For years, whistleblowers have faced a not-so-easy job as they have courageously revealed the inner workings and secrets of the government to the public.
With Trump becoming the president, whistleblowers will become more important than ever, and may face a more dangerous path as they fight to expose the truth. However, there are some laws in place to protect these whistleblowers so that the public has a fighting chance at hearing what is actually going on behind the closed doors of the government.
What is Whistleblowing?
The most well-known whistleblower is probably Edward Snowden, who revealed global surveillance programs and leaked information from the National Security Agency before being forced to hide out in Russia to avoid prosecution. The debate over whether Snowden was a traitor or a hero was what brought the public’s attention to whistleblowers and government secrecy.
Whistleblowing is essentially what happens when someone who is working inside a government agency witnesses wrongdoing and takes steps to reveal it to the public, either by reporting it themselves or speaking to journalists.
Throughout the past decade, the government has become an increasingly complicated maze, where many secretive acts are done behind closed doors and never revealed to the public. There are numerous ways that government agencies can keep secrets and only report to the public what they want to report. Because of this, whistleblowing is becoming more important than ever.
Retaliations Against Whistleblowers
As seen by the Snowden case, whistleblowers can be bullied or forced to flee the country and hide their location, fearing jail or even death. With the government hiding information from the public on purpose, it’s no surprise that the government would want to suppress whistleblowers and create such a fear of whistleblowing that nobody would want to take the risk.
Luckily, there are some laws in place to protect these brave people. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has more than 20 whistleblower laws meant to protect whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting fraud or filing a claim.
However, OSHA is run by the Labor Department, which means that the government can work their magic to make sure that there is some retaliation. For example, employees of OSHA have been fired for looking into and researching claims that were made, so the retaliation often isn’t against the person who made the claim but against the person who was examining the claim. Also, people who are looking into claims are often bullied to drop the case by their peers and higher-ups in the government.
Currently, whistleblowing falls under the offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Labor Department, both of which have the ability to turn the tides in their favor and take steps towards silencing whistleblowers despite the laws in place.
In addition, journalists have become afraid to report topics that they believed could bring attention to themselves and subject them to surveillance. This means that in a country that is supposed to have freedom of speech and press, journalists are even becoming too scared to report the truth which is a frightening revelation.
Whistleblowing Under Trump’s Administration
During a Trump presidency, it can be expected that whistleblowers will have a lot to talk about. He has already been anything but transparent, as seen by his refusal to reveal his tax returns and his refusal to provide information during the transition about where he is.
The important thing is that the American people, journalists and whistleblowers themselves do not let Trump get away with silencing whistleblowers. In 2013, there were 753 whistleblower cases filed. When compared to the 30 that were filed in 1987, it is clear that whistleblowers are finding it more and more important to expose the government’s wrong-doings. It can be expected that this number will continue to rise as Trump comes into the White House.
For example, president-elect Trump has already taken steps to find out exact names, locations and times of meetings regarding climate change. It is clear that Trump is not a believer in climate change and is quite possibly aiming to censor and distort information about climate change in an effort to hide the research from the public and push his own agenda and the oil industry’s agenda.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) prohibits retaliation against scientists who reveal the truth about scientific finding and processes. This act is comforting, since Trump is ushering in oil industry lobbyists and politicians in his transition team. It is not far-fetched to believe that Trump’s administration will do everything they can to deny climate change and coerce the American people into denying climate change so that the oil and gas industries can benefit.
Whistleblowers do have the ability to keep the Trump administration honest about climate change and a variety of other topics. However, it is crucial the journalists and whistleblowers continue to fight for freedom of speech and press and continue to be the courageous voices that the American people need to deliver the truth out of Washington.