Edward Snowden: Policy Changes to Whistleblower Protection Act

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People who are truthful often find themselves under scrutiny for being honest. Instead of being looked at as trustworthy they end up with being known as a blabbermouth. Blabbermouths have historically been retaliated against since humans first walked the Earth and the security of them have continuously been ignored. When you try to tell the truth as kid, you’re a tattletale, when you’re in an organization you become a rat, when you work for the government you are painted as a traitor. If blabbermouths are truthful and are doing it completely for the sake of the safety of others it may be affecting, then why are they receiving such negativity? As of 1989 the United Stated created The Whistleblower Protection Act making it officially a federal law. Congress then passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) in 2012 which would strengthen protections, but unfortunately some whistleblowers still fall victim to the system, thus charging whistleblowers with espionage and endlessly painting them as traitors. Introducing a policy change to protect those who witness unlawful activity and report it should be acknowledged instead of being retaliated against immediately.

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The Whistleblower Protection Act (W.P.A.) helps protect those who have reported on reasonable facts such as: violation of law, gross mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety (W.P.A. September 2017). Of course, more details are listed, but these points can be used as our basis. So, what or who are whistleblowers? Whistleblowers are people who unveil information to what they have witnessed whether it be suspicious activity within an organization or an abuser of power. What’s important to understand is that when the whistleblower comes forward with classified intelligence, it must qualify under the three elements to make successful case. The alleged activity must be illegal, unethical, and immoral.

In most cases with whistleblowing the accusers will either be praised as a patriot for unveiling the truth or be deemed a traitor until their last day. Before they are labeled patriot or traitor the whistleblowers must go through a fair trial. However, that’s not true in all cases. For example, Edward Snowden released classified intelligence such as: the governments’ involvement with the bulk collection of phone records of millions of Verizon customers, data from social media sites, unauthorized wire taps in other allied and adversary countries, and much more spyware programming. After Snowden revealed the illegal activity of the N.S.A. and all its fabrications the government demanded to take him to court only on the charges that fell under the Espionage Act.

The U.S. government countered Snowden’s case officially on June 14, 2013. Federal prosecutors charged Snowden with “theft of government Property,” “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person (Sirota).” In other words, Snowden will only be trialed through the Espionage Act, since the last two listed offences fall under its criteria.

The Espionage Act converted into a strict agreement law, which meant that the government did not have to disclose the offender had felonious intentions. All the U.S. government would need to do is prove that Snowden stole national defense intelligence then gave it to unauthorized persons. Unfortunately, for Snowden he will not be able to defend himself on the basis that everything that he unmasked was stolen files from the National Security Agency (N.S.A.).

Even though Snowden will be criminally charged for stealing, how can we also hold the government accountable for their illegal data collection on unaware technology users? Well luckily after the discovery of illegal data collection and plenty of lawsuits confronting the program court judges reached conflicting decisions about its legality. Nevertheless, the court did decide that the N.S.A collection is unlawful regardless of any policies endorsing it.

The Whistleblower Protection Act does help those who make light of illegal activity, but it does not have strong enough security throughout national security agencies and contractor communities. In fact, advocates recommend strengthening the protections of the defendants who fall victim to the unreformed Espionage Act. With a reconstructed W.P.A defendants could raise a public interest in defense and add protection against retaliation including greater access to courts with a jury hearing. As of right now Snowden has been charged under the Espionage Act and will not get a hearing in front of a jury. Regrettably for Snowden he disclosed the information firstly to the media instead of Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (I.C.W.P.A. [ran by Congress]). Unauthorized distribution to media outlets directly suggests leaking instead of whistleblowing, which explains why Snowden will be indicted solely under the Espionage Act. Government employees in all the offices are protected against retaliating employees under Presidential Policy Directive 19 for making legal disclosures but expanding the defense to sub-contractors to incorporate antagonistic employees by private firms, would possibly require authorities that do not exist.

Understandably, leaking classified information should have consequences and no one should have exemptions. However, policies should change to give defendants a place in court. Article 6 protects the citizens’ rights to a fair trial when a person is charged with a criminal offence. The only restrictions Article 6 has been the following: immigration law, extradition, tax, and voting rights. So according to the Humans Rights Act, Article 6 citizens are allowed to have a public trial or hearing. With a new policy change whistleblower can feel protected in their own country. Whistleblowers will have the right support and have a strong protection once the Acts are reformed and defendants are allowed their right to a fair trial. No more tattletales, blabbermouths, rats, traitors, or retaliation against whistleblowers just protection and justice for the truth.  

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