Current Whistleblower Scandal Shows (Again) That The Official Channels Are Useless

from the no-sense-fixing-what-no-one-really-wants-fixed dept

The official channels for whistleblowing are meant to deter whistleblowers. Just look at what has happened to the whistleblower currently at the center of accusations against President Trump. Despite raising concerns urgent enough the IC’s Inspector General felt compelled to notify Congress, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence decided the allegations were too sensitive to be shared with its oversight.

Ed Snowden saw how useless the official channels were. That’s why he and a ton of sensitive documents headed to Russia via Hong Kong. The United States government has no time for whistleblowers. Hunting down and punishing whistleblowers is the national pastime — one that Barack Obama particularly enjoyed.

The Trump Administration isn’t any better. Obama may have passed some mostly-worthless protections for IC whistleblowers before he left office, but the current administration is engaging in a demonstration of just how worthless those protections are.

Nick Baumann’s detailed examination of the flawed whistleblower procedures is worth a read. It shows exactly why Snowden chose the path he did, and why the whistleblower behind this latest report is probably headed towards a premature exit from public service.

This system, in which even those who follow the rules are persecuted for talking out of turn, is not new, [former DOJ legal ethics advisor Jesselyn] Radack noted. “Thomas Drake — an NSA surveillance whistleblower pre-Snowden — was prosecuted under the Espionage Act after following the procedures in the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act,” she said. Seeing what happened to Drake, she added, led “Snowden to correctly conclude that using the same channels that entrapped Drake to make his disclosures … would be an exercise in futility.”

Snowden’s government critics should have known this better than anyone. Obama’s administration used the Espionage Act against more alleged leakers than any administration before or since. An interagency review panel later found that Ellard, the NSA inspector general who said Snowden should’ve come to him, had himself retaliated against a whistleblower. The panel, composed of inspectors general from outside the Defense Department, recommended Ellard be fired; the Defense Department later overruled that decision.

The basic problem with government whistleblowing, as Snowden noted in October 2013, is that “you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.”

In this case, the person involved in the alleged wrongdoing is none other than the President himself. The person making the allegations comes from the same governmental branch they’re making accusations against. It’s little surprise the ODNI — an executive agency — is in no hurry to allow Congressional oversight to examine the report or speak to the whistleblower. The ODNI may not be directly involved in the alleged wrongdoing, but it made a decision to protect the alleged violator, rather than the person utilizing the proper channels to have their concerns addressed.

The only thing going for the whistleblower now is that the publicity surrounding this report will likely prevent direct retaliation from the President and the administration. But that still leaves the agency the whistleblower works for, as well as the ODNI itself. Both of these could engage in direct retaliation without it being noticed (at least not immediately) by anyone outside of these entities. By the time anyone gets around to addressing these violations, the whistleblower will likely be out of a job and informally blacklisted by the federal government. In the United States, whistleblower protections are just another way to ensure no good deeds go unpunished.

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Comments on “Current Whistleblower Scandal Shows (Again) That The Official Channels Are Useless”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The Trump "Whistleblower" Situation Is Very Dangerous for Democr

Do the recent revelations by investigative journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and most notably the Wall Street Journal represent an “inflection point,” exposing a level of malfeasance and criminality that can no longer be ignored? Perhaps. It is too early to tell. But the record of the past seems pretty clear: no act by Trump, however obscene, despicable, illegal, or dangerous, seems sufficient to generate any effective political response by Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate. And while I long argued for impeachment, I seriously doubt that this is any longer a viable political strategy of opposition, both because the true “moment” for that — the too-long period between the release of the Mueller Report and Mueller’s testimony — has passed, and because Democratic leaders in Congress are simply too timid, and Republican leaders are brazenly hostile to constitutional democracy.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You appear unaware of white nationalist rhetoric, somewhat strange given the president brought this rhetoric back into the national discourse less than 90 days ago.

White nationalist rhetoric, when they are trying to hide their racism, is to suggest that their opponents should go elsewhere. "Don’t like it, just leave" was literally a KKK slogan they put on billboards. Trump’s campaign was built on changing things he didn’t like to MAGA, referencing an ambiguous past time in which civil liberties for minorities are almost certainly curtailed, but has revived the KKK slogan against his minority critics and then applied it more generally. I won’t go into the history of racism in this language, it very much is.

