For twelve years, whistleblower advocates have labored to convince the U.S. Congress to strengthen the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The WPA purports to protect employees of federal agencies (but not intelligence agencies) from reprisal when they report possible waste, fraud and abuse. However, judicial interpretations have relentlessly weakened the law, giving agencies the green light to fire, shun, slander, assault and prosecute whistleblowers as they choose. (more…)
Tom Devine, Legal Director for the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, has worked on 5,000 whistleblower cases. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, he describes the dilemma of conscientious national security employees who are forced by dysfunctional agencies to choose between leaking anonymously to the media or blowing the whistle internally, an act of “career suicide.” Whether the whistle is blown internally or externally, increasingly, the government is responding with criminal investigations and prosecutions. “No wonder so many remain silent,” Devine writes.
When government shoots the messenger, all Americans pay a price in weakened defenses against terrorism and other national security threats. Amending the dysfunctional Whistleblower Protection Act to cover FBI and intelligence employees and give all government employees solid protections would give government agencies strong incentives to take a more constructive approach to whistleblowing. But, pending legislation that would do that has come to a halt in the Senate, where “lawmakers have not overcome repeated secret holds by opponents,” says Devine.
The public could demand an end to the Senate logjam. Will you?