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.
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.
- ABA book: “Whistleblowers, Leaks, and the Media: The First Amendment and National Security”
- Intelligence Community Whistleblower Act of 1998
- Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Protections CRS Report
- Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012
- ABA CLE: 29th Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law