The Proper Channels For Whistleblowers Are Still A Joke

from the like-a-big,-dysfunctional-family...-fighting-over-a-will dept

This administration has made it clear whistleblowing isn't tolerated. It has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other administrations combined. It's even planning a "Welcome Home" prosecution for the nation's most famous whistleblower -- Edward Snowden -- should he ever decide to return to the US.

Officials, of course, claim to love whistleblowing. That seems to be the main objection raised to Snowden's activities: "If only he'd gone through the proper channels, we wouldn't be seeking to jail him the moment he returns to American soil (or the soil of any country with a favorable extradition policy)."

But there are no official channels -- or, at least, no channels whistleblowers feel safe using.

Foreign Policy has the story of another NSA whistleblower the agency has chosen to make miserable rather than investigate the source of her complaints. It started with an FBI raid of her house -- something she found out via a phone call from an FBI agent already in her house. From there, it got worse.

“They suspended my clearances without giving me any reason,” she remembers. She wasn’t allowed at work, and for two years, the NSA made her “call every day like a criminal, checking in every morning before 8.” Khorasani went to the agency only for interrogations, she says: eight or nine sessions that ran at least five hours each. She was asked about her family, her travel, and her contacts.
This was all triggered by a meeting she set up with Thomas Drake -- another famous whistleblower prosecuted by this administration -- about how to follow through with a complaint about what she felt was an unfair reassignment. According to Drake, it was already too late.
“He said, ‘You’ve got the bull’s-eyes on you. You’re done,’” Khorasani recalls.
As the article points out, her story is one of several. The agency -- and the administration -- have made no meaningful distinction between whistleblowing and insider threats. They treat both in the same way, even if one is an integral part of government accountability. Anything the agency considers to be a threat, it handles with swift severity.

Individuals can find their clearances yanked, something that is signalled to other NSA employees with a red security badge, rather than the normal blue one. Employees are encouraged to report anything questionable about other employees to supervisors. Some employees aren't even employees. They're plants put in place to encourage incriminating statements or actions.

This isn't doing the NSA -- and dozens of other government agencies -- any favors. Talented people are leaving because they don't want to work in this environment. Potential employees are looking elsewhere for work. And still others are being forced out of a job because they aren't willing to simply shut up when they see something that bothers them.

The DOJ is no different. It's no fan of whistleblowers either. Unfortunately for it, it's not a national security agency so it can't maintain quite as much control over disclosures by whistleblowers. That's why it's been fighting legislators over whistleblower protection proposals. Marcy Wheeler has highlighted some of its objections to Senator Grassley's legislation, raised in recent testimony in front of a Congressional committee.

First off, it apparently feels too many of the proper channels are out of its direct control.
[A]s Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed, DOJ is worried that permitting FBI Agents to report crimes or waste through their chain of command would risk exposing intelligence programs.

"What I would say is that as we work through this issue, please know that, again, any concerns that the Department raises are not out of a disagreement with the point of view of the protection of whistleblowers but again, just making sure that the FBI’s intelligence are also protected at the same time."

I suspect (though am looking for guidance) that the problem may be that the bill permits whistleblowers to go to any member of Congress, rather than just ones on the Intelligence Committees. It’s also possible that DOJ worries whistleblowers will be able to go to someone senior to them, but not read into a given program.
It's also likely concerned that whistleblowers will expose a number of questionable activities.
Still, coming from an agency that doesn’t adequately report things like its National Security Letter usage to Congress, which has changed its reporting to the Intelligence Oversight Board so as to exempt more activities, and can’t even count its usage of other intelligence programs, it seems like a tremendous problem that DOJ doesn’t want FBI whistleblowers to have protection because it might expose what FBI is doing on intelligence.
The FBI must be severely damaged at this point, or have too many secrets it would hate to see fall into the hands of legislators not connected to its mostly-captive audience in the Intelligence Committee. Grassley noted one of the agency's objections to additional whistleblower protections is that there's so damn much about the agency employees would complain about.
One of the issues that your department has raised is that allowing FBI employees to report wrong-doing to their chain of command could lead to too many complaints. You know? What’s wrong with too many complaints? … Seems to me you’d invite every wrong doing to get reported to somebody so it could get corrected.
If there's any agency that is sorely in need of some periodic deep housecleaning, it's the FBI.
This is the FBI! Not only a bureau that has tremendous power over people, but also one with a well-documented history of abuse. It should be the first entity that has whistleblower protection, not the last!
This is why there aren't more whistleblowers. The "proper channels" at the NSA will most likely net a whistleblower a search of their house and belongings en route to a forced resignation. Meanwhile, the FBI, with the DOJ's backing, is trying to narrow the reporting channels so it can -- like its NATSEC big brother -- eliminate unhappy employees before they can do any damage.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 3:47am

    The agency -- and the administration -- have made no meaningful distinction between whistleblowing and insider threats

