The corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street NW is close to traffic passing the White House, according to the DCist, a local news site affiliated with radio station WAMU. Every weekday since the beginning of October, a retired software developer has stood there for the morning rush hour with a hand-lettered sign: “Honk to thank the whistleblowers.”
The DCist offers an interview with Julian, who asked them not to use his last name for fear of reprisals. (More on the use of anonymous sources below.)
Why do you do it?
I guess it got to the point where I couldn’t not do it. I don’t know how else to express it. I protested against Nixon and the Vietnam War and I thought we were done with crooks by then.
My wife worked as an HR director in a government agency, and part of her job was to counsel potential whistleblowers and tell them the truth about what could happen. Say, “Here are the risks,” because, although you are protected, there are so many ways around the law.
I know what these people are up against when they decide to do it, and I know what incredible courage and patriotism it takes to stand up and risk your career, and—in this environment—potentially risk your life.
He said that supporters want to take selfies. He’s has to translate the word “Honk” into French and German on separate occasions and explain whistleblower law to a Swedish woman. Sometimes, people just him “a little thumbs up.’
And on the negative side?
Well most of us go around for most of our lives without having someone come up and give you the finger. Or yell something nasty right in your face.The first day, I had been there less than an hour and this guy came up and yelled at me for two minutes at least about how I was brainwashed and mentally abused by the media, and about how Trump was going to be around five more years and just went on and on and on and it was a little scary…
I had Irish grandparents and when I was four, they gave me a pair of boxing gloves. Their phrase for resolving problems was “Poke him in the nose,” and I thought back and I realized that if you get in a fight you’ve got to expect to get hit.
A few more items of notes in today’s news.
- A Washington Post column bemoans the downside of anonymity.
For many, the most frustrating part of the Ukraine whistleblower episode has been the insistence by some that the whistleblower’s identity must, at all costs, be protected. Otherwise, we are told, a career might be at stake. A life might even be endangered. It’s an argument too readily accepted by millions of Americans who have apparently forgotten the bravery of countless people throughout history who sacrificed everything to speak out publicly, and identifiably, in the furtherance of a cause.
The NWC argues that confidentiality is key to enabling whistleblower.
A key protection in many laws is the right of whistleblowers to keep their identities confidential when providing evidence of wrongdoing to the proper authorities. Preventing those accused of wrongdoing from learning the identities of whistleblowers is perhaps the best way of ensuring that the whistleblowers will not be retaliated against for disclosures that benefit society. The confidentiality protections do not apply in every situation and, even when they apply, the accused individuals are sometimes able to infer the identity of the whistleblower based on the evidence given to them. Nonetheless, whistleblower programs often provide critical safeguards of whistleblowers’ identities.
And while the Post column suggest that anonymity “is almost encouraged by institutions once renowned for their adherence to accountability.” He goes on to refer to a column in the New York Times by a White House insider.
Here’s what the Times has to say about its policies on the use of anonymous sources.
The Times sometimes agrees not to identify people who provide information for our articles. Under our guidelines, anonymous sources should be used only for information that we think is newsworthy and credible, and that we are not able to report any other way. We realize many readers are skeptical about the credibility and motivation of unnamed sources; some even question whether the sources exist. We have rules and procedures to try to address those concerns.
On a corner near the White House. pic.twitter.com/3jFjfLnh7s
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) October 4, 2019