11/6 update: Chris Cillizza at CNN comments on Rand Paul’s strategy at a Monday Trump rally,
“What Trump and Paul are trying to do is put the whistleblower at the end of this process. Unless the whistleblower reveals him or herself, how we can trust that anything he or she says is right? We have to know who this person is to judge whether they are some bitter Democrats or loser Never Trumper!
11/4: The Ukraine scandal whistleblower’s work is done, but the president and his supporters continue to call for him or her to come forward. They say his bias must be exposed. Democrats say he is no longer a key witness; others have confirmed the facts in the whistleblower complaint. Anonymity will protect him or her from certain harassment and retaliation.
Still, some lawmakers and conservative media sites are naming a CIA officer they say is likely the whistleblower. On Wednesday, the conservative news site Real Clear Politics reported that the whistleblower is CIA analyst who worked at the White House – something the New York Times reported to some outcry. Real Clear Politics puts a name to it and offers this confirmation: the name of “a government official fitting that description… has been raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.“
The whistleblower’s lawyers won’t confirm or deny. They have offered to have the whistleblower answer written questions from GOP lawmakers under oath. Most major press outlets are not reporting the name.
Anonymity allows a whistleblower to come forward and not face retaliation. The blowback for those who expose wrongdoing is almost always life-altering – from bullying to blacklisting. Tax and finance whistleblower laws have anonymity built in to encourage reports of wrongdoing. The intelligence community whistleblower program also aims to protect confidentiality.
A group of former officials from CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies put it this way in an open letter published in October.
Whistleblowers are a vital component of oversight in addressing serious malfeasance both within the government and throughout the private sector. The ICWPA (Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act) was enacted to remove political influence and possible retaliation from the reporting of wrongdoing. More importantly, it removes political appointees and office holders from the decision of whether to bring the matter to light. Instead, it assigns that function to an independent Inspector General. When the whistleblower files a complaint, it triggers a mandated series of steps to ensure that the voice of the whistleblower is heard while affording protections of the classified information involved.
CNN reports on that testimony during the Tuesday’s deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official in charge of Ukraine policy. CNN and several other news sources reported that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff accused the Republicans of using the questioning to gather information about the whistleblower. From CNN
Republicans pushed back, arguing they were simply asking questions about who Vindman might have spoken with — and that it was not an effort to out the whistleblower.
“What the Republicans are trying to do in there, very clearly in their questioning, is try to front-door or backdoor Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony, he said he didn’t know,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat.
The U.S. whistleblower protection laws are not perfect, but they offer protections not on the books in much of the rest of the world. Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson never wanted you to know his name. But he was outed by the Etonian press after exposed a $230 billion (not a typo) Russian money laundering scheme at the bank’s Estonia branch. Here’s what he told 60 Minutes this spring.
Howard Wilkinson: Being named as a whistleblower in a case involving dirty Russian money. It’s not a good place to be.
Steve Kroft (of 60 Minutes) : You’re still concerned?
Howard Wilkinson: You’ve gotta be, haven’t you? The very nature of the people who want to launder money probably means that they’re not the sort that you wanna go down the pub and have a pint with.
- MTV News: Why We Should Try To Keep The Whistleblowers Anonymous, October 22, 2019.
David Colapinto, a lawyer and one of the founders of the National Whistleblower Center, told MTV News that whistleblowers risk losing their careers, damaging their reputations, and even “bodily harm.”
- USA Today: How does Congress hear from anonymous witnesses? Trump whistleblower seeks protection from retaliation
Whistleblower advocates said the people reporting alleged wrongdoing need to be protected from retaliation to avoid discouraging them from stepping forward.
“It’s a concern,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. “They would only do this hearing if the attorneys for the whistleblower believed that they had a reliable commitment on the part of everyone in the room to keep it confidential.”