    Why would they, especially as whistleblowers pose more of a threat to the positions of those in power than any foreign agent does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 3:54am

    Way to attract the best talent

    why would anybody want to work for uncle scrooge under these conditions. This is a race to the bottom and the FBI sees to be leading the pack.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 4:06am

      Re: Way to attract the best talent

      while i understand the principles involved, principles are the FIRST to be chucked out the window when you need a stupid fucking job to feed your rugrats...
      then when you are in an unprincipled organization, all the rest just follows 'naturally': YOU become corrupted such that, well, you might as well whistleblow yourself as being part of the broken system which is the problem...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mat (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 6:35am

      Re: Way to attract the best talent

      Working for Scrooge McDuck seems a better deal then this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 8:21am

      Re: Way to attract the best talent

      Are you kidding? Working for "uncle scrooge" is great...if you have a larcenous bent. You can do whatever you want and no one dares to tell on you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 4:53am

    Apparently the best channel would be anonymous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 May 2016 @ 5:36am

    Minor correction

    Meanwhile, the FBI, with the DOJ's backing, is trying to narrow the reporting channels so it can -- like its NATSEC big brother -- eliminate unhappy employees before they can do any damage.

    You mean, before they can report any damage. The whole point of whistleblowing is that people try to get stuff fixed that is broken.

    Fair is foul and foul is fair, Hoover through the fog and filty air!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 6:15am

    It has always been thus

    In their eyes - if you raise a problem - then YOU are the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 6:50am

    And the sad thing is they will remain a joke because the government doesn't want to fix things, much less to have whistle-blowers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gezzerx, 3 May 2016 @ 6:57am

    false flag patriotism

    Why would any true loyal Americans, be they Democrat or Republican, Male or Female, White,Black,Hispanic or other, vote for a Democrat or a Republican when both .parties have shown their willingness to subvert the Constitution, our Civil Liberties, and our National Sovereignty through the TPP (The Trans Pacific Partnership) and have been doing so for decades & the Governments own records have proven this to be true ! We are being sold out by the Democrats & Republicans ! It now has become a choice between Fascism or Liberty & Fascism is winning !

    Both parties have been complicit in this criminal activity. Some will say they don’t want to waste their vote, but you are already wasting your vote on Democrats & Republicans because they are the ones who have already betrayed us ! This should be a joint effort on the part of all Americans, Democrats,Republicans & Independent voters ! Organize now before its to late ! Your liberty is at stake and that of your children & grandchildren !

    We get the Government we deserve, and nothing will change until we stop electing Democrats & Republicans after all they are the ones subverting the Constitution, & they must be held to account both politically & legally !

    Both parties are owned by corporate America, two sides of the same coin ! Wise up America .

    No more lies, excuses, rationalizations,or justifications, the public needs to hold these officials to account to the fullest extent of the law under Title 18 sec. 241 & 242 (Google it), so any future traitors will know there will be consequences to such behavior.

    Unaccountable power is absolute power, & is absolutely corrupt !

    As Mr. Snowden said the Politicians are afraid of you ! Now is the time exercise you power, you may not get another chance !

    REMEMBER: POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS AND DIAPERS SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON.

    Some words of true Patriots are as follows, as opposed to the words of false flag patriotism of bought & paid for professional politicians of today.

    He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
    Benjamin Franklin

    He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
    Benjamin Franklin

    Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
    Thomas Jefferson

    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
    Thomas Jefferson

    Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the citizenry."
    Thomas Jefferson.

    “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security,”
    Thomas Jefferson wrote this in the Declaration of Independence .

    In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
    James Madison

    Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.
    James Madison

    The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
    Patrick Henry

    "We the People are the rightful masters of BOTH Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution"
    Abraham Lincoln

    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln

    We should not forget the warning of President Eisenhower .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLqWfWxqh_0
    The NSA is controlled & operated by the DOD & the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) Private Corporations.

    "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."
    President John F. Kennedy
    Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
    April 27, 1961

    Entire Speech 19:44 Min.
    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=JFK+speaches&ia=videos&iai=zdMbmdFOvTs

    As is said in the law, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. ("False in one thing, false in all things" is an instruction given to jurors: if they find that a witness lied about an important matter, they are entitled to ignore everything else that witness said.) The Government has been lieing to the American public for decades !

    As a reminder Hermann Goering said at the Nuremberg Trials .
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
    Benito Mussolini

    Time to start removing the corporate Congress from office & defunding the NSA & the Police Surveillance state, to pre 9-11 levels & force them to comply with the law & impose jail time for non compliance under USC Title 18 Sec. 241 & 242 (Google it) .

    So VOTE just don't vote for a Democrat or Republican, send them a message they can't ignore and will understand ! ! ! They are the problem not the solution !

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    Albert Einstein

    Only after the members of our 3 branches of Government, both Republicans & Democrats who conspired in this criminal conspiracy & violated the Constitution are prosecuted, should Mr. Snowden be charged with a crime. Prosecute those who broke the law first, in chronological order, then the Government can get around to Mr Snowden !

