A staffer who sits on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is facing calls to resign.
The committee announced late last month that it was hiring former CIA Inspector General David Buckley to serve as the panel’s staff director.
Shortly after the announcement, Yahoo News reported that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) watchdog urged the CIA to take action against Buckley for retaliating against Andrew Bakaj, a whistleblower in the CIA inspector general’s office.
Mark Zaid, who represent Bakaj, told The New York Times that Buckley serving on the panel is “an outright affront to every lawful whistle-blower that exists,” adding he was "aghast.”
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, said in a statement last week that she was “flabbergasted” when he heard Buckley was appointed to the panel.
“I believe the select committee wants to—and can—conduct a fair, in-depth investigation into the January 6 attack, but for that to happen, committee leaders must remove Buckley from this leadership role and pledge to protect any whistleblowers who come forward,” she said.
Buckley is accused of retaliating against Bakaj for cooperating in an investigation into potential evidence manipulation within the inspector general’s office.
According to Yahoo News, the CIA’s inspector general launched a review of Bakaj's computer searches as a result of the cooperation, which turned up a copy of a sensitive CIA file. During the probe, Bakaj was placed on administrative leave.
An unclassified summary of DHS's watchdog report reveals that the agency found merit to some of the allegations against Buckley, specifically that the CIA’s inspector general “opened a ‘retaliatory investigation’ against Bakaj due to the cooperation.
The summary further says that during the probe, the inspector general found “other, unrelated derogatory information” that was used to suspend Bakaj’s security clearance and place him on administrative leave.
Libby Liu, the chief executive officer of Whistleblower Aid, said in an emailed statement that Buckley’s actions should “alarm anyone who wants the House select committee to conduct a full and fair investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”
“The leaders of the select committee must ensure that witnesses feel empowered and supported to tell us everything they know. But that can’t happen as long as Buckley retains his leadership role in the investigation. His position threatens to undermine the credibility of the inquiry,” Liu said.
Asked about the calls to resign, a spokesperson for the select committee said Buckley will continue to serve on the committee’s staff.
“The years-old situation conveniently resurfacing now dealt with possibly unlawful handling of information that could have jeopardized one of the CIA IG’s most important and sensitive investigations in recent years," the spokesperson said. "Mr. Buckley did his job to protect the integrity of that effort, and since these events unfolded, a federal court has ruled that the precise sort of action he took does not constitute retaliation."