Patriotism is defined as “love for or devotion to one’s country.” On this Independence Day, we owe immense gratitude to the modern patriots – whistleblowers who risk their job security, and increasingly freedom, in order to defend the United States from abuses of power that betray the public trust.
You can help these patriots. Sign the petition today to stop the criminalization of whistleblowers who engage in activities protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
The American people rely on whistleblowers more than ever before. Thanks to NSA whistleblowers, we know that Big Brother has access into Americans' smart phones and computers. Whether that policy is right or wrong, the public had a right to know. Only thanks to whistleblowers, we do.
In a recent USA Today op-ed, Law Professor Glenn Reynolds puts the debate around Snowden’s disclosures into perspective:
What does matter is that the Snowden affair occurs in the context of an unprecedented administration war on whistleblowers. And that's a bad idea because whistleblowing is one of the things that maintains the legitimacy of a government as big, and otherwise unaccountable, as ours.
Government officials, congressional members, and pundits alike have accused Snowden of making public disclosures and bypassing protected whistleblower avenues. That accusation is disingenuous and misleading. Ironically, the most vocal critic – House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers – was responsible for blocking protections for government intelligence contractors in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Under current law, these contractor whistleblowers (such as Edward Snowden) do not have rights against retaliation when they work within the system.
Take the case of NSA whistleblower Tom Drake. He exhausted every available channel within government to disclose the NSA’s massive domestic surveillance program that not only breached the Fourth Amendment, but wasted billions of taxpayer dollars through an ineffective counter-intelligence program. Drake and his colleagues Bill Binney and J. 'Kirk Weibe revealed that massive data-mining was actually obscuring the NSA's ability to analyze the data and identify possible terrorist threats.
After Drake’s exercise in futility trying to work within the system, he engaged in protected whistleblowing activity and disclosed unclassified information about the surveillance program to the press. The government responded by trying to prosecute him under the Espionage Act, threatening him with over 30 years in prison. In the 11th hour, the government’s case collapsed and Drake was ultimately sentenced with a misdemeanor equivalent to using Facebook while working. Drake’s success story was the exception, however.
Disturbingly, the Obama administration has criminally prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act then all other past administrations combined. Under current law (which is grossly more severe than our European counterparts) whistleblowers such as Drake who act lawfully remain defenseless against criminal prosecutions. The intended chilling effect actually causes whistleblowers such as Snowden to make disclosures to the press, since there are disincentives to work within the system.
As we have witnessed throughout the course of history, whistleblowers will not be silenced, they will simply become more creative when exposing wrongdoing. In effect, they are the public’s best barometer for government wrongdoing, and the government’s most effective tool to fight waste, fraud, abuse and threats to public health and safety.
Glenn Reynolds astutely observes:
The freer people are to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, the more we can assume that when no whistle is blown, things aren't so bad. The more the government cracks down on whistleblowers, the more likely it is that they've got something to hide.
Whistleblowers shouldn’t be punished for their patriotism. On this Independence Day, stand by them and sign the petition to stop the criminalization of whistleblowers who engage in activities protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
To host a house screening for Brave New Foundation’s new documentary “War on Whistleblowers”, go here
Shanna Devine is Investigator and Legislative Campagian Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.