In a brief 3-page report dated September 15, 2016, the House Intelligence Committee concluded that Edward Snowden “was not a whistleblower” because there were “laws and regulations in effect at the time” that “afforded him protection” and he failed to exercise those whistleblower rights.  The Committee report specifically cited the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (IC WPA) that does permit employees, like Snowden, to make disclosures of wrongdoing to Congress if certain other conditions are met. Continue Reading House Intel Claim that Snowden Had Whistleblower Protection Is False and Misleading

Washington, D.C.  May 7, 2015.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) telephone metadata collection program, which gathers up millions of phone records on an ongoing daily basis, is illegal.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden first revealed documents confirming the illegal program’s existence in June of 2013.

The government argued that it was authorized by the Patriot Act to secretly collect such data. Judge Gerard E. Lynch, writing for a three-judge panel, said the program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.” Lynch continued that the Patriot Act “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

“Whether you supported or opposed Edward Snowden’s disclosure of this massive privacy violation committed by the NSA, the courts ruling today demonstrates the importance of whistleblowing,” stated Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center.

“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives the American people the right to know about government misconduct. When our government is systemically violating the rights of its citizens, it often takes the courage of a whistleblower to alert the public to threats to our Liberty,” said Kohn.

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in a New York Times Op-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of  The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself.

Related links:

Decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in ACLU v. Clapper.

U.S. NSA domestic phone spying program illegal: appeals court

NSA mass phone surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden ruled illegal

New intelligence community whistleblower protections lacking

On July 7, 2014, President Obama signed the “Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.” This bill includes a section providing “Protection Of Intelligence Community Whistleblowers.” These protections specify that employees who divulge information about possible misconduct within their agencies to their Inspectors General or other designated intelligence offices will be protected.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center released a statement urging intelligence agency whistleblowers to use these new protections with caution:

 “The whistleblower provisions passed in the Intelligence Authorization Act are a very small step forward. They are weak and essentially unenforceable. The provisions empower the President to exercise his discretion in determining the procedures to protect whistleblowers.  None of the protections mandated by the Whistleblower Protection Act (which covers other federal employees) are included. There is no provision permitting discovery or hearings, let along judicial review. The law does not ensure due process or even stipulate the remedies for which whistleblowers would be entitled if they were to miraculously prevail in a case.  The law does not provide for attorney fees to be paid to prevailing whistleblowers, who could go broke just trying to report fraud in government programs.”

 “Due to the lack of procedural protections, the law could easily morph into a bureaucratic trap leaving whistleblowers vulnerable and unemployed.  The law needs to be amended to have some teeth. In the meantime, we advise whistleblowers to use these new provisions with extreme caution, if at all.”

 It should also be noted that the new provisions do not cover intelligence agency contractors.

Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, joined Chuck Todd to discuss Brian Williams’ extensive interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and the various legal challenges that the former NSA contractor faces. Click link below to watch the interview.

Snowden faces felony charges at home

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On Monday July 22, Stephen Kohn was interviewed by Kim Williams of 2SER Sydney, Australia. Mr. Kohn discussed NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden. Mr. Kohn explained how the United States has left National Security employees with little options for reporting wrongdoing as they have no whistleblower protections. He also gave a brief history of whistleblowing in the United States and compared how the U.S. Government treats whistleblowers much differently today than the Founding Fathers did during the War of Independence.  The segment is entitled “Whistleblowers: under the microscope.” Listen here.

There is significant historical precedent for the protection of whistleblowers demonstrating that such protections were strongly supported by the Founding Fathers. Mr. Kohn previously discussed this precedent in his New York Times Op-Ed, The Whistleblowers of 1777. Mr. Kohn is also the author of The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step by Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself  (Lyons Press, 2011).