Your commentary also suggests a failure to understand the history of nationalist and ethno nationalist movements and how they define the in group. When these movements need to build power, they open up the in group, for instance allowing in the Irish and Italian immigrants they had previously shunned. They will accept collaborators from the out group – particularly if it allows them to deflect criticism. But as they gain power they restrict the in group to ensure the power isn’t diluted. They define ‘nationality’ or ‘ethnicity’ in far more restrictive ways. (I.E. how the Irish weren’t considered white when famine lead to mass immigration)

The statement that someone who wants the "liberals" to go away made in response to a perceived "liberal" pushing for change while not in power holds deep historical racist connotations (Racism here referencing both ethnic and religious prejudices). But stating that the end goal of that statement is a white ethnostate is not claiming that there are no non-minority conservatives, only in recognition that having excluded "liberals" from the country, those conservatives who sought to exclude will need a new outgroup if they are to keep the reigns of power, and that given the demographics and racist undertones of the language used, conservative minorities (like socially conservative arabs) are likely the next targets of such language.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Trump "Whistleblower" Situation Is Very Da

In all the history.. From Bible to now..
I would ask for a 1 word or 1 simple sentence of you reason to use such a word as Liberals..
If we goto Fundamentals.. 6th grade English..Conservative and Liberal..Seems to have changed meanings So many times to FIT, What ever, either side WISHED..

Red, Right, religious, and back to Hard basics that made this country?
Those that decided to PUSH Companies to get things down, even if you had to PAY for it with the nation..
With the Stupid thought, that the Gov. Can not be in competition with the Companies..

The US Gov. has had its hand into Every Advancement in this nation, from the beginning.. Corps and religion DONT LIKE ANYTHING NEW.. They dont like Change or updating anything. they would rather buy out Anyone that IS creating something NEW and use it to death.

NOW, I cant tell much difference between Either side. AND more people are in the middle and 1 reason, only 30% of this nation is REGISTERED for either party.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The Trump "Whistleblower" Situation Is Very Danger

By teh way, guess who put that up? Just had a whim to see one of my comments not immediately censored on this "free speech" site.

Besides that, The Smirking Chimp may inflame you fanboys, so perhaps more hoots for me.

And. You should READ the transcript before go further with this new lunatic bunch of assertions. WSJ predicts a flop…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The Bonespurs

"Sure looks like someone was asking a foreign government to investigate Biden."

Hey, let’s hear both sides before jumping to conclusions! I’m sure that the Ukraine will support the fact that the meeting had nothing to do with an investigation!

"It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case," said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. "This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."


James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Trump "Whistleblower" Situation Is Very Da

You mean The "non-verbaitim" transcript from an administration known for hiding inappropriate information when performing transcription that exposes that Trump is unaware of the private ownership of the American company Crowdstrike and then, while peddling a conspiracy theory to a foreign head of state, exposes that trump is only tangentally aware of how the Mueller investigation started and isn’t aware of even the limited public knowledge of how foreign intelligence works?

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The transcript is – or should be – actually pointless at this stage.
If everyone was honest and principled, the scandal should not even be about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine or whoever else. It’s the very resistance to oversight that should be the scandal. The fact that this report, that should have been immediately forwarded to Congress, was blocked by the ODNI. Even if the transcript shows nothing, it’s not within the ODNI’s authority to decide that.

Breaking the law to cover "nothing" should still be seen as law-breaking in its own right. However, given the partisanship that rules the US at every level, we now need the transcript to show cause, otherwise the president’s side will still conclude that there is nothing to it.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"If everyone was honest and principled, the scandal should not even be about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine or whoever else. It’s the very resistance to oversight that should be the scandal."

And ironically the same people defending the resistance to oversight are the ones who claimed that whether Clinton was getting a blow job by his intern or not wasn’t the issue, but that he tried covering it up in front of the US public.

Honesty and principles is still something both sides of the aisle like to use when it’s convenient for them and forget when it isn’t…

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is what, the fourth attempt at impeachment? Why isn’t their penalties when you try to impeach and fail?

Perhaps you don’t understand what impeachment is. It’s when the House of Representatives votes on whether to indict the President. If the vote passes, the President has been impeached, and then a trial is held in the Senate. There have been no attempts to impeach Trump.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the first time we got close to impeachment during Trump’s presidency, and we’re only just started the inquiry stage. Impeachment doesn’t actually start until Articles of Impeachment are drafted and approved by a majority in the House. If the inquiry doesn’t turn up anything, the House can still end the inquiry without impeaching anyone.

But this is the first time there’s been an actual attempt at impeachment; the rest was all talk.

Anonymous Coward says:

More Tim-speak muddying the waters

Tim, you really should stop this quixotian rage against the president.
He’s not a nice person, he does not-nice things, but he’s not all that bad.

President A spoke with President B (transcript: )
There shouldn’t be news at eleven, because they only did the typical powerful asshole whinery crap with eachother.

I bet Tim, you HAVE read the transcript. (I see your post’s time occurs AFTER the whitehosue made the transcript available.. you don’t mention it.. u scared bro? j/k )

I bet Tim, you couldn’t find anything significant in it supporting your position.

I bet Tim, that’s why your newest smear post completely ignores the transcript, since it doesn’t support your position.

Instead you throw flack at everything else.

