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Whistleblowers Enter the Post-Snowden Era 129

Presto Vivace (882157) writes GovExec Magazine reporting on the aftermath of Snowden's disclosures: '...At the Intelligence Community's Office of the Inspector General, [Dan Meyer, executive director for intelligence community whistleblowing and source protection] told Government Executive that a communitywide policy directive signed in March by the director of the Office of National Intelligence "is an affirmative statement that you have to blow the whistle" upon encountering wrongdoing, noting that in the past it was seen as an option. The new directive, he added, "shows firm support for the IC IG Whistleblowing program that actively promotes federal whistleblowing through lawful disclosures, which ultimately strengthens our nation's security." The key to the campaign of openness to whistleblowers, as distinct from criminal leakers and publicity seekers, Meyer stresses, is that it "must aid the agency mission. It is developmental and helps all stakeholders understand that we have rules in effect," he added. Meyer is expecting a bow wave of whistleblower retaliation cases (which can involve punishments ranging from demotion to pay cuts to required psychiatric evaluation) to come through his office directly or through a hotline in the coming months.'

Given the realities of the insider threat program and war on whistleblowers I can't say that I am optimistic about the new directive."
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Whistleblowers Enter the Post-Snowden Era

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  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:09AM (#47153797) Homepage

    The key to the campaign of openness to whistleblowers, as distinct from criminal leakers and publicity seekers, Meyer stresses, is that it "must aid the agency mission.

    There's your problem (or rather society's problem) right there: when the agency mission is sucking up as much information as possible, privacy of American citizens be damned, and then covering up for one another to reassure the American public, then that is something no one wants to aid, and the whole point of whistleblowing is to stop it.

    That the NSA's mission is a megalomaniac "collect it all" approach has been clear for a long, long time now. Back in the early millennium I read James Bamford's Body of Secrets [amazon.com] and followed keenly the European Parliament's ECHELON investigation (which was sadly obscured in the news by 9/11). Sadder than the fact that Snowden risks lifelong imprisonment is the fact that it took so long to get a Snowden in the first place after years of hints that something was wrong.

  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:09AM (#47153803) Homepage

    I see one of two outcomes from the flood of whistles about to be blown:
    1. Nothing. TPTB essentially say "That's nice. We'll handle it" and business goes on as normal. Whistle blower becomes frustrated and stops blowing whistle.
    2. Whistle blower disappears.

    Either way, the problem is solved.

  • Idiotic Management (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:16AM (#47153859)

    This is same kind of idiot managers who send out company-wide announcements that tell employees to trust the company and talk at length about the rewards of loyalty... 2 weeks after a massive layoff.

    "actively promotes federal whistleblowing"? Who are they kidding? Would anyone intelligent enough to work in intelligence agency be so stupid to believe that? If anyone did, they just disqualified themselves of their job!

  • by malignant_minded ( 884324 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:24AM (#47153901)
    But if you must blow the whistle as soon as you encounter wrongdoing won't that mean everyone is slowly introduced to the fold therefore weeding out the potential of any real serious whistleblowing?
  • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:27AM (#47153919) Homepage Journal

    > Meyer stresses, is that it "must aid the agency mission. It is developmental and helps all stakeholders understand that we have rules in effect," he added

    Aside from the poor editorial prose, here's what he really means:

    "If you're a potential whistleblower, you must disclose to your immediate manager. It's the only way we'll ever know who all the people that work for us aren't really 'for' us, such that we might put them on projects 'more in keeping' with their principles and standards".

    How on earth you can have a whisteblower hiding out in Russia (of all places!) in fear of the repercussions of his actions and say people should come forward is beyond me. At the very least, he should be in the US, on a (fair) public trial with known potential outcomes. Without that, no one is trustworthy.

  • by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:34AM (#47153959)
    And when is abolishing the NSA going to be on the ballot? Last hundred elections all I saw was a choice between Kang and Kodos
  • by fredrated ( 639554 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:36AM (#47153975) Journal

    How about this: Must support the Constitution. These people think they come before the Constitution.

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:36AM (#47153979)

    openness to whistleblowers, as distinct from criminal leakers and publicity seekers

    So, how do you distinguish between "whistleblowers" and "criminal leakers" and "publicity seekers" BEFORE you make the decision to blow the whistle?

    If you guess wrong, you become one more statistic in the Obama Administration's policy of prosecuting whistleblowers (twice as many prosecutions as ALL other Administrations combined so far).

    I'm willing to bet, however, that the basic rule will be "if it embarrasses the other Party more than the Administration, it's "whistleblowing", but if it embarrasses the Administration it's "criminal leakers" or "publicity seekers"...

  • Slight correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:39AM (#47153995)

    The new directive, he added, "shows firm support for the IC IG Whistleblowing program that actively promotes federal whistleblowing through lawful disclosures, which will be ignored and will get you fired and maybe thrown in prison


  • by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:40AM (#47154005)

    Yes, if only this existed before Snowden, then people would have felt compelled to blow the whistle and the problem would have been taken care of before the whole Snowden incedent. Right?

    Oh yeah, that's right. There were already people trying to blow the whistle on this stuff. PBS had a pretty good couple of episodes a few weeks back called United States of Secrets. They covered the whole background of these NSA programs. And they covered the story of someone who tried to blow the whistle on one of the programs. Want to know what happened from it? Let me just repost what I posted in another forum a few days ago:

    As I recall from the frontline documentary, one of the guys involved in one of the illegal programs did go to someone in congress (someone on the intelligence oversight committee). When that representative tried to pursue the matter, she was met with mostly silence, mixed with a few "requests" to stop looking into the matter. The investigations she did manage to get started went nowhere. For the report that was generated, the NSA managed to get it classified, and nearly the entire thing was withheld. When someone eventually did leak details to the press, the representative (now retired) had her house raided by the FBI (multiple times), dragged before congress, and was under investigation for years.

    Also, if I'm not getting my people mixed up, I believe the person that did go to her was also a suspect in the above mentioned leak. His home was also raided (along with 4 other guys who retired because they didn't want to be associated with the illegal program). The FBI took his computer and then said that he was screwed (something like a 30+ year sentence) because they found classified documents on his computer. He spent his entire retirement fund on his legal defense, then when he ran out of money had to take a public defender. When the specific "classified" documents that he supposedly had on his computer were revealed, his lawyer was eventually able to find those documents online. They were previously unclassified, and were changed to classified after the fact in order to manufacture the evidence against him. After this came to light, the Feds just quietly dropped their case against him.

    That's what happens when you try to do things the "right" way.

    So do you think that sort of thing is going to encourage people to come forward? And do you think the few that do are likely to have any actual results?

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:42AM (#47154017)

    Anyone stupid enough to believe this "we respect whistleblowers" horseshit had best read up on Thomas Drake [wikipedia.org].

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jelIomizer ( 3670957 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:44AM (#47154037)

    Snowden? Didn't take any of the steps he was told in his inbriefing to address concerns. None of them. Not a single fucking one. He's not a hero; he's a traitor. He should be tried and prosecuted.

    If the government is doing something blatantly unconstitutional, as the NSA was, then the people need to know about it. Risking it all being swept under the rug by trying to go to the 'proper channels' is foolish for exactly that reason. The people should be the first to know what the evil scumbags in the government are doing.

    I don't know who he unjustifiably betrayed, but it wasn't me, and it wasn't the ideals that this country is supposed to aspire to.

  • by sirlark ( 1676276 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @08:48AM (#47154075)

    actively promotes federal whistleblowing through lawful disclosures (Emphasis Mine)

    It's not about disclosing illegal activities. It's about disclosing activities that shouldn't be legal, or activities the public should be made aware of because their government is doing it behind their backs, even if legally. Yes, the ballot box is supposed to be the place to sort it out, but the ballot box presumes an informed citizenry. An informed citizenry presumes a system where whistle blowers are protected if they're actions are indeed in the public interest.

    There can be no lawful disclosure if revealing legally classified documents is unlawful, even if the legal system facilitating the classification of those documents doesn't enjoy the broad support of the people. The correct term, that doesn't allow legal weaselling is "the public interest".

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Straif ( 172656 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @11:14AM (#47155565) Homepage

    Not quite or even partially true. Snowden CLAIMS he approached his superiors multiple times but the only released document was about a technical question about the legal power of executive orders.

    He essentially asked if executive orders outweighed actual signed laws and the answer given him that while they have the weight of a law, if they conflict with a law then EO's are effectively void.

    Of course you can claim that this was the only document released by the NSA because it proves Snowden is lying about his attempts to properly handle what he saw as a violation of the constitution, but if there were other documents don't you think Snowden would have presented them to prove his case. Or is a man who managed to copy millions of classified document not able to copy HIS OWN EMAILS from his account prior to leaving?

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BVis ( 267028 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @01:21PM (#47157317)

    For the same reason you feel the need to pile on someone who's admitted his mistake.

  • Not only this, but two successive White House administrations went to extraordinary lengths to put domestic wiretapping in place in secrecy and keep it in place, without approval or oversight from Congress, much less public opinion.

    When seeking authorization for domestic wiretapping in 2004 using convoluted legalese and twisted definitions, Bush White House lawyers Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales couldn't get approval from the acting Attorney General, James Comey, who cited a DOJ opinion that the program lacked oversight and doubt that the Executive branch had the authority to issue such an order. He later stated (I'm paraphrasing) if the American people learned of the extent of this program they'd be appalled. And so Card and Gonzales visited John Ashcroft in the hospital to go over Comey's head, knowing he was in intensive care, under heavy sedation. Comey managed to arrive in time to make his side of the argument and delay the approval. (Cite [nytimes.com])

    We're talking about John Ashcroft here, USA Patriot Act cheerleader. Even he wouldn't approve it. And now we know why.

    But it was only a delay. The Bush-Cheney White House went ahead and implemented the program. There's no public information on whether or when the Ashcroft DOJ approved this, only that some oversight was added (ineffective as it was in retrospect), and by 2005 Ashcroft had been replaced by Gonzales as Attorney General, the very guy who tried to go over Comey's head. It's quite apparent now that the NSA had carte blanche from then on.

    And the succeeding Administration comes in with a record of avoiding any sort of investigation or oversight of the program, granting immunity to civilian corporate participants, and goes on to aggressively prosecute ethically-motivated whistleblowers to the degree of fabricating evidence to incarcerate them.

    In this kind of environment, do you think a new "you must report" order is going to improve the constitutionality of this kind of spying?

    All it's going to do is weed out anyone who's not fully on board with the program, or has any ethical qualms about it, and permit even more crackdown on people who try to effect change, legally and by the books, from the inside.

    Keep your nose clean, citizen.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @04:39PM (#47159441)

    Because the important thing is to focus on whether Snowden followed proper procedure. Forget about what he exposed, all those gross violations of the constitution are completely irrelevant if he didn't follow procedure when exposing them.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.