    The short version of the above is as follows:
    Any Government or Party that doesn't abide by the Constitution does not deserve our respect or support ! ! ! They are traitors !

    Disclaimer: Be advised it is possible, that this communication is being monitored by the National Security Agency or GCHQ. I neither condone or support any such policy, by any Government authority or third party that does not comply, as stipulated by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kaelis (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 7:21am

    What are they so afraid of?

    If they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to fear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 8:51am

    The only real "proper channel" for whistle blowing

    that I know of is the False Claims Act.

    And now that I think of it, committing a crime and billing congress could be a viable tort. Unconstitutional Surveillance = crime, the money spent on the gear to do it = Billing Congress.

    Anyone want to make a few bob forcing the NSA to sell off their gear?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 9:00am

    What they might say if they were honest

    "We've spent considerable time and effort lining the 'proper channels' with spike pits, trip wires and various other traps to ensure that anyone naive enough to use them are dealt with before they can do any damage. As such we highly object to the idea that would-be-whistleblowers would be able to avoid our carefully laid traps and might actually be able to expose our actions."

    Given the 'proper channels' aren't meant to fix any problems other than 'this person doesn't know how to keep their mouth shut', of course they're going to be heavily flawed and make it near impossible that a problem will be reported to someone interested in fixing it, that's the point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 1:39pm

      Re: What they might say if they were honest

      Indeed, it seems that the real reason the 3 letter orgs are so mad that people aren't using the "proper channels" is because of what they want to happen:
      Someone tries to blow the whistle through the "proper channel".
      The Org says "Thanks for informing us. We'll look into that. Also, could you please pack up your things? You're fired. And remember we know you know about this and we've added you to the no-fly list, so should you attempt to leak this or leave the country, we'll have you thrown in jail for the rest of your life. Have a nice day!"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 9:10am

    Typo - Please fix

    Dark, there is a typo in the title.

    You forgot the air quotes (or actual quotes) around
    "Proper Channels".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever, 3 May 2016 @ 9:11am

    And? I don't see a problem. More useless Techdirt fearmongering as usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 9:14am

    Puzzle Extraction

    "The "proper channels" at the NSA will most likely net a whistleblower a search of their house and belongings en route to a forced resignation. "

    ...and forget about keeping any Rubik's Cubes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 9:16am

    Biggest Failure

    This IMHO has been the greatest failure of the Obama administrations. This and the failure to close Gitmo. He had the authority to address both, but caved the the interests of the security state. So sad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 10:12am

      Re: Biggest Failure

      Transparency is certainly in the top five.

      I think a truly transparent government is essential, and we took a few steps back this administration.

      Also the CIA Drone Strike programs. That's pretty much a policy to massacre civilians for no reason. It's terrorism by an industrialized nation.

      The continuation of the CIA Extrajudicial Detention and Interrogation Program.

      Ugh.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 10:16am

    It's depressing to say...

    but the news would be Whistleblower is acknowledged and protected for once!

    So long as people are in jail and Snowden is in asylum, yeah, it's pretty clear that the United States Government hates whistleblowers and would hang them up by piano wire if they could.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2016 @ 10:29am

    The reward is a proverbial bullet in the back of the head for daring to expose the incompetance of their superiors.

    How could anyone pass up an opportunity to be harrassed, threatened, imprisoned, assaulted and fired. All for telling your superiors what the company/agency is intentionally doing wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 3 May 2016 @ 11:16am

    Ya know there are supposed to be people providing oversight, it really is a pity they are so scared of doing the job.

    Staying the course, no matter the cost in cash or rights, is how we are operating. This is insanity. Just because they work for an acronym does not make them magically unable to break the law, and allowing them to burn the heretics who point out those 'bad apples' rather than get rid of the 'bad apples' says much about them.

    As Lisa Simpson once said...
    Washington DC was built on a swamp, and very little has changed since then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 5 May 2016 @ 6:04am

    Why can't they see that creating a culture of unquestioning compliance with the status quo causes more problems than it solves?

    This is when bureaucracy fails; people aren't communicating properly because they're afraid that doing so will get it into trouble, so problems aren't addressed until it's too late. Congress has the same problem; they were elected by a base that expects them to follow through on the promises made on [$hot button issue] and are obliged to answer to their campaign donors.

    Everyone with responsibility is afraid of getting into trouble with someone and this gets in the way of getting stuff done. Something needs to change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 May 2016 @ 10:05am

      So long as your feet aren't wet, or you have a personal lifeboat, you can pretend the boat isn't sinking

      When 'fixing problems' requires stepping on high ranking toes, or otherwise rocking the boat, then those that would have their jobs made every slightly more difficult by people coming forward to report on problems would much rather have silence instead.

      That this causes more problems down the line is irrelevant to them as odds are good someone else will have to deal with the problems, not them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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