Advocates don’t see a criminal in Snowden, but a whistlebower deserving defenders. “By communicating with the press, Snowden used the safest channel available to him to inform the public of wrongdoing,” the GAP said in a statement supporting him. “Nonetheless, government officials have been critical of him for not using internal agency channels — the same channels that have repeatedly failed to protect whistleblowers from reprisal in the past. In many cases, the critics are the exact officials who acted to exclude national security employees and contractors from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.”
“If those protections existed today, Snowden’s disclosures would have stood a greater chance of being addressed effectively from within the organization,” the GAP said.
Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.
Although government intelligence employees were not included in legislation, President Obama issued a policy directive in October on “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information.” The directive prohibits supervisors from retaliating against whistleblowing employees but not contractors. It calls on “the head of each Intelligence Community Element” to develop a process allowing employees to seek review of retaliatory personnel actions.
Each agency must certify it has developed a process within 270 days of the date the directive was issued, which means they have about three weeks to get that done.
Employees and contractors “desperately need effective and clear channels to blow the whistle and have their cases adjudicated in a fair and meaningful manner,” said National Whistleblowers Center Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn.
For Snowden and others, “the normal channels, going to Congress or the inspector general, were cut off,” Kohn added during an interview.
Kohn said “the White House must keep the promise made by President Obama, during his 2008 election campaign, when he pledged to support legislation that would fully protect all government whistleblowers, including those in sensitive national security positions.”
But Obama didn’t promise to protect those who broke the law, even if for a worthy cause.
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.