“Secrecy has become a central axis of executive branch policy,” says University of El Paso-Texas political science professor William Weaver in a Mother Jones article titled, “Don’t whistle while you work.” Mojo’s investigative reporter Daniel Schulman writes: “the number of (document) classifications has nearly quadrupled from 1995 to 2005, from 3.6 million to 14.2 mllion.” He cites the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it riskier for 2.2 million federal employees to reveal hidden frauds by ruling that:
“when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.”
No wonder that “a senior Pentagon official” tells Schulman that nowadays the conscientious public employee doesn’t step forward to blow the whistle but rather whispers from the shadows because those who go public get “15 minutes of fame and 40 years of misery.”
But there is hope.
On March 14 the House of Representatives took the first step toward making it safer for public servants to follow their conscience instead of orders when members voted 331-94 to pass the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (background).
From May 14 through 18 a coalition of public interest groups will hold a lobby the Senate to follow the House’s lead. See this Government Accountability Project press release to get learn more.
This is not a partisan issue. Protecting whistleblowers is a prerequisite for good government. We want public employees to holler — not cringe — when they see others stealing tax money or breaking the law. Lets get the Senate on board and get the job done.