And seriously, comparing this situation to the Snowden situation? Are you high?

Ed Snowden brought hundreds of thousands of hidden data to the fore, with solid evidence, and has been on the run ever since, holed up miserably and distressed that he is barred from ever coming home.

This whistleblower… hasn’t been punished (yet). Or do you have an article supporting your position showing that the whistleblower has been denigrated, lost his job, had to flee america, and will never see his family again?

You should be ashamed of yourself – Ed Snowden is a patriot, an exemplar of non-partisan, honest strength & moral character.
And you’re using him to try and support a false partisan stance.

This site used to care more about free speech than political parties.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: More Tim

Tim, you really should stop this quixotian rage against the president.

I really think someone should read the article before stepping up to defend Cadet Bonespurs the draft dodging adulterer.

Tim’s article was about whistleblowing and the DC pressure to coverup under all administrations. Which you’d know if you weren’t just trolling.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"I seriously sat and tried to think of a single good thing about Trump and I couldn’t. It’s not even a punchline, the President just has no good qualities at all. #sad"

His incompetence.

Imagine how it would turn out if he actually had the ability to turn into reality even one out of ten things he continually pushes for at rallies and press conferences?

We should all value tweeter-in-chiefs quality of generic ineptitude which keeps him from turning his daydreams into our reality.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

He loves his daughter?

I thought of that, but besides the creepiness of the way he does it, that just means he’s probably not a complete sociopath. Loving one’s children is just a facet of basic humanity (or arguably being a mammal of any kind). Not really anything praiseworthy. There’s also the question of whether he actually loves her, or just enjoys possessing her in some way.

Or maybe that comment was entirely tongue in cheek and I took it way too seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: More Tim-speak muddying the waters

Aaand let’s link to the complaint, shall we?

Gosh, "I overheard and spoke with colleagues who overheard the president doing things I think count as political interference."

is it political interference to talk to an abused country and tell them," Yes, don’t be afraid, the abuser can’t hurt you anymore"
Joe Biden’s own words:–dj2-CY?t=16

I’ve provided links supporting my position that are NOT opinion pieces.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

is it political interference to talk to an abused country and tell them," Yes, don’t be afraid, the abuser can’t hurt you anymore"

It is when the speaker offers no proof of the abuse, then asks for a “favor” from the abused (e.g., investigate the abuser in exchange for money). And if you think that isn’t what Trump did, I invite you to read two lines quoted from the White House-approved transcript of the call between Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. The first comes from Trump, right before Zelensky speaks about the relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine:

[T]he United States has been very[,] very good to Ukraine.

The second also comes from Trump, right after Zelensky finishes talking and before Trump talks about Ukraine investigating Biden:

I would like you to do us a favor[,] though[.]

One key word in that second sentence is enough to nail him for conspiring with a foreign power to interfere with an election, and it isn’t favor — it’s though. Lexico (which uses the Oxford English Dictionary) defines though in this context as an adverb meaning “however” — i.e., “a factor qualifies or imposes restrictions on what was said previously“.

Now let’s read those lines back-to-back:

[T]he United States has been very[,] very good to Ukraine. … I would like you to do us a favor[,] though[.]

Trump is at least implying that the United States will continue to be “very, very good to Ukraine” if Ukraine investigates Biden. Imagine that: A factor (Ukraine investigating Biden) qualifies or imposes restrictions on what was said previously (the U.S. treats Ukraine “good”).

Of course, if you have any other reasonable explanation or interpretation of what Trump said in that context, I’m all ears.

ECA (profile) says:

ya know guys/gals/pets...

If we had a Gov. or Human beings…People that understood being HUMAN wasnt a curse for being 1/2 idiot.. And an OPEN gov that told us A few things.
90% of this would not be happening.
I still Contend that something stupid is happening with State/fed elections. Because I cant see more then 30% votes, but numbers ALWAYS hit 55-60%(only way to have Valid election). And we get People in Office that ARE NOT more intelligent then the persons Voting for them. Just cause there is a Collage Post on his resume’..

How many of these people AT HOME understand that they can Pull our State and Fed Officials OUT of office. Just by getting a few thousand signatures and posting them.
IMO, I see to many Family members up there, and always has been a Family business in every state, as Long as I have been alive. GET A HINT. Find others. FIND anything except LAWYERS.. I would love bookkeepers..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: We used to protect whistleblowers

"Obama administration started the practice of crucifying them"

Note, for what it’s worth … there were presidents before Obama.
And guess what … they were not so nice to many people including whistle blowers. But you knew that and could not control yourself, you just had to claim it all started with Obama hoping that some useful fools believe it.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


How do “drone and missile strikes without congressional approval” compare with the current administration’s…

