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.