

Stone, who is currently a fellow at Harvard University, works remotely with no access to classified information, according to the Bakaj and three other sources familiar with the matter. Only recently, Stone began commuting to Washington a few days a month.

“It is my understanding that he spent most of his time at Harvard instead of at Washington. You have a problem right there,” Bakaj told the Sun. “Instead of being physically present and leading the ship. He went away, physically, with no access to classified information and no access to his staff.”

In the weeks before Atkinson’s likely confirmation, members of Congress call for greater scrutiny of Stone’s intermittent work.

In Grassley’s letter to Coats, he called for reconsideration of Meyer’s termination writing, “upon Atkinson’s confirmation, the new Inspector General should have unfettered authority to consider both personnel and policy matters [anew] without being hindered by preemptive actions taken by the current acting leadership.”

Neither Meyer nor Atkinson responded for The Sun’s request for comment. Stone could not be reached for comment.