  • approval of concentration camps for undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers alike?
  • denial of military service for transgender people?
  • asking of the Supreme Court to rule that LGBT people don’t deserve anti-discrimination protections under the Civil Rights Act?
  • requests to foreign powers for dirt on political rivals?
  • refusal to acknowledge who is largely responsible for domestic terrorism?
  • practically fawning treatment of dictators and fascists?
  • obstruction of investigations into the President, his financial dealings, and his possible ties to Russian oligarchs?
  • refusal to combat, or even acknowledge, global climate change — up to and including its attempt to strip California of its ability to set emissions standards, then punish the state for not doing more to improve the quality of its air?
  • attempts to return the healthcare system to a pre-Obamacare state and thus strip health insurance from millions of people?
  • refusal to do anything related to gun control or reducing gun violence despite the numerous mass casualty shootings and subsequent deaths that have occured since Trump took office?
  • lying to the American public to the point where any statements coming from the White House or any other federal agency are immediately seen as suspect and not to be trusted?
  • institution of trade wars which will affect the American economy far more than they will affect the economies of other countries?
  • general hatred of, and attempts to repeal, anything passed by Barack Obama during his two terms in office?
  • use of executive orders to route around Congress and the separation of powers?
  • refusal to allow a full investigation into all of the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh?
  • pressuring of nominally apolitical agencies such as the Department of Justice to protect Trump from investigations spearheaded by his political enemies?
  • continuous calls to have the federal government investigate, prosecute, and imprison Trump’s political enemies on even the weakest of charges?

Because yeah, drone strikes without congressional approval is bad — but the current administration isn’t exactly filled with saints.

…all of which is a long way of saying “holy shit, nice deflection via whataboutism”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m failing to see the outrage on most of what your saying. Your basically laying out the Left’s agenda formulated as an attack on the Right’s positions. If I really cared a lot, which I don’t, I could re-word all of those points layout out the Right’s agenda as an attack on the Left, even tho I don’t agree with most of them.

I do find it funny that you built that big of a straw man attacking someone else’s deflection. Especially since quite a few of your "bullet points" apply to BOTH sides of the isle.

Partisan much?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"If the points apply to both sides of the aisle, so be it"

That’s the interesting thing about the "whatabout / both sides" argument in response to an accusation or evidence of wrongdoing. They always seem to expect a hypocritical defence or embarrassed silence in response. They never seem to expect "well, if my side’s guilty, hang them too" as a genuine response. Such is the disease of partisan politics, I suppose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tim, you made a boo boo

Ed Snowden saw how useless the official channels were. That’s why he and a ton of sensitive documents headed to Russia via Hong Kong.

No. Snowden went to Hong Kong (and whilest there help journalists understand the material he had) and then sought political asylum in 20 something countries. It was a Latin American country (Equador, I think) that offered asylum. He was on his way there, but the US govt cancelled his passport whilst in the air from Hong Kong to Moscow (where he would have continued on to Latin America were the passport still valid).

Thus, the correct statement is "The US govt trapped Snowden in Russia by cancelling his passport". He was certainly not ‘headed to Russia’, but ‘headed to Latin America’ and this was only after he received assistance from Wikileaks to organise the asylum applications etc.. Greenwald, McAskil et al had not even THOUGHT about what would/should happen to Snowden after publications began. Wikileaks did, and provided Sarah Harrison to assist.

Finally, he DESTROYED his copies of the documents before he left Hong Kong.

Thus, the second sentence I quoted above is totally misleading and false.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Tim, you made a boo boo

"He was certainly not ‘headed to Russia’, but ‘headed to Latin America’"

Yeah, this is always worth stressing. That he ended up in Russia is good fuel for those who wish to believe in a Cold War-era conspiracy theory over the implications of the facts that Snowden released. But, he did not intend to make that his last port of call, the US government made sure that happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

The current whistleblower is NOT even a one to begin with. Why is that kept being thrown out there? He reported on a RUMOR he heard, ZERO first-hand anything. He’s at best a RUMOR blower. We know how reliable RUMORS are, not very reliable, which is why they are a RUMOR!!!!

This is why he doesn’t get any protection. He’s an idiot and I’m sure infested with TDS.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Secondhand information isn’t based on a rumor; it’s not as good as firsthand accounts, but at least the information came from somewhere identifiable. The Inspector General found these sources and was able to determine the information credible. This isn’t “from a friend of a friend of a friend”, it’s “I know multiple people who were there”. There’s a massive difference in the credibility between the two.

Also, all question of the whistleblower’s credibility should’ve gone out the window when the released “transcript” was fully consistent with the released complaint. We now have direct evidence for the allegations that corroborate most of what’s in the complaint and doesn’t contradict the rest of it. Their credibility is more or less irrelevant at this point as their testimony has been shown to be true. We’re no longer relying solely on a whistleblower’s secondhand testimony but a firsthand account as well.

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