White House releases Open Government Plan

As the Washington Whistleblower Assembly wound to a close on the evening of September 20, word came that President Obama was making a new commitment to strengthening whistleblower protections.

The White House blog reported:

Recently, Congress nearly enacted whistleblower legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation.  But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.

Just what that legislation or executive order would include is unclear.

GAP Legal Director Tom Devine commented, “We welcome President Obama’s much-needed, renewed support for government whistleblower rights. The last election was supposed to be a voter protest against government fraud, waste and abuse. But the newly-elected House majority has not even introduced a bill to provide rights for whistleblowers who risk their careers for those goals.”

The whistleblower initiative is part of the President’s U.S. Open Government Plan, issued in connection with the the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which the White House blog describes as “a global initiative that supports efforts to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable institutions globally.” The press corps was critical of the administration’s initial briefing on the plan. In an article titled, “Anonymous US Officials Push Open Government,” the Associated Press reported:

Two senior officials briefed reporters on Monday on the eve of the unveiling of President Barack Obama‘s Open Government Partnership, which seeks to promote responsible leadership and stewardship of natural resources around the world. But under rules set by the State Department, the officials could not be identified by name.

Like body language that contradicts a speaker’s message, the handling of the press briefing contradicts the President’s stated commitment to whistleblower protections.  It seems unlikely, therefore, that US voters will put much stock in that commitment. Download the U.S. Open Government Plan (pdf).