Journalism in the Public Interest

Watch Out, Whistleblowers: Congress and Courts Move to Curtail Leaks

House Republicans introduced legislation yesterday targeting the already-delayed whistleblower rule in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The proposed change would require corporate whistleblowers to report problems internally before going to financial regulators. The move, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is just the latest in a series of setbacks for those who favor strengthening whistleblower rules to encourage reporting of wrongdoing within government and businesses.

Whistleblowers were dealt another blow last week when a federal court of appeals ruled that corporate whistleblower protections don’t cover leaks to the media. According to the Los Angeles Times, the panel of judges ruled that individuals blowing the whistle on publicly traded companies are protected from retaliation only when they report the wrongdoing to financial regulators—which could discourage future leaks to the media.

Whistleblower groups are also protesting a provision in the Intelligence Authorization Bill that would allow intelligence officials to penalize employees and former employees for disclosure of classified information without needing a conviction to do so. The Government Accountability Project has said that under the proposed law, intelligence officials need only reach a "determination" that a knowing violation occurred.

The Obama administration has also been cracking down on major breaches of classified government information and is working to build a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. NPR reports that the effort is part of a broader campaign by the Obama administration to curtail leaks:

National security experts say they can't remember a time when the Justice Department has pursued so many criminal cases based on leaks of government secrets. Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists has been following five separate prosecutions, part of what he calls a tremendous surge by the Obama administration.

And according to a rather ironic report this week by the U.K.’s New Statesman, Assange himself has been trying to prevent leaks within WikiLeaks by making his own associates sign confidentiality agreements and imposing a nearly $20 million penalty for anyone who leaks the organization’s leaked material. If it works, this type of agreement could delay the disclosure of some of the confidential documents that have proved useful in reporting on the Middle East revolutions and other international affairs. WikiLeaks, after all, has been known to tout material in its possession while sitting on its release.

Yes, because we all know that the last thing a democracy needs is someone spilling the beans regarding corruption, govt/corporate sponsored lies or misdirection, etc.  Be a good citizen and patriot.  Keep your mouth closed unless you need to turn in a neighbor for watering his lawn on the wrong day.  We’ll get that bastidge!  Yes we will!

Personal commentary fronting as journalism.  Ms. Wang’s kicker at the end of the article “WikiLeaks, after all, has been known to tout material in its possession while sitting on their release.” 

Fox does the same type of thing all day long.  It seems that media believes we need to be told our opinion…. and I guess Wang is ANTI WikiLeaks.

Why is the federal government even thinking of being involved in this? The federal government is supposed to be enforcing the Constitution which means that our individual rights and property reign supreme and if it hurts our individual rights or property, it’s illegal.

To: WillHarper, WTF and web smith:

Have you looked at any real estate in Canada as yet? It ain’t goin’ get any better here. If you’re young enough to start over, you should think about it. Ronald Reagan is dead 10 years but his legacy lives on.

Dear WTF: As I said… Much of the material WikiLeaks has leaked has been very useful. I’ve used it in my own reporting.

What exactly are you taking issue with here? Where are the documents that the public was told would take down a major U.S. financial institution? It’s not a matter of opinion. I’m just pointing out that many promises were made about how and when some of these documents would be released—I’d point out the same about business or government—and it’s plain that some of these promises have not been fulfilled.

The Gawker link has a detailed breakdown, if you’re interested.

Shame on you!

May 13, 2011, 12:12 a.m.

Go to the company first so they can fire you and start the obstruction. As far as the Chamber of Commerce, isn’t that now headed up by Pfizer’s former CEO?  Think about whistler blower recovery against his former employer, and ask, “Is there a conflict here?” HORRIBLE!

I am usually media critic, but here I am going to agree with Marian, I believe the media’s job is to protect the Constitution by exposing greed, corruption, abuses of power and the absurdities within cultures. The Whistle-blower rules place the power with the abusers and takes away the only real power the people have; the power to speak freely.

Stephanie Palmer

May 13, 2011, 9:45 a.m.

First of all, anything the US Chamber of Commerce likes is something bad for the populace. That goes without saying. And as for the court saying that whistle blowing doesn’t cover leaks to the media, sometimes I feel like I live in a middle eastern company.  Fear, fear, fear, that’s what the powers that be espouse.  All that tells me is that they are the ones that are afraid, afraid that they will be exposed for the charlatans they are. What a bunch of creeps.

Jerry Thompkins

May 13, 2011, 1:35 p.m.

Well, let’s see here. People elected Republicats because they thought
they were getting integrity and honesty ....what fools they were. It goes to
say that the same voters want their individual rights taken away. That is
the Repub propaganda….and it seems to work on these lemmings. Or, as
the popular mantra, “Blame is on Obama” is what these stupid people
want to hear. They wanted them, now they have them and all the corruption that goes with them… about crooks!

Thats funny I went through the chain of command before i blew the whistle.two years now out of work and i provided complete evedience of what was going.The only way you can possibly win is if you provide a sighned confession by your employer and have it noterized by jesus crist himself.

I think the two issues mentioned in the article should be treated separately. What was the rationale in combining them together?

On the one hand you address a failure to implement the spirit of the legislation regarding whistleblower statutes, specifically as it relates the banking sector corruption, and on the other the increased leaking of classified government material during a time of war.

Does the legislation hold finance and banking industries to be classified the same as government, in regards to whistleblowers?

If it does not, I think addressing the two at once creates confusion. If it does I think that that fact is more newsworthy than the article.

To treat leaking of State secrets like the whistle blowing on financial corruption is odd. They are separate sectors and functions.

It makes me wonder if there is an intentional unintended consequence of not being able to whistleblow the Fed, or Justice Department, for corrupt practices that don’t have a clear line of thought to national security, (ie the handful of lawyers fighting entrenched Justice positions, and the lack of inquiry into the Fed role in the meltdown)

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