05 Mar Is whistleblower protection act protecting whistleblowers?
A whistleblower is often defined as a person who manages to expose any kind of information or incident that is illegal, unethical, or invalid within an organization, whether it is private or public. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 captured the federal government with the glaring exception of the intelligence agencies. Over the years, lawmakers have acknowledged the significant assistance whistleblowers provide in holding organizations responsible for wrongdoing. As a result, many state and federal laws have been established to encourage whistleblowers as well as protect them from workplace retaliation.
Recently Edward Snowden exposed classified NSA programs to the press. The then US President Barack Obama issued an order to extend “whistleblower protections to employees of America’s intelligence agencies.” Before that ‘would-be whistleblowers’ in the U.S. intelligence had no legal protections to protect them from revengeful takes by their superiors. To plug this legal gap, Congress legislated the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) a decade later. The bill incorporates employees and contractors at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) as well as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
A former senior executive at the NSA, Thomas Drake, considers the act bombed to adequately protect whistleblowers from retaliation. He blew the whistle on a broken surveillance program called Trailblazer. He used what the government describes “proper channels” to communicate his concerns about the program’s extravagant cost and its absence of privacy protections, reaching out to his direct supervisor, the office of the inspector general, and the congressional intelligence committees. US whistleblower regulations have been altered through legislative and presidential effort since the Drake case. In 2012, Congress enacted, and President Obama approved the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. But the law barred the intelligence agencies from coverage.
Although Obama had declared his directive that same year enlarging whistleblower protections to the whole intelligence community, PPD-19 only includes intelligence agency employees. Instead, there are around fifty separate federal whistleblower protection or financial reward laws, with fifty original definitions of protected activity, fifty distinct statutes of limitation, and fifty different methods for filing claims. Unlike other domains of employment law, such as federal laws prohibiting race, sex, or age discrimination, there is no consistent national law to implement reasonable rules and procedures for blowing the whistle on your employer. The risks confronting whistleblowers remain – even strong cases are hotly battled, costly, and hard to win. Ensuring you know your rights and securing legal counsel is your most significant chance at safely and efficiently reporting fraud, waste, and abuse.
There are radical differences in the level of protection under each law and by state. If your industry is not covered by federal law and your state has not recognized whistleblower rights, you are out of luck. Yet whistleblowers are still fired, managers are still ignorant about employee rights, and the public remains largely unaware of how whistleblowing has changed the face of American democracy, and how it can be further altered in the future.
Someone who reveals classified information or proprietary secrets to the public without regard for security or privacy should forego all protections. There should be mechanisms in place for whistleblowers to report information to ombudsmen or other regulatory bodies to ensure that inappropriate disclosure is avoided while providing prosecution of the culprits. Governments must promote whistleblowing and in so doing preserve public interest whistleblowers. Laws which understand the right of those who serve in the public interest not to experience harm or threats of harm and which build on the popular beliefs of free speech and freedom of information are crucial. They accommodate individuals with a safe choice to the muteness that allows negligence and wrongdoing to take root. Whistleblower protection also proposes an essential alternative to anonymous leaks – a form of self-preservation which can jeopardize both the public interest and the whistleblower.