LAW AND NATIONAL SECURITY

Whistleblowers face serious risks, expert says

Federal whistleblowers have dominated headlines recently, as President Donald Trump faces an impeachment inquiry based in part on the allegations of two whistleblowers who say he sought to use his office to investigate political rivals.

Lawyer Brad Moss says investigations should focus on the substance of whistleblowers' disclosures, not their identities.

Lawyer Brad Moss says investigations should focus on the substance of whistleblowers' disclosures, not their identities.

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During the recent ABA podcast National Security Today, Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in whistleblower matters, discussed the laws that guide and protect federal whistleblowers. Moss is a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Mark Zaid, which is part of both whistleblowers’ legal teams, although he is not involved with either client.

Moss said federal whistleblower laws are intended to shield whistleblowers from retaliation, such as being demoted, fired or having their security clearance pulled, because of their actions. But the law has serious weaknesses, he said.

“Despite its name, the Whistleblower Protection Act doesn’t provide protection,” Moss said. “It simply provides a secure mechanism by which an individual in the intelligence community could provide complaints of a classified nature to the intelligence committees without violating criminal restrictions.”

Moss said if the system works the way it’s designed to, whistleblowers’ identities remain secret and investigations focus on the substance of their disclosures.

“Congress never envisioned a scenario in which a president might personally get involved and try to retaliate against an individual.”

“In the end, the whistleblower is not the story,” he said. “He or she has gone through the proper procedure and has not made a public statement. The whistleblower did his job.”

The podcast is sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

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