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.

Filed Under: ed snowden, espionage act, intelligence community, leaks, proper channels, prosecution, whisteblowers, whistleblowing


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Sep 2019 @ 2:45pm

    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”.


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.