In a city with hundreds of thousands of government workers, you’ll undoubtedly meet a disgruntled employee. This is normal. Why would it be any different than in the private sector?
Stepping up and exposing waste, fraud, and abuse is not easy. Indeed, it can have devastating consequences for all parties including loss of a job, reputation, and more. Yet legitimate whistleblowers can play an invaluable role in the government and the end result need not be a bad one for all parties involved.
Congress frequently receives information from potential whistleblowers. When I worked on the Hill, our office screened a fair share of anonymous e-mail, faxes, as well as surprise visits from executive branch agency employees. These information nuggets on potential waste, fraud, and abuse of government programs sometimes led to full blown Congressional investigations.
I’ve never had a disgruntled federal employee has a client; however, we have counseled many to seek counsel from lawyers that are seasoned in these matters. Whistleblower have rights, but the legal regime could be stronger. If I think there there may be a legitmate whistleblower case, in addition to a good labor lawyer, I might refer that person to a Congressional oversight Committee or to folks I know on Capitol Hill who know how to work with whistleblowers and, most importantly, protect them.
In the Washington Post today there is yet another story about alleged whistleblower Edward Snowden. According to this latest revelation, ODNI officials are alerting foreign governments that Snowden may have taken information on how our allies conduct intelligence operations. This is not new and I’m sure yet why this is news.
There is no doubt that there have been abuses of the PATRIOT Act and other legal regimes in place since the terrorist attacks of 09.01.11. Again, this is not news. Laws are broken all the time in just about every single federal agency. There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with these problems. Snowden opted for the latter. Just because Snowden revealed potential issues in the system, does not automatically entitle him to whistleblower legal protections, especially when he is violating other laws to make his point and, in the process, hurting U.S. national security.
There is this canard being tossed around that Snowden had no choice but to seek refuge in Russia. The partial truth is that Snowden went to Russia because he does not want to go to jail because he broke many U.S. laws. Yet, if he were genuinely concerned about U.S. civil and privacy rights, he should man up and take on the government right here in the United States. He will have plenty of free legal help and a movement to back him.
The one aspect that has bugged me most about the Snowden case is that he opted to leak documents from the get go. There area a lot of people in this town that would have come to his defense, including in Congress, but he did not even try. Rather he set out on an anti-American rant and the more I read the more I believe that he planned it that way from the very start. He’s now delivering speeches via groups right here in this town in rallies like this one:
Snowden has opted to hide behind Mother Russia, one of the worst human rights abusers in that region of the world. Civil liberties are routinely trampled by the Russian government and, if you dare speak out too forcefully, you’ll pay the price. Just ask Sergei Magnitsky’s family. Because the Obama Administration is unable or unwilling to do so, Congress needs to step up and press the Obama national security team and Justice Department to press Russia for Snowden’s extradition.