National Security Whistleblowers

Reality WinnerOn June 26th, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Reality Winner pleaded guilty in federal court, agreeing to 63 months in prison in plea agreement for a single charge of espionage. Winner’s case has made national headlines throughout the past year after she was arrested in June 2017 for leaking NSA documents regarding a Russian hack in the 2016 election to a news outlet. Ms. Winner was arrested under the Espionage Act, a federal law that was created for spies, not whistleblowers. Continue Reading Is the Proposed Sentence for NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner Too Harsh?

Over the weekend the Daily Beast reported on a leaked draft investigative report that exposed the systemic failures in the flawed intelligence community whistleblower program. According to this report, late last year the Trump Administration put a lid on the finalization of an investigation of the whistleblower program failures by the Inspector General for all intelligence agencies.  Continue Reading National Security Whistleblowers: Systemic Failures and Broken Promises Exposed in Leaked Report

Picture this: while at work you become aware of conduct that you believe is unethical, illegal, or qualifies as government waste, fraud, or abuse. You decide you want to blow the whistle. But before you act, be careful! Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Your work computer and phone are not private. When you use a company or department computer, assume everything you do is monitored. These computers are an easy way for your employer to determine you are the whistleblower.

Continue Reading Whistleblowers Beware: Your Work Computer Is Probably Monitored

The White House announced today that President Obama commuted the prison sentence of whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Manning was convicted of stealing and disseminating government documents and videos to WikiLeaks. Continue Reading Chelsea Manning’s Prison Sentence Commuted

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

In January the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) proposed a rule that it claims would extend protections under the Civil Service Reform Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act to employees of federal contractors.  However, as my previous blog on this proposed rule stated, the unintended consequences of this rule may cause more harm than good for employees of federal contractors.

On Monday, March 23, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) filed comments on the proposed rule. The submission by the NWC cautioned OSC stating “we believe that part of the proposed rule should be modified to ensure that employees of contractors are aware of their rights under the False Claims Act, and the part pertaining to disclosure of classified information should be withdrawn until further clarification about the use and handling of classified information is provided.” Continue Reading Whistleblower Advocacy Group Warns OSC Proposed Rule for Federal Contractors May Cause Harm

On January 22, the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (Sam Adams) selected retired NSA Technical Director William “Bill” Binney to receive its 2015 award for integrity in intelligence. The award was presented  at a ceremony in Berlin, Germany.

As a 36-year intelligence agency veteran, William Binney resigned from the NSA in 2001 and became a whistleblower after discovering that elements of a data-monitoring program he had helped develop were being used to spy on Americans. Binney explained that he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.”   Continue Reading NSA Whistleblower Wins Sam Adams Award

Washington, D.C. January 22, 2015. Today the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) proposed a rule that it claims would extend protections under the Civil Service Reform Act and the Whistleblower Protection Act to employees of Federal contractors.  However, the unintended consequences of OSC’s proposed rule may cause more harm than good for employees of federal contractors.

This rule may cause confusion and interfere with other preexisting rights contractors have under other laws.  OSC should reconsider whether such a rule is even necessary given that employees of contractors already have stronger whistleblower protections under state and federal law than federal employees.  In any event, if the proposed rule is enacted it should be amended to make sure this confusion or weakening of other rights does not occur.     Continue Reading OSC Proposed Rule For Federal Contractor Employees May Cause Confusion

Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden issued the following press statement today in regard to the National Intelligence Agency’s plans to implement continuous monitoring of security clearance holders and it’s impact on whistleblowers who communicate with members of Congress:

Grassley, Wyden Press for Answers on Continuous Monitoring of
Whistleblower and Legislative Branch Communications

            WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Wyden are pressing the Director of National Intelligence to explain in detail how the intelligence community plans to implement continuous monitoring of security clearance holders without undermining legal protections for whistleblowers or constitutional protections for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch.

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Grassley and Wyden noted that any monitoring within the executive branch must preserve the rights and confidentiality of whistleblowers when making protected disclosures to Congress or Inspectors General.

The senators wrote, “If whistleblower communications with Inspectors General or with Congress are routinely monitored and conveyed to agency leadership, it would defeat the ability to make protected disclosures confidentially, which is especially important in an intelligence community context.  Truly meaningful whistleblower protections need to include the option of a legitimate channel for confidential disclosures.  Inspectors General and Congress provide such an option.  However, if potential whistleblowers believe that disclosing waste, fraud or abuse means putting a target on their backs for retaliation, they will be intimidated into silence.  The failure to provide such protected alternatives could result in whistleblowers choosing to make unprotected disclosures in public forums, with potential negative consequences for national security.” Continue Reading Senators Demand Answers on Surveillance of Whistleblower Communications with Congress