Intel Community To Institute Actual Whistleblower Award For 'Speaking Truth To Power'

from the previous-whistleblowers-need-not-apply dept

The Intelligence Community is looking to reward whistleblowers for "speaking truth to power." No, seriously. Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News has posted a recent Intel Community announcement [PDF] that looks to fold a whistleblower honor into the community's existing awards program.

This is part of the intel community's cautious foray into the harsh sunlight of transparency -- itself a response to a presidential directive that our nation's spies head outside for a bit and expose themselves a bit.

The award may as well be called the "Snowden." But the wording makes it explicit Snowden himself will never be eligible to receive the honorific fruits of his whistleblowing.

“The intelligence community has […] committed to establishing a National Intelligence Professional Awards program to recognize superior service by an intelligence professional in effectuating change by speaking truth to power, by exemplifying professional integrity, or by reporting wrongdoing through appropriate channels,” according to a new Self-Assessment Report on the Third Open Government National Action Plan that was released by the White House last week.

It could be argued Snowden's leaks "spoke truth to power," but it's going to be a bit hard to get past the "through appropriate channels" clause, which seems to be the last refuge of anti-Snowden scoundrels: "Yes, his leaks lead to much-needed changes, but he should have used the proper channels where he would have been ignored/retaliated against!" Then again, the award stipulations has an "or" before "reporting wrongdoing through appropriate channels," so being told to shut up and mind your own business by Congressional intelligence committees may not be required to land this new award.

It will be interesting to see how receptive the intelligence committee actually is to whistleblowing. This award may end up being handed out to whistleblowers whose complaints result in the least amount of internal turmoil. Aftergood notes surveillance agencies haven't historically been receptive to constructive criticism… or any criticism, really.

Professional integrity may be welcome everywhere, but “speaking truth to power” is rarely welcomed by “power.” Often it is not even acknowledged as “truth.” (Apparently, the IC envisions itself here as the domain of truth, and not of power. Or will those who challenge the IC leadership itself be eligible for the new award?) Meanwhile, “reporting wrongdoing” often seems to end badly for the reporter, as the frequency of whistleblower reprisal claims indicates.

If the IC moves forward with this award in an honest fashion, it will be a refreshing change from the longtime policy of "bullets for messengers" that has been implemented with particular fervor by this administration. Aftergood believes there may be reason to believe this may not just be the Intelligence Committee looking busy for the boss. Presidential directives come and go but honorifics last forever. Nothing like this would be instituted if it didn't actually reflect values the IC wants to promote.

Whether or not the IC intends to celebrate its own internal critics, it seems to want to encourage and now incentivize them, providing improved channels for dissent and whistleblowing that will not inevitably be career-enders or needlessly disruptive in other ways.

I guess we'll see where this goes. It would be nice if the New Transparency resulted in a livestream of a James Clapper-hosted awards show, broadcast from an undisclosed location in a room draped in American flags and the low hum of server farms. Failing that, a mostly-unredacted document dump on a Friday afternoon preceding a holiday weekend would be an adequate substitute, I suppose.


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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 9:25am

    Ahh, the ol' "appropriate channels" loophole. That means you're required to run a gauntlet of failed middle managers who, through inertia, internal political fear or simple idiocy, have failed to blow a few whistles of their own.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      And the grand total of winners to date would be zero! Unless the prize is to have your life royally screwed by the Govt. Then we have many winners.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      Hopefully the award is worth something so the winner can sell it after being run off their job for "not being a team player".

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

  • identicon
    Michael, 30 Sep 2016 @ 9:58am

    by exemplifying professional integrity, or by reporting wrongdoing through appropriate channels

    It's a good thing they included the "or" - these are mutually exclusive.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 9:59am

    Oh, the fox is running the henhouse little chicken? Come here tell the details to papa Fox and you'll be deliciously rewarded!

    Derp.

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

  • identicon
    Jason, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:03am

    author?

    I'm sorry if I just missed this, but who exactly was the author of this report? My best guess is that it's coming from the administration, but that's not completely clear.

    If I can get a little pedantic for a second, can I request that we refrain from, or at least standardize, the capitalization of "Intelligence Community"? Both it and "IC" is used in a few places in this article, but in others it's just "intelligence community", and there's also a reference to "intelligence committee[s]" which probably ought to be capitalized because that is definitely referring to a proper name.

    I don't mean to be all "oh that's confusing" or anything, I just think mixing terminology like that makes it less clear. And despite my frequent use of the internet, irregular capitalization still irks me a little, I admit.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:06am

    So would the award come with a respectable contribution to the legal defense fund of the whistleblower that won it, or is it just a certificate printed on a pretty piece of paper their family can frame for when they finally get out of prison?

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

  • icon
    You are being watched (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:09am

    NIPA?

    As in NIP A snitch?

    Is the reward a complete violation of basic human rights?

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

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:10am

    It's a trap!

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:20am

    Often it is not even acknowledged as “truth.”


    They can't handle the truth, those truth-mishandlers. They wouldn't know it if it came up and bit them in the ass.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      They CAN handle the truth.

      They know EXACTLY what truth looks like because they are diligently alert in case truth were to rear its ugly head.

      What you call mishandling they call damage control. Political expedience. A matter of internal security.

      Then there are fallbacks if it is actually exposed: but it's perfectly legal, I was only doing my job, I'm shocked, shocked! Etc.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:37am

    It's BS

    This is little more than a PR weapon to use against the next Snowden. "He/she should've told us, not the media! Look, we even hand out awards!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:44am

    Bait?

    Given the present administrations approach to whistle blowers I have to wonder if this is just bait to draw any others out.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:05am

      Re: Bait?

      Should there be a standard Whisbleblower submission form?

      1. What is your name?

      2. Which part of the government do you work for?

      3. Please explain what you are reporting and why you would want to embarrass the government this with this?

      4. What is your least favorite form of enhanced interrogation?


      Don't forget to click SUBMIT

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:00am

    Proposed name for this new award

    Can we please call it the Whistleblower Honeypot award?

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:01am

    If they were serious the first one would go to Edward Snowden.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:28am

    Winners of the award get an all expenses paid "vacation"...

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

  • identicon
    StuperMeme, 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:29am

    Wait, what?

    Didn't Snowdon attempt to go through proper channels first, before being ignored? It's been so long that maybe I'm not remembering correctly...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:05pm

      Re: Wait, what?

      I think he did make some noises internally. There were other steps that could have been taken, but everyone saw what happened to Drake and Binney when going down that path. It is the equivalent of telling the Don that the mafia is involved in criminal activity.

      The media remains the only option if you are serious.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 8:09am

      Re: Wait, what?

      I think much of that is kinda besides the point. I think the most important point that gets overlooked is that the government didn't go through the proper channels before spying on us. They're supposed to have probable cause and they're supposed to get a warrant first. and they should be transparent about what they are doing because this is supposed to be a democracy. They skipped all that. They didn't go through the proper channels so why should anyone else?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 8:10am

        Re: Re: Wait, what?

        and why should Snowden get in trouble for not going through the proper channels but when the government spies on us without going through the proper channels they don't get in any trouble at all? No one gets arrested and detained, nothing.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 10:16pm

        Re: Re: Wait, what?

        Ah, but they did go through 'proper channels.'* They got together, decided that what they were doing was absolutely okay, and with that 'check' on their actions they were totally in the clear to engage in mass, indiscriminate violations of the rights of the public.

        Why, they even threw together a joke of a 'court' to rubber-stamp any request put before it, really what more do you want?

        *If by 'proper channels' you mean the ones they created and ran.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:09pm

    Until..

    Until the gov. decides that YOU CAN NOT deny or relinquish ANY of your rights, by contract or agreement..

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights

    "intelligence professional in effectuating change by speaking truth to power, by exemplifying professional integrity, or by reporting wrongdoing through appropriate channels"

    These 2 things MEAN NOTHING..

    Intelligence professional
    Professional Integrity
    Appropriate Channels..
    A Int pro, does NOT tell anyone anything..There are NO channels.. as the only person that KNOWS what you are doing is your Boss, and those OUTSIDE the circle, are ignorant of anything ..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:30pm

    If any whistleblower award is to have any meaning whatsoever it needs to grant Snowden and Bradley Manning an award. Otherwise its presence is useless.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:50pm

    Whistleblower Bullet Fee Reduction Act

    'If the IC moves forward with this award in an honest fashion, it will be a refreshing change from the longtime policy of "bullets for messengers" that has been implemented with particular fervor by this administration.'

    Whistleblower's families will be allowed to deduct the 'bullet fees' from their regular income taxes, but they will be 'preference items' for alternate minimum tax (AMT) purposes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_fee

    A bullet fee is a charge/fee levied to the family of executed prisoners.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:09pm

    Which Master?

    Do you serve the Federal Government or do you serve "The People"? Cause there is only ONE choice if you wish to work in government.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:12pm

    Leave it to the professionals

    I suppose I could leave a comment of my own, but I do believe I'll leave this up to someone much more well versed in this sort of situation. Admiral, if you would...

    "IT'S A TRAP!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:29pm

    "Unfortunately, none of those on the shortlist could make it to the award ceremony, because of being stuck in solitary confinement."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:40pm

    Whistleblower Award

    aka "Purple Throat Award", only awarded posthumously, after execution.

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 3:26pm

    Unless it is a trap designed to catch those who would otherwise stay anomynous

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 3:36pm

    Intel Community reaches out to VW for advice

    "The intelligence community has […] committed to establishing a National Intelligence Professional Awards program to recognize superior service by an intelligence professional in effectuating change by speaking truth to power, by exemplifying professional integrity, or by reporting wrongdoing through appropriate channels”

    The Intel Community has contacted Volkswagen in order to better understand the subtleties and complexities of implementing an effective whistleblower program.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 10:05am

    Rat bait

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

  • identicon
    Jacob Johnson, 1 Oct 2016 @ 4:01pm

    Yeah, I believe it

    I went to a local senators office during my lunch break to offer my perspective on an intelligence related upcoming bill.

    Next thing I know, my commander sent out a squadron wide email stating that a military member approaching congress is a supported channel and within the member's constitutionally protected rights.

    I can only assume that someone in my unit approached my commander and asked that I be sanctioned.

    Yeah, I believe them. There are too many things going on right now that prove that these people have no respect for their oaths and zero integrity to take anything they say seriously.

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


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