On-line activists in West Virginia have launched a whistleblower web site called Honest Appalachia. It provides a means for whistleblowers to upload documents for public disclosure. The project’s lead developer, Garrett Robinson, told WFPL that the objective is to help local journalists get information about local issues that can help them make more useful reports about Appalachian issues. The project could benefit from the regional focus as local journalists are more likely to have the background necessary to assess the authenticity of submitted documents. Honest Appalachia is using open source software that anyone can download, and is even encouraging others to adapt and contribute to the software. The On-Line Submission Guide has helpful information for whistleblowers who want to avoid discovery of their identities. For example, don’t access Honest Appalachia from a work computer. It can be monitored. Other tips explain how to use a public wifi site while reducing your risk of being identified.
A better way for whistleblowers to protect themselves, however, is to consult an experienced whistleblower attorney. A whistleblower website has no legal grounds to resist a subpoena seeking information about sources. An attorney does. Attorneys have a legal duty to maintain a client’s confidences, and experienced attorneys will be in the best position to advise a whistleblower about other legal protections.
Given the Appalachian focus, we can expect that published documents will address environmental, economic and racial justice issues. Other issues can arise anywhere, so I will want to keep an open mind about what Honest Appalachia might yet reveal.