Student Paresh Dave of the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (USC) has written an incisive story about how national security whistleblowers can protect themselves while blowing the whistle on misconduct by government officials. Dave's story is called, "Whistleblowers Have Some Protection, If They Leak To The Right People." He notes that the government is currently investigating detained Specialist Bradley Manning to see if he could be the source for the WikiLeaks.org release of 91,000 classified State Department cables. Dave spoke with me about my prior blog post about how Manning might have protected himself if he had consulted a lawyer before blowing the whistle on the unnecessary civilian casualties of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If he had learned about the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. § 1034, he could have made his disclosures to members of Congress and preserved a legal defense to the impending charges.
Dave's article is clear about the shortcomings of the whistleblower protections for military and federal civilian employees. Congress has created a patchwork of whistleblower protections that give employees in certain private industry sectors, and certain state and local government employees protection from retaliation through private causes of action. It has not done so for military personnel, and the federal civilian employees are shunted to the disappointing Merit System Protection Board.
Dave's article also mentions a mark-up that had been scheduled for yesterday in the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform on the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, HR 1507. That mark-up was canceled on short notice. The prospects for passing meaningful improvements in whistleblower protections for federal employees are now dimmer.