Washington, DC, April 10, 2019 — Today, on the 30th Anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Government Accountability Project and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) are launching an updated resource for federal whistleblowers. The book, “Caught Between Conscience & Career: Expose Abuse Without Exposing Identity,” is a survival guide for whistleblowers.
The book expands on its previous edition, issued nearly 20 years ago, by including a new chapter on reducing the risks of being identified electronically and radically expanding its chapter on the state of whistleblower protections for federal sector workers. The new legal chapter addresses protections for FBI, military, intelligence, and contractor employees. Over a dozen new stories are recounted throughout the book illustrating both the successes and pitfalls of blowing the whistle.
The book’s release coincides with a renewed campaign by the non-partisan, trans-ideological 75 member Make It Safe Coalition. The coalition is rallying to support bi-partisan congressional efforts to make the Whistleblower Protection Act a credible free speech law for federal employees. Despite the numerous protections that whistleblowers were granted under the WPA, and later the WPEA, many loopholes remain that inform the following top legislative priorities:
1. Jury Trials: Federal whistleblowers are the nation’s only significant group without access to juries comprised of the citizens they serve. Instead, federal whistleblowers are limited to an administrative Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) that is highly vulnerable to political pressure, and is currently vacant.
2. Retaliatory Investigations: Federal whistleblowers also are the only significant group who cannot defend themselves against retaliation investigations when opened. As a result, criminal investigations are replacing workplace harassment as the reprisal of choice.
3. Realistic standards for temporary relief: Whistleblower cases routinely take 3-5 years to litigate and delays are increasing sharply. In the meantime, whistleblowers must live without a salary or employment marketability. Winning often comes too late, because their lives have already been drastically affected by their decision to blow the whistle.
Danielle Brian, Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), said: “Whistleblowers are our first line of defense against waste, fraud, and abuse of power in the government. Without these brave Americans coming forward, there’s less transparency and accountability. While some progress has been made to protect those who come forward, often whistleblowers are still risking their careers and livelihood to disclose wrongdoing. Our survival guide is designed to inform government employees and contractors of the risks they face and provide tips on how to expose wrongdoing—everyone working in the federal sector should read this book, whether or not they plan on blowing the whistle.”
Tom Devine, Legal Director for Government Accountability Project, explained: “The ability to blow the whistle without exposure is essential. Intolerance for whistleblowers as threats to abuses of power is at an all-time high, because they are making more difference than any time in history. Ironically, while the Whistleblower Protection Act is the world’s most publicized free speech law, it is dysfunctional in practice.”
Timothy Whitehouse, Executive Director at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said: “Whistleblowers demand sunshine in places the government would rather keep in the shadows. We are asking Congress to provide greater protection to public servants who put their careers on the line by revealing corruption and abuses of power.”
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing. We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) protects public employees who protect our environment. We serve professionals who uphold environmental laws so that public servants may work as “anonymous activists,” and their agencies must confront the message, not